Friday, March 9, 2012

Kinn: Bøvelen – 5th Place! Congratulations Kinn!


Recently, the Norwegian Beer Friends Association (NORØL) released the results of their 6th annual vote on, among other things, Norway’s best beers and breweries. The results confirm what quite a lot have been saying for some time now: Kinn Brewery – based in Florø, Norway – is one of the country’s leading craft breweries and produces some of the county’s most robust brews. Out of the more than 100,000 NORØL members that had the opportunity to vote, Kinn came out in 2nd place, with 21.3 percent of the votes. And Kinn’s Bøvelen – the beer under review here – was ranked number 5 out of a total of 87 candidates. Congratulations Kinn!

The Brewery

As Norway’s westernmost town, Florø’s coastal setting and lively atmosphere makes it one of most attractive places to visit in western Norway. With a population that barely breaches 10,000, Florø is the home to fish processing, shipbuilding, petroleum industry, and, with the 2009 opening of Kinn, brewing can now be added to that list.

The word Kinn (literally cheek) is the name given to one of the outermost islands that buffers Florø from the open sea, although it was also the name of an earlier municipality that was eventually merged into the surrounding municipalities. I can only speculate that the place name “Kinn” might be attributed to the fact that area forms the westernmost point, or “cheek”, of Norway’s coastline, although this again is only speculation on my part.

Kinn brewery makes about six different beers – all of which are remarkably wonderful concoctions (see my review of the Vestkyst IPA, for another example). Kinn takes a rather traditional approach to beer-making by using open fermentation tanks and an English handpump to tap the beer. Brew master Espen Lothe also bares his grounded philosophy to brewing when commenting that “my job is not to makebeer, but to help the yeast cells to produce beer”. Lothe’s approach and philosophy are undoubtedly causes for Kinn’s remarkable brewing success and their commendable performance in NORØL’s ratings.

The Beer

With a 9.5 percent ABV, Bøvelen strives to be one of the sweeter abbey tripels out there. As for the name, Bøvelen is a word for devil, but the word is from a local dialect primarily found in western Norway (thanks Beer Sagas for pointing this out because I had a ‘hell’ of a time trying to find the word in the dictionary). With a picture of a bearded farmer with horns and holding a trident, the label is certainly consistent with Beer Saga’s interpretation.  

My sample was shared with a friend back in November of 2011, but I managed to take quite detailed tasting notes. Its hazy golden-colored body and fluffy and rocky white head are clear signs of an excellent abbey tripel. Giving the glass a generous swirl yields a tight and sticky, web-like lacing matrix. Aroma? Think typical Belgian yeast, banana, zesty pineapple, and some unidentified spicy notes.

Bøvelen’s mouthfeel is pleasant and pretty faithful to this particular style – smooth and moderately carbonated; a medium to full body; and a somewhat sticky sensation. Taking a generous mouthful brings out a wonderful array of intensely sweet flavors, like apples and candy, juxtaposed on a rich honey background. An alcohol taste clearly lingers in the background, but gains prominence as Bøvelen warms. The finish is slightly bitter at first, but then transitions back into an intensely sweet aftertaste.

All-in-all, Bøvelen – like their Vestkyst IPA – testifies to Kinn’s attention to quality, perfection, and ability to make beers that rival many of the brews from the more ‘matured’ breweries around – quite remarkable for such a young brewery. Personally, however, I found Bøvelen to be just a tad too sweet – and I emphasize the word tad. Yet, the alcohol note, while perhaps a bit too strong at warmer temperatures, manages to somehow balance a bit against that sweetness, as does the mild bitter finish. Even with these small caveats, Bøvelen is an excellent representation of an abbey tripel and easily deserving of its outstanding NORØL ranking. If you like the sweetness of honey with some other nuances tossed in, then I can do nothing else other than recommend trying Kinn’s take on an abbey tripel.

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