Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Norwegian Yule Beers: PART THREE

It this concluding entry my three part Yule Beer series (see part one & part two here and here respectively) I will discuss the handful of yule beers (aka Juleøl, Julebrygg or Julebokk) that contain an alcohol percentage above 7.1%. Enjoy!

Aass Juleøl Premium (Norway - Drammen) 9.0%

Darkly malty. Bitter caramelized sugar. Yuley but it didn't have the impressive flavour I expected from Aass, their 6.3% beer is better.

Ringnes Julebokk 2010 (Norway) 9.0%

A dark chocolate tasting smash in the mouth with a malty aftertaste. It is black in a glass and really good. I did not expect this from Ringnes: although their Juleøl Sterk was good, their lager is so so and their lower alcohol Juleol is just blah.

This one is really well balanced and smooth, not heavy, on the tongue. This strong tasty beer, with its smoky undertones and deftly measured sweetness, has surely ruined countless Norwegian Christmas dinners and work parties as it is 9.0% ABV wrapped in a Trojan Horse of deliciousness and therefore more than capable of overrunning the unwary. If they sold this year-round I might give up wine! Not to be missed.

St. Martin - Cuvee de Noel (Belgium) 8.5%

From the "Abbaye de Aboij Van" this 'Certified Belgian Abbey Beer' smelled of cinnamon at first. Oddly, when I set it aside for a moment (that's odd in and of itself), it very slowly spouted a pillar of foam out of the bottle so I poured it into a glass revealing a cloudy walnut brown colour. I drank the last sip from the bottle getting a mouthful of grit (delicious grit but way, way too strong tasting) which is a rookie mistake, I should have known better, but we carry on.

Inhaling the aromas of this beer brings me back to the three glorious days I spent in Brussels: smells of flower and spice seem to be the trademark of Belgian abbey beers, but this beer also has much more distinct tones of ginger and cinnamon (spice and everything nice to borrow a phrase). Obviously not in the same style as Norwegian Yule beers or German winter beers, but this beer is an absolute hit, and a must try.


Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed reading about these delicious (and not so delicious) Yule Beers and the Norwegian Christmas tradition that they are continuing.


Friday, December 24, 2010

Norwegian Yule Beers: PART TWO

This second installment covers Yule Beers that range in alcohol content from above 4.7% to under 7.0% ABV. These beers are sometimes called Julebrygg (Yule Brew) instead of Juleøl (Yule Beer). And also, although this trilogy is entitled Norwegian Yule Beers it also includes a few non-Norwegian Christmas beers that I purchased while I was living in Norway.

One of the most exciting things about the Norwegian Yule Beers and Brews is that while all of the good ones share a certain Yule-y flavour they are all still distinct which makes sampling them all a lot of fun. Enjoy!


Aass Juleøl Det Original (Norway) 6.5%

I'm a fan of the Aass brewery (as I make obvious here) but this is truly a top notch Yule beer. It smells like a red, looks like a porter and tastes like a delicious something-in-between. Bitter and malty but the defining taste is the distinctive Yule beer taste honed wonderfully: sweet, smoky, tastes of caramel, hints of oak and with an almost wine-like flourish.

Aegir Bryggeri Julebrygg (Norway - Flåm) 6.0%

This beer comes from a brewery nestled on the coast of the breathtaking Aurlandsfjord in the quaint town of Flåm. It's fruity and a little malty, and has a really flowery bouquet. Well balanced and excellently crafted but not Christmas-y or Yule-y, just tasty.

Berentsens Julefnugg (Norway) 6.5%

Really dark in a glass with a creamy foam. Very bitter and smoky with flavours of coffee, roasted nuts, caramel and very malty. This beer is particularly strong flavoured for a Yule beer and predominantly bitter.

Christianssands Bryggeri Juleøl (Norway) 6.5%

Wow, this beer is impressive: black like a porter with a frothy head this has the typical slightly bitter sweet caramel taste of a Yule beer but also packed with flavours like sage, toasted bread, hops, coffee and deliciousness. At 6.5% it is strong like traditional Jylebryg (Yule Brew). I recommend it!

Dahls Juleøl (Norway - Trondheim) 6.5%

Sweet with caramel flavours and tastes of apples. It's pretty good and much better than I had expected considering how bad Dahls Pils is.

Erdinger Schneewibe Das Winterbier (Germany) 5.6%

Very sweet, it's cloudy and it tastes cloudy. It is unfiltered so you have to be mindful of the sediment while pouring it out, you can drink sediment but it's not the 'best-practice'. It has a mildly bitter taste at first blush or should I say brush of your palate (if you're counting that is three puns) but is quickly washed away by a very sweet taste. It's not at all like the Christmas beers of Scandinavia but nor does it try to be: it's German and it bills itself as a Winter Beer (actually as THE winter beer) and its interesting combination of flavours seems to fit that name quite nicely.

Fredrikstad Original Recept Juleøl (Norway) 6.6%

The Borg brewery's contribution to Yule beers. Surprisingly mild mannered at 6.6%. Dark brown in a glass. Hints of oak and coffee but a generally shortlived taste. Initial bitterness masks a fruity underlying flavour of dark cherries which lingers on a little in the aftertaste. A very pleasant Yule beer but it really takes some 'digging' to root out the full flavours, all in all good but mild. Certainly not the taste adventure that some of these other Yule beers are.

Hansa Julebrygg (Norway) 6.5%

Dark in a glass and malty. Tastes a little like bitter cherries. An overly long and lingering, almost cloying aftertaste. This beer tastes as if Hansa felt it HAD to make Yule beer rather than doing it out of any particular inspiration. If it wasn't for the ugly aftertaste this would be a fine beer. As it is, it's a pass.

Mack God Jule (Norway - Tromsø) 6.5%

It is bitter and sour. Musky like a burnt cherry glaze on a roasted beast. It tastes like the smell of old liquor cabinet with spilled then evaporated sherry with hints of mildew. Though in its defense it is from the most northerly brewery on the planet. Pass.

Ringnes Juleøl Sterk (Norway) 6.3%

Dark and sweet and quite bitter. A nicely complicated flavour that tastes decidedly like the depth of winter. Hints of an ineffable wood flavour, toasting bread and smoke, with a strong taste of a bitter fruit stored in a musty earthen cellar. Fairly dark in a glass and, for it's strength and pronounced flavour, fairly light on the tongue with a somewhat nutty aftertaste that doesn't linger overly long. Quite a good beer.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Norwegian Yule Beers: PART ONE

This is the first in a trilogy of posts reviewing the many many many Norwegian Yule Beers, this will cover Yule beers from 0.0% to 4.7% ABV.

Aass Juleøl (Norway) 4.7%

Pleasantly hoppy like most Aass beer. It also has a bitter malty aftertaste that one would expect from a Juleøl. It is fruity as well (grape juice overtones) and reminds me of on old fashioned red Dutch windmill (I don't know why but it does). In a blind taste test the typical hoppy taste that is practically the trademark of the Aass brewery would be more readily identifiable than that this particular Aass beer is supposed to be a Yule beer. However, with that said, I'd be happy to drink a second bottle and I like that Aass has a certain signature flavour that is found in nearly all of their beers, there is something about that that smacks of authenticity.

Aass Jule-Uten Alkoholfritt (Norway) 0.0%

Very malty and also sweet. Quite strangely it smells like tomato sauce... tastes like it too and a little of oak. Needless to say, don't try this one.

Frydenlund Juleøl (Norway) 4.5%

Sweet and with that lovely caramel and toasted bread mix that characterizes Yule beer. A hint of something that reminds me of sherry; like a mix of cherry wine, cotton candy with a background flavour of molasses. A nice Juleøl and typical of the lot: try only this one and you'll get the idea of what tasty Norwegian Juleol is all about.

Grans Julebrygg (Norway) 4.7%

Reddish brown in a glass. If it wasn't for the smothering sour taste if would be ... alright. At first the flavour is dark, with caramel and roasted something. The taste creates an image in my mind of a dark log cabin on a snowy Norwegian hill with snow laden pines pressed in close and you can barely see candlelight flickering through the windows like the gleam in an eye ... and then someone throws a bucket of sour beer on you. PASS.

Grans Juleøl (Norway) 4.7%

Only mildly Juleøl-y, tastes mostly like their regular Grans Premium with some red added. Slightly sour taste. Not a real Yule beer; tastes like Grans felt compelled to make a Juleøl but did so without inspiration. Pass.

Lade Gaards Juleøl 4.7%

Deliciously hoppy at first taste. Flavours of caramel, malt, maple, cinnamon and toasted bread. It is a deep reddish brown in a glass and has a cool classic label as well as a rare screw top in a land of pop off bottlecaps.

If you let it breathe in a glass the caramel taste really comes to the fore. But how could you let this beer languish in a glass!? It's so delicious it won't last. Too bad it only comes out at Christmas time, err... Yule.

Santa Clausthaler (Norway) 0.0%

Refreshing and light, it tastes a little red, a little like apples, a little musty with hints of caramel. If you want to a Norwegian Yule beer but without the alcohol this is a great choice. Not as thick as a full alcohol beer, reddish amber in a glass. Yum!

Munkholm Alkoholfritt Juleøl (Norway) 0.0%

Very light and sweet. A pleasant amber in a glass. Tastes hoppy, bitter and faintly of toasted bread or caramel. It's not a bad alcohol free Yule beer but Santa Clausthaler is much better.

Ringnes Juleøl 4.5%

Sugary and vaguely red, kind of malty. Tastes like normal Ringnes only with "red" beer flavour added. Of the many Yule Beers out there this one is near the bottom on the pile.

Tuborg Christmas Brew (Denmark) 4.7%

Fairly light on flavour and in a glass. Its reddish hue is one of the few things that distinguishes this beer from regular Tuborg; more bitter too and it has some stronger touches of caramel flavours and malt taste. All in all this isn't much of a Jule beer. You can give this one a pass but considering how ubiquitous it is in November and December (especially in Denmark) that might not be possible.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Grans Lettol (Norway) 2.4%

Buttery & malty. Crisp and refreshingly carbonated. Fairly thin on taste because it's only 2.4% ABV but what is there is thoroughly delicious. This is the best of all of Grans beers oddly enough, the rest of them are sour and poorly balanced except for Bare, but their Lettol is still tops in my books. But best of all! It only costs 3.90 NOK which is around 65 cents Canadian. This is the beer that will forever remind me of Oslo and Norway and one of my mainstays here over the last four months. I'm down to my last few days in Oslo and I'm getting nostalgic so forgive me, but I'm really going to miss this beer.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Brakspear's Oxford Gold (England) 4.6%

In my opinion if you are going put a bumblebee on your label and bottle cap the beer should at least take a little like honey. Or at least be sweet. Not the case.

Hoppy and little bitter. Very mild flavours, almonds and vegetable greens. Crisp tasting, refreshing and the aftertaste is nice. It is balanced but there isn't much to balance. Amber in colour and underwhelming in flavour. More carbonated than I expected for an English beer: it had me burping.

On a hunch I left it for a while until its temperature approached room temperature and the flavours did come out a little more: more bitter, and tastes of apples blossoms.

Certified organic by the Soil Association and unless you are determined to drink an organic beer or just want it's really cute bottle cap this can be given a pass.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sorry Folks ...

No post this Wednesday: exams instead! I'll put something up later this week and soon I'll start my three part series on the Jule Beers of Scandinavia.

Stay tuned!


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Carlsberg & Carlsberg's Elephant (Denmark)

Carlsberg 4.6%

Probably not the best beer in the world (despite what their slogan says). It has a slightly malty taste which is a little bitter for an international lager but all in all it does not feature a very interesting taste. Not the worst of the generic beers out there but you might as well get a cheaper (a.k.a. local) one that has a full 5.0% ABV since I don't see why you'd only be drinking this for the flavour. That is unless you are in Denmark, because as they say: " When in Denmark, drink Carlsberg (at least once)!" No really they say that over there all the time...

Carlsberg Elephant 7.2%

The first thing I notice with this beer is its almost, but not quite, syrupy texture. It tastes a little of almonds and toasted bread; a little bitter and a little sweet. It makes me think of a "grown-up's" version of Colt 45: it's main feature is its high alcohol content but spend a little bit more money to get a better flavour. It doesn't taste like 7.2% but it packs a wallop.

Certainly worth trying if you are passing through Denmark and want a strong beer without much flavour (good or bad) but if you miss it, well, you are not exactly missing a unique or special beer.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Selection of Beers From the Aass Brewery in Drammen, Norway

Aass Bayer 3.4%

A delicious dark tasting beer with hints of coffee, chocolate and maybe even wood (oak?). Predictably dark in a glass.

18.50 NKR for a 330ml bottle.

Aass Bayer Uten 0.6%

This a dark alcohol free beer, it's chocolaty and ever so slightly bitter - like dark chocolate - but it tastes as though something is missing from its pallet. This isn't a trait of good alcohol free beers of which there are a surprising number in Norway.

7.90 NKR for a 330ml bottle.

Aass Lettol 2.1%

A delightfully fruity and light beer, a hint of bitter in the tast but a refreshing and clean aftertaste. Full carbonation.

8.90 NKR for a 330ml bottle
Aass Original Pilsner 3.4%

This is another good beer from a really good brewery. A sparks filled burst of flowery flavour (almost like a spontaneous fermentation beer) with a bitter aftertaste. Very clear yellow colour - surprising for a beer with so much unfiltered flavour.

15.50 NKR for a 330ml bottle.
Aass Sommerol (summer beer) 4.7%

Tasty but tastes like a watered down version of the delicious Aass original pilsner: a little fruity sort of like a spontaneous fermentation beer. Maybe that's what they mean by a 'Summer Beer'? Has a flowery flavour as well, but overall quite mellow.

Last and least ...

Aass Vorterol 0.0%

There is a cute brown bear on the label ... and it tastes like bear fur may have been used in the production of this gross beer. I'm going to have to try this again because I love everything else this brewery makes that I've tasted. It tastes musty and TOO sweet as if it has been sweetened with artificial sweeteners. The taste is sort of like a restaurant with poor ventalation and a lot of examples of taxidermy. It is dark and has a thick foam ... it's really gross.