Swedish beer weekend

(Crossposted to the other blog I write for, NOLA Beer Guide.)

First things first: BIG UPS to The Avenue Pub- owner Polly Watts and her amazing staff – Stene Isacsson, owner of Akkurat Bar & Restaurant in Stockholm, and Shelton Brothers Distributors for all their hard work to bring this event to not only New Orleans but to Louisiana, the South, the US. Nothing like this anywhere else in the country- this was totally a once in a lifetime opportunity and I am grateful to everyone’s role in making it happen.

On Tuesday, the Avenue put on the Oppigårds Golden Ale and I gave that a try- a very pleasant, slightly hoppy, balanced, and drinkable beer. Delicious!

I couldn’t make the Wednesday night tasting, but I did go back on Friday night and enjoyed several of the Swedish offerings, both upstairs and downstairs. The Balcony also had Cantillon Mamouche on draft as a special keg for a special weekend. Downstairs had a Jolly Pumpkin Maricaibo Especiale to enjoy.

I started with the Närke Slättöl, an American style pale ale. I wanted to start light and move through the spectrum. The Slättöl definitely qualified, it was probably the cleanest and lightest beer I had over the weekend. I enjoyed it, especially since it was my first beer after biking over. Next I tried the Oppigårds Amarillo Spring Ale which was probably one of my favorite beers of the Swedish offerings (though that’s a tough call, since –SPOILER ALERT!– they were all really good.) Great hop-forward aroma and taste, and it was definitely delicately hopped- not too bitter, but the hop presence was there. Anchored in a subtle maltiness with spicy notes. Really complex and, more importantly, delicious. I followed it up with Nils Oscar Hop Yard IPA, which was darker and maltier than the Amarillo Spring Ale. Had a surprisingly high ABV as well, at 7.3%. I liked it, but it definitely suffered by comparison to the Amarillo Spring. But it was beautifully balanced, dry finish; a very well brewed ale.

I moved upstairs and tried the three Swedish beers on draft up there (along with a Cantillon Mamouche; OK, two): the Nynäshamns Bedarö Bitter, which I could have drunk all night quite happily; Nynäshamns Sotholmen Extra Stout, which I bought at the same time as the bitter, and let sit out to warm a bit; and Oppigårds Single Hop Ale, a nice contrast to the dark and complex stout, as it was light and quaffable. I then went downstairs and enjoyed a Jolly Pumpkin and a Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye IPA. Damn, that was a delicious night.

Deliciousness continued on Saturday! I arrived at around 11am to get on the list to go upstairs with the first group of ticket holders. While waiting in the downstairs bar, I tried the Närke InternationAle, which was well made, balanced, and very nice to drink; the Nynäshamns Tjockhult Tjinook, a Chinook hopped lager, pretty subtle- not the most exciting beer, but a good solid effort all the same; and the Nils Oscar Kalasöl, a truly special beer in the Oktoberfest style with German malts and a variety of international hops. Really different from the other Swedish beers I’d tried up to that point. A great drinking. beautifully amber ruby red beer.

We were sent upstairs shortly after I ordered my Kalasöl, so I brought it up with me and enjoyed it out on the balcony. It was an absolutely glorious day, as well. Just perfect for drinking great beers with fellow beer geeks and enjoying one of the most gorgeous, sunny, and mild January days this native New Englander has ever experienced. While waiting for the two “special” beers to be available at 3pm (the Närke Konjaks Stormaktsporter 2010 and the Nynäshamns Bötet Barley Wine) I tried some more distinctively Scandinavian beers: the Nils Oscar Julöl, a Christmas ale/wee heavy and surprisingly drinkable on an 80 degree day, and the Närke Tanngnjnost & Tanngrisnir, which was based on a traditional style called a Goittlsandricka. Very smokey in taste and aroma. Tasting notes mentioned juniper berry, but I didn’t catch those notes (it may be something new and unfamiliar to my palate, in beer). It took a couple sips to get used to, and I don’t think I could drink more than 6 ounces. but I was glad I tried it.

Then it was time, time to try the famous and fabled Stormaktsporter. It’s an imperial stout that has only been brewed once. Supplies are limited, and Polly’s Swedish counterpart basically sacrificed one of his (very few) kegs to send it over to her. It was intoxicating to the senses, deep, dark, ephemeral, smooth drinking, flavorful, hella complex, a dream to drink. So honored to drink this. (I even ponied up $11 later for another 6 ounces of it.) The other special beer was the Bötet Barley Wine, which is probably the best barleywine I’ve ever had. Smooth drinking, not hot at all, complex in flavor, just sooooooo delicious.

I just didn’t want the happiness to end. It was such good beer, with good folks, on a great day, and a fantastic vibe. It was beautifully organized and executed, and again, my thanks go out to all who had a hand in this event. You made many people very happy.