True Norwegian Craft Beers

This year at Easter I went on a few days trip to Oslo, in the cradle of True Norwegian Black Metal. Together with two friends we went to  a famous metal festival, the Inferno Metal Festival. In addition to enjoying a wonderful festival that I recommend to all metal but especially black metal lovers, I took the opportunity to see the city, its monuments, its museums and of course to taste some good Norwegian beer. Of course I will focus my story on this last point.

The story about Norwegian beers begins before we left, when we sat down at a table in our local brewery and looked at the map of Oslo breweries and clubs on Untappd, and then went on to discuss the astronomical price of beer in Norway. It was quite obvious that the first craft beers we would take upon arrival in Duty Free shop at the Oslo airport to save some money.

And so it was. As soon as we landed in Oslo, in the quietest airport ever, we headed for duty free shop. As soon as we entered, my friend, who lived in Norway, explained to me that for each person is allowed to buy a quantity of alcohol equal to one of the following options:

  • 6 beers of 330ml
  • 2 bottles of 75cl wine
  • 1 bottle of spirits

There were three of us, so after carefully evaluating what the store could offer we decided for 9 beers to taste and a bottle of herb bitter just for pleasure. Chosen beers (all those available) were:

  • Lysefjorden Mikrobryggeri – Hoppy Saison, 6,5% ABV Saison
  • Lysefjorden Mikrobryggeri – Red IPA Sterk, 6,5% ABV Red IPA
  • Lysefjorden Mikrobryggeri – Solitude, 7,5% ABV NEIPA
  • RYGR Brygghús – PILSNER, 4,7% ABV Pilsner
  • RYGR Brygghús – STAFANGR New England DDH IPA, 6,7% ABV Double Dry-Hopped NEIPA
  • Haand Bryggeriet – Fyr & Flamme, 6,5% ABV American IPA
  • Ægir Bryggeri – Ægir India Pale Ale, 6,5% ABV American IPA
  • Amundsen Brewery – Ink & Dagger, 6,5% ABV American IPA
  • Amundsen Brewery – Everyday Hero, 4,5% ABV Session IPA

It was still early to check in at the hotel, so we went first to request the festival bracelet at the Clarion Hotel. And you don’t want to drink a beer? Unfortunately nothing Norwegian or craft here, but just as simple as famous Carlsberg. After having enjoyed the first beers after the arrival, while listening to a conference on bullying in metal at which we met unexpectedly, we headed to the hotel.

Arrived at the hotel we immediately had a good news and a bad news. Starting with the bad one, there wasn’t a fridge in the room, and we had 9 beers to taste. Fortunately, despite the good weather, the nights were quite cold, so we managed more or less the situation by keeping the beers outside the window. Regarding the good news instead, we had it looking out the window: in front of us there was a building with a huge sign telling Schouskjelleren Mikrobryggeri. The decision was made: shower first and then visit the brewery!

Upon arrival, it was not immediately clear where the brewery was. As soon as we entered the rear courtyard, however, we noticed a tiny house with the same sign: evidently it was the brewery. A little doubtful given its size we entered discovering the steps that between cooking vats went under the ground. Following the path along the underground corridors we found a huge brick hall with a vaulted ceiling, dark wooden benches and tables and a beautiful fireplace at the end of the room, everything in a dim light coming from some hanging chandeliers. Turning my head I noticed the long counter with 19 taps.

I decided to take a tasting set of four beers, two from the brewery and two guests:

  • Schouskjelleren Mikrobryggeri – West Coast IPA, 6.50% ABV American IPA
  • Schouskjelleren Mikrobryggeri – Tigerstaden Saison, 7% ABV Saison
  • Kasteel Brouwerij Vanhonsebrouck – Vieux Bruxelles Blanche, 4.8% ABV Belgian Witbier
  • Brew By Numbers – 11 Session IPA – Mosaic, 4,2% ABV English Session IPA

The very nice bartender stopped to chat with us and then told us that he would play for the Inferno festival at the Kniven Bar, a venue in the center of Oslo. All the beers were very good, but the brewery’s ones were really excellent!

At this point it was time to go to the Rockefeller Music Hall to see some concerts. We stopped at the local bar ordering three beers. They gave us the Ringnes Pilsner, which I understand is the Norwegian commercial (allow me that term please) beer. I must admit that I was not enthusiastic about it and of course it cost as much as all beers in Norway. Very much! I haven’t told you yet, but on average a pint costs around 11€.

The first two days did not reveal any other surprises, everything took place as planned, with boat trips, visits to museums and concerts, without having time for breweries. In this regard, while walking behind the town hall I ended up in front of the Amundsen Brewery, but since I was alone at the time I decided to return with my friends.

On the third day, after all the trips and visits, we went to the Kniven Bar which we were told about at the Schouskjelleren Brewery. For lovers of rock and metal is a beautiful venue furnished with a musical theme. Downstairs there was also another small bar completely dark with a stage where the groups performed as part of the Inferno Festival. But returning to the Kniven, the most characteristic thing was that at the counter the taps had knives instead of handles (Kniven means knife in Norwegian). The bartender kindly gave me the beer list and let me choose calmly. In addition to draught beers, the list also included a large number of bottled craft beers from all around the world. Here I chose two Norwegian beers:

  • Sleeping Village Brewing – Spiral Shades, 4.7% ABV Pale Ale
  • Beer Flag – Cherry Bomb – 8,50% ABV sour beer with cherries (or aromas?)

Both beers were great, the atmosphere and the music of the place beautiful. Sadly it is 2000 km from home, otherwise I would go there more often.

After a long and beautiful walk to Holmenkollen and back, the last evening we finished tasting all the beers taken at the airport before heading to the concerts. Arrived at the Rockefeller, as in previous evenings we also went to the John Dee, a club under the Rockefeller where parallel concerts were held. For the first time we decided to have a beer at the John Dee’s bar, and on the way to the bar I saw that they had not only the Ringnes but they had also craft beers. Here for a change I took a cider, the Lovløs Østkyst. Very good, dry and not very sweet. When back at the Rockefeller, paying attention I noticed that in addition to the various bars there was one main bar also with craft beers: I could avoid drinking 4 days the Ringnes that did not excite me by paying it like gold, but of course from the depths of my cunning I realized all this only on the last night.

Unfortunately, every trip has one last day. We were supposed to be at the airport at 2:00 p.m, so we decided to go to see an interactive Vikings museum and then stop to eat something and drink the last beer at the Amundsen Brewery. Arriving there, the sad discovery: it opened just at 13:00, and because of our timings we had to give up and head to the airport.On the way back, while we were waiting at Frankfurt airport, we had a typical German dinner: bratwurst and Weizen, with the excellent Maisel’s Weisse.

Beyond the beautiful festival and the wonderful and magical Norway where I would go back immediately, I can conclude that about the beers the Norwegians definitely know what they do with really good products. If – and when – I return to Oslo (I hope so!) I want to spend more time visiting some breweries, including the Amundsen.

Beautiful trip, wonderful experience and great beers.

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Wow, amazing

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