13 February 2020

Quinno in Norway

A guest post by Quinten Taylor, Vice Chair of Reading & Mid Berks CAMRA (2020) who is on Twitter as @SirQuinno. [Photos by Quinten Taylor & Tanya Kynaston]
The author drinking at Øx Brew in Trondheim
Dr Strangebrew or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love £15 a pint Norwegian craft beers
So we all know the cliché – Norwegian beer costs a bloody fortune and if you are a serious beer drinker, you’d best have a king’s ransom in tow in order to enjoy yourself like you would at home.
And folks, having spent a week on holiday there, it’s entirely true.
My job, having spent an amount of money that means my wife now says it’s best I don’t see the credit card bill, is to guide future Nordic beer travellers and help them navigate the pratfalls and pitfalls of drinking in this wonderful country.
Tip 1 – Be prepared (mentally)
If you are on a budget, be realistic about how many beers you can afford if you are drinking out. For example the cheapest third available at Oslo’s RØØR bar (the premier venue for craft beer choice in the city) in January 2020 was 62kr. At current exchange rates that’s about £5.20. At that price you’ll burn through a ton without even bothering the higher end of things. Off-sales are split. Beers up to and including 4.7% abv are available in supermarkets; anything above that must be purchased at a Vinmonopolet, the Norwegian state offy. Beware that the Vinmonopolet has restricted opening hours.
Tip 2 – Price usually signifies quality
Almost all Norwegian craft brewers understand the wallet pain that drinking their product can cause, and therefore are rarely in the habit of passing off sub-standard or shoddy beer. Price indicates time, quality and brewing cost in a way that sometimes doesn’t happen in the UK.
Tip 3 – Tasters are a rare treat
Due to the way the Norwegian taxman operates, all beer sold must be accounted for. Therefore a lot of places don’t offer tasters or, if they do, it’ll be a few drops.
Tip 4 – Sharing is caring (about your cash)
If you’re travelling with other beery companions, put any squeamishness about trying other people’s beers aside and dive in. Share the wealth and find the best brews quicker. Flights (which are called 'planks' here, 'flights' are what happen at the airport as far as Norwegians are concerned) are also often available in bars, though often not obviously advertised.
Tip 5 – Brewpubs are cheaper, but refer to Tip 2
I tried half a dozen or so brewpubs and to be honest the quality wasn’t that brilliant in most cases (with a couple of honourable exceptions). By all means try one for a tick but don’t think you’re being clever by drinking exclusively in them to save cash and that you’re getting a comparable experience to drinking more commercial scale products in regular craft bars.
Tip 6 – Card machines are weird in Norway
Bar staff will put in the total on the card machine but often you will also need to re-enter the total yourself (which does give you the option to tip if you wish) before you tap.
Tip 7 – Untappd is your friend
Got a smartphone? Download Untappd and use it to research the beers before you buy. Whilst it certainly isn’t foolproof it often gives you a fair indicator of whether you’re likely to get a great taste experience for your cash.
Tip 8 – Bar service is the norm
And make sure you try a bit of Norwegian lingo when you can, staff will appreciate the effort and will be more willing to give you an exemplary Tip 9.
Tip 9 – If in doubt, ask
Unless it’s Saturday night and the bar is rammed, most Norwegian bar staff are more than happy to help you navigate the beers available if you smile and ask nicely. Spoken English is often impeccable and there remains a great affinity for the British - so you’ll often be engaged in conversation anyway, whether you’re asking about beer or not!
Tip 10 – Know what the Norwegians are best at brewing
This is my final – and I think most important – Norway craft beer tip. Great beer in Norway costs good money. You want to get the best, so why pay three times the price for beer that tastes the same as it does back in UK? You need to hit the rich seams. There are two solid options;
Apollon, Bergen
  • Dark beers, namely porters and stouts; the quality of these styles go way above the average of what I’m used to back in the UK. There were at least three beers I tried which I would hail as world class in this category, with a further half dozen or so eliciting long and sustained appreciation. Norwegians know what they’re doing with this genre, so take advantage.                
  • Kveik beers. There exists a farmhouse brewing culture in western Norway which has passed down yeasts referred to as kveik for generations. This practice has resulted in ale yeasts which are typically highly flocculant and phenolic. Sounds off-putting? Well, the Norwegians know how to use this yeast to their advantage and there is an emergent trend of adding these yeasts not just to traditional farmhouse beers but also to modern brews in order to bring out a taste similar to funk, orange peel and clove, a taste which I really began to appreciate. Often (though not always) kveik beers will be marked on the blackboard or menu. Read more at http://www.milkthefunk.com/wiki/Kveik

Bonus tips!
Find below a list of bars and breweries that really impressed me during my visit. It isn’t exhaustive, just what I visited, drank and would thoroughly recommend.

BARS


Oslo


RØØR, Oslo
RØØR (Rosenkrantzgate 4)
The most comprehensive tap list in Norway - 71 of them!! Immaculately kept shuffleboards upstairs.

Hopyard (Mathallen Oslo Maridalsveien 17a)
A bar in the covered market with an eclectic selection, run by a bubbly and extremely knowledgeable young lady.

Café Laundromat (Underhaugsveien 2)
A local coffee shop, bar, restaurant and clothes washing facility. And it happens to offer one of the better beer selections in Oslo. I ate here and can recommend the food too.

Grünerløkka Brygghus (Thorvald Meyers Gate 30B)
Friendly backstreet brewpub with a British style atmosphere. And their Løkka Tropicana beer is to die for.

Café Sara (Hausmanns Gate 29)
Cosy and upmarket bar/restaurant with an eclectic range.

Bryggen (the dock), Bergen

Bergen


Pingvinen (Vaskerelven 14)
Small and intimate bar and diner. The food is Norwegian ‘what granny makes’ comfort fodder and comes highly recommended by me. It is really popular, so come early to bag a seat.

Henrik Øl og Vinstove (Engen 10)
A discreet doorway and a flight of stairs leads to a basic and uncomplicated bar with 54 taps. All beer available in thirds.

Apollon, Bergen
Apollon (Nygårdsgaten 2a)
A fun little venue which is half record shop and half bar. Not many seats, so try and visit off-peak.

Røverdatter (Neumanns Gate 5)
Trendy lounge bar with friendly service and some leftfield choices.


View from Gamle Bybro (Old Town Bridge), Trondheim 

Trondheim


Øx Tap Room (Munkegata 26)
Huge modern subterranean brewpub who produce excellent quality beers and also have a wide variety of guests.

Den Gode Nabo, Trondheim

Den Gode Nabo (Øvre Bakklandet 66)
Housed in a centuries old wooden building on the iconic riverfront in the old town, this is a feast for those who love history and quirky hostelries. The beer list ain't bad either!

BEERS AND BREWERIES



Nøgne Ø
One of the few Norwegian brewers to get their products over to the UK in decent quantity, you can’t go wrong with any of their beers in any style. Their Gale Force Imperial Stout and Porter are world class dark beers.

Cervisiam
A cuckoo brewer who make the most amazing beers – if you like big taste, this is the one for you. Their Bourbon & Rye Barrel Aged Pecanisher was a ‘tell your kids about it’ beer, a Top 10 in my lifetime beer. It was that good.


Lysefjorden
The brewer makes his own cola. He decided to try making a sour beer with it – the result is incredible (always available at Pingvinen, Bergen). So good I went back a second day and had it again.

Drum Brew
For their Gulrot Gose, made with Norwegian carrots. Tasted like nothing I’ve had before and if it hadn’t have been for time at the bar, I would have had another!

HaandBryggeriet

Found in most craft bars, they were a new brewery to me when I arrived in Norway and I left having enjoyed a good number of their brews which are consistently high quality.

07 February 2020

Tryanuary trail from Waterloo to London Bridge

On Saturday 25 January 2020, Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) members from branches in the Central Southern region gathered met in South London to visit pubs on an itinerary planned by John McLaughlin (Milton Keynes & North Bucks CAMRA).
A group from West Berkshire followed the itinerary for the first three pubs before making a detour and then rejoining the main group at Harvey's London pub - the Royal Oak (RO).

Waterloo Tap (WT)

Allan Brooke (W Berkshire CAMRA) & Allan Willoughby (Slough, Windsor & Maidenhead CAMRA)
The Waterloo Tap, underneath the railway arches to the south of Hungerford Bridge, was the first bar for a rendezvous. Six cask ales are served from taps in the central area behind the bar. The pale hazy Moor Nor'Hop was a popular choice.
This was a good opportunity to hear from Allan Willoughby about arrangements for the 2020 Maidenhead Beer & Cider Festival which will be held at Maidenhead Rugby Football Club, Braywick Road, Maidenhead, SL6 1BN, a 10 minute walk from the station, on the 24 / 25 July.
Various German beer signs and and a row of traditional beer steins are displayed in the arched space.
There was also an opportunity to meet Carl Griffin, Central Southern CAMRA's Regional Director.
Richard Scullion & Andy Pinkard
There was a chance for Andy Pinkard, West Berkshire CAMRA Chairman to meet up with his predecessor, Richard Scullion, now mainly resident in Eastbourne, who also adopted our modified itinerary for the day.
The route from the Waterloo tap to the second pub was via Roupell Street, featuring terraced houses and several classic Citroen cars.

Kings Arms (KA)

Having arrived earlier, Simon Grist (Berkshire South East CAMRA) took the opportunity to photo bomb the West Berkshire CAMRA group photo from the entrance to the pub! The others featured in the photo and not previously named are Chris Reynolds and Frank Jesset.
Inside, the beer range included Flying Monk Brewery's Dark Lane milk stout from Malmesbury and Kent Brewery's Apollo single hopped ale.
Berkshire South East CAMRA stalwarts Barry Garber and Terry Burrows found a warm place to stand near the fireplace in this traditional corner pub that was soon filled with CAMRA members.
The pedestrian route to the third pub, goes along Windmill Walk, underneath the platforms of Waterloo East station and then past the side of the Old Vic theatre along Webber Street.

Stage Door (SD)

Brewed in the Cuckmere Valley, Sussex, Long Blonde from Long Man Brewery was the hoppy beer chosen by most of our group guided by Richard Scullion who plans his visits to the brewery's tasting room on Fridays to benefit from a free welcome pint.
Seen at the bar, Tony Girling and Mark Thompson made two more members from West Berkshire to join our group. An interesting feature of the Stage Door's decor is retro home movie cameras, adapted as light fixtures, on side walls.
Breaking from the main group on leaving the Stage Door, our walking route followed Webber Street as it arcs eastwards.
This led to Southwark Bridge Road and then Mint Street into a small park and then north on Ayres Street passing the Lord Clyde, a traditional corner pub, regularly featured in CAMRA's Good Beer Guide but closed for refurbishment after a change of ownership.

Rose & Crown

Richard, Mike, Mark, Tony, Allan and Frank
This longest walking stretch led us to the Rose & Crown on the corner with Union Street.
Neon signs for PubLove and Hostel indicate that this pub is now part of the PubLove chain of seven pubs which feature upstairs hostel accommodation and a Burger Craft kitchen - Beers, Burgers and Beds.
Mike Avery perused the menu at the bar before ordering 'Fries' that were served in a dimple pint mug.
Mike was disappointed to miss the Five Pound Lunch offer which is only served from Monday until Wednesday at lunchtimes.
Three cask ales were available including Titanic Plum Porter.
A short walk east along Union Street and across Borough High Street into Newcomen Street led to the fifth pub.

Kings Arms (KA)

The Kings Arms features polished brass details and five cask ales. It featured in John McLaughlin's itinerary but our out of turn arrival avoided any congestion. St Peter's Hop It reached the end of the barrel with our order and substituting Harvey's Sussex Best acted as a taster for the beer range at the next pub we would visit.
The pedestrian route via Tennis Street led through an estate of flats and then into Tabard Street. We passed a workshop where Master Woodcarver Hugh Weddeburn could be seen carving with chisels. Andy went inside for a brief chat with Hugh before we arrived at our sixth pub.

Royal Oak (RO)

Allan, Andy, Mike, Richard, Tony and Frank outside The Royal Oak, Tabard Street.
Despite our plan to arrive at the Royal Oak before the main group, we found that others had beaten us to claim the tables in the main bar area.
Retreating to the smaller back bar, a wait for beer followed as only one member of staff was available to serve beer and perform cellar tasks.
As well as the deservedly popular Sussex Best Bitter, a range of other beers from the brewery included Armada Ale and Christmas Ale.
As members from other branches arrived but no relief beer staff, we decided to cut short our planned longer stay at the Royal Oak and fit in one more pub from the original itinerary instead.

Old Kings Head (OKH)

The Old Kings Head is accessed through an archway on the east side of Borough High Street into Kings Head Yard. There was a chance to get a photo of the outside of the pub with its stained glass windows in the remaining daylight before being invited to enter.
In contrast to the Royal Oak, the Old Kings Head was teeming with staff behind the spacious bar serving area and service was quick and efficient. The beer range included beers from St Austell Brewery and Harvey's Brewery.
There was music playing on the sound system and quite a lively atmosphere which would perhaps appeal more to young customers.
With some needing to catch trains from Waterloo and others from Paddington, the nearby entrance to London Bridge underground station provided the easiest access route to start the journey home after an enjoyably social day of tasting beers and discovering some 'off the beaten track' streets of South London during 'Tryanuary'.

17 January 2020

Wordsley, Sedgley and Dudley

The day's beer highlights would be The Beacon Hotel, Sedgley (Sarah Hughes), The Britannia Inn, Upper Gornal (Batham's) and the Dudley Winter Ales Fayre.
On Thursday 28 November, after breakfast at the Talbot Hotel, Stourbridge, our first bus of the day took us north towards Wordsley. Our famous five (Mark, Bod, Graham, Trevor and Tim) alighted just after the bus crossed the Stourbridge Canal via Glasshouse Bridge. We recrossed the arching bridge on foot and crossed the road to visit the Red House Glass Cone and Stourbridge Crystal Glass Centre.
Dudley Council now manage the Red House Glass Cone as a free tourist attaction.
Inside, remnants of the once thriving glass industry include the Lehr (annealing oven) where glass items could gradually cool as trays were slowly moved away from the hottest area. It is the only remaining example in the world.
Travelling by bus to The Beacon Hotel involved changes in Dudley and Sedgley (near the Clifton). The Clifton originally opened as a cinema in 1937 and became a Wetherspoon pub in 1998.

The Beacon Hotel, Sedgley

We arrived later than planned, more than an hour after the noon opening time.
On arrival at The Beacon Hotel, with 'Doc' Robert having joined en route, I took a photo of Mark taking a photo at the front entrance of the traditional Victorian Public House!
Inside we found the remaining 'Farnham Trubbelers' installed in a far corner of the large back room and they had saved some space for us.
My first beer here was Sarah Hughes Pale Amber which was pleasantly sweet. (£1.40 1/2 pint).
View from counter for back room [Photo: Mark Geeson]
The small central bar has three small counters including one to serve the back room.
There are two chimney breasts where coal fires were burning with a minimal Christmas tree decoration on each mantelpiece, in the back room.
This is a large building with a new conservatory at the side overlooking a lawn and the car park.
Passing through the conservatory leads to a broad hall with the entrance to the Sarah Hughes brewery and decorated with framed CAMRA award certificates..
The toilets are found on the other side of the hall.
Lunchtime closing is 2.30pm from Monday to Thursday at the Beacon Hotel but there was still time for me to enjoy a half pint of Sarah Hughes Surprise (£1.45) served with a creamy head and reminiscent of a Belgian Tripel. This went nicely with a pork pie.
Our group enjoyed a conversation with John (75) a local regular customer who told us 'You're in the Black Country, everything's brilliant!'.
Of course, no visit to the Beacon Hotel would be complete without a dimpled glass of the glorious Sarah Hughes Dark Ruby Mild (£3 pint)!

The Britannia, Upper Gornal, Sedgley

It was still raining outside so we caught buses to reach our next destination - Batham's The Britannia Inn.
Inside the pub, after ordering our beers at the main front bar, we chose the back room, on the left side, to sit in. CAMRA's Historic Pub Interiors describes this room as having the, now rare, arrangement of a servery without a counter.
I enjoyed my pint of pale Batham's Best Bitter with a cheese and onion cob (roll) for £4.55.
There is a patio garden area behind the pub, better suited to summer weather! Another idea for a fine day is to follow Mappiman's four mile circular walk from the pub to gain far-reaching views and a chance to sample Holden's beer at the Chapel House (Miners Arms) in Lower Gornal.
Before leaving there was an opportunity to take a photo of the carpeted room at the front which is situated to the right of the main entrance.
The bull's head tiles that feature in Batham's pubs were spotted in the passage leading to the toilets at the back.

Dudley Winter Ales Fayre

Mark Geeson and Tony Lea needed to arrive at Dudley Town Hall by 5pm, as CAMRA volunteers, to help prepare for the opening of the Dudley Winter Ales Fayre at 5.30pm.
After the bus ride back to Dudley, some of us walked to The Full Moon, a Wetherspoon pub for water, coffee or beer according to individual tastes and appetites.
Tim with festival glass - early doors - Cheers!
We returned to Dudley Town Hall for admission to the festival soon after opening time.
The admission package included a programme, a half pint glass (refundable) and a sheet with tokens to pay for beer and cider. Thursday was 'quiet night' but there would be live music on other nights.
Gerald Daniels (Crookham Travel) at top left with 'Farnham Trubbelers' at Dudley Winter Ales Fayre
As relatively early arrivals we were able to join a friendly table that included several locals. Philip Wildsmith (on right of photo) has been involved with Yapton Beerex, a CAMRA beer festival held at Yapton and Ford Village Hall in West Sussex. Visitors arrive from several different countries to attend this festival and I hope to visit the 31st edition in 2020 (15-17 May).
Most of the cask beers I sampled were 1/3 pint measures priced at £1.10 or £1.20. My favourites, as recorded on Untappd, were: North Riding US IPA V32 (ABV 5.5%) a hoppy beer brewed with Citra and Loral hops and Kinver Quindecim (ABV 4.5%) with honey sweetness, brewed to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the brewery.
I also enjoyed a third of Green Duck Wheach, a peach flavoured wheat beer, from the Key Keg bar, priced at £1.60.
The Little Devils food menu for the festival included local favourites: Samosas (£1.20); Gray Paes and Bacon (£2.50) and Bread Pudding (80p).
After spending £10 worth of tokens and sampling a variety of mainly pale beers, it was time for me to leave at 10pm and catch a bus back to Stourbridge.
Now a routine, I ducked into the Duke William, my favourite Stourbridge pub, for a nightcap after the bus journey. A half pint of Craddock's Troll, pale and fruity, would be my final Black Country beer on this visit.