Spotlight Sweden

I’ve been on a short trip to Sweden over the weekend (or rather, I’m still in Sweden, as flights to Heathrow have been cancelled because there’s apparently been some snow there) and of course I’ve taken the opportunity to try some Swedish beers. Due to some kind of iPhone malfunction I have not been able to take any pictures so you’ll have to make do with words – I’ll keep it brief, capsule reviews only. I originally planned to do a reverse companion piece to my “10 British breweries you need to get in Sweden”, titled “5 Swedish breweries that deserves wider distribution in the UK”, or something like that – but that will have to wait. View this as a kind of teaser for a longer feature to come.

Ängö Kvartersbryggeri is a tiny brewery based out of the brewer’s own home in Kalmar – though clearly one step up from homebrewing as he’s got local distribution and very professional-looking label and bottle design. You can’t get this outside Kalmar (yet – apparently national distribution is just around the corner) so I was lucky that my brother-in-law scored some bottles during his trip there this past summer. Their Prima Lager (ABV 5.0) is a real gem of a lager, more along the lines of a pilsner, and with very moreish grass/fruit/berry notes from the NZ hops used. I’m not normally a lager guy but this was a fine specimen of the genre, well-balanced and drinkable. Their version of a bitter, Ljuva Livets Extra Special Bitter (ABV 5.8), was not at all as nice, unsubtle bready malts and hardly any hops in evidence at all – though to be fair, I think both beers were past their sell-by date and this probably affected the bitter more. I’m fairly sure this would be better when fresh.

Oppigårds is one of Sweden’s best microbreweries and I was lucky enough to find a bottle of their recent limited edition release Ekporter 2011 (ABV 8.0), a porter aged on French oak chips. This was the highlight of the trip – very rich roasty flavours (toast, coffee, even a hint of roast meat in there) and a big malt body with caramel and toffee topped off by a rich vanilla flavour from the oak. Very full-flavoured and dry rather than sweet at the end (the booze also comes though with a nice warming punch at the end) – a big hit!

Oceanbryggeriet is a local to where I was staying (Gothenburg) so is easily available at off-licenses and bars, and they have a pretty good range. I’ve tried a few of their brews before, and this time I went for their Ebbot Ale (ABV 5.0), an ale in what I would call a very traditional English style. It is all about the malt, which offers dark bread, butter and sourdough notes, with a tiny bit of brown sugar sweetness – but no hops in sight. I liked it, but I think it depends what you are in the mood for.

Slottskällans Bryggeri, Sweden’s oldest microbrewery (founded in 1997), is still going strong – they’ve gotten rave reviews for their 2011 Imperial Russian Stout and I bought a bottle for cellaring, but instead opted to try their organic porter, Svart Organic (ABV 5.5). Like the Ekporter 2011, this is a dry porter – there’s plenty of coffee and roast flavours followed by an almost austere hoppy dryness at the end. Lovely and good with spicy food.

St Erik:s Bryggeri is the “craft label” of a bigger brewery, Three Towns, an arrangement that would normally make beer fans cautious. In this one case this caution is entirely unfounded as St Erik:s produced consistently high-class beer, very much influenced by the US craft scene (West Coast in particular) under brewmaster and noted Swedish beer profile Jessica Heidrich. On this trip I had the opportunity to try their Christmas beer God Jul (ABV 8.5), a barleywine-style ale that defied expectations: much less sweet (quite dry, in fact – seems like a theme here) than a normal barleywine. It starts off as you would expect, with a malty cake batter/cake dough body with strong roasty notes, but then shifts to burnt toast and grapefruit/citrus pith bitterness at the end. A very good balance and definitely one of the top barleywines I’ve tried.

And finally, Gothenburg’s premier craft beer bar Ölrepubliken (The Beer Republic) hosted a tap takeover by Nynäshamns Ångbryggeri, another top Swedish craft brewery. However, I was at first a bit disappointed by the first brew I sampled, Dragets Kanal Dubbel IPA (ABV 7.7), which to my mind had far too much chunky bready malts dominating the hops – but the beer really opened up to a fresh, flowery citrus hoppiness as I was drinking it, which led me to believe it was served too cold. Much more immediately accessible was Svensk APA (American Pale Ale) (ABV 6.3), a brand-spanking new offering (and very fresh!), a West Coast-style IPA with lots of flavoursome tropical fruit/resin hop notes – refreshing! And Smörpundet Porter (ABV 5.9) is a seasonal porter with some serious dark chocolate/cocoa powder flavours alongside coffee and toasted bread, backed up by a full, heavy malt body. Besides the Double IPA being served too cold the others were very well-kept and clearly straight from the brewery, which added to the experience.

All of these would not be out of place at a UK craft beer bar – I think in particular Oppigårds, St Erik:s and Nynäshamns Ångbryggeri would be popular here. Let me know if you see any of these beers anywhere in the UK!

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Posted on February 5, 2012, in Feature, Review and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I think Dragets Kanal is a very good swedish DIPA, too bad you got it served too cold. I need to check out Svensk APA.

    Some other good breweries I hope you cover later on, because they deserve it:
    – Sigtuna
    – Nils Oscar
    – Jämtlands

  2. I know Sigtuna and Nils Oscar well, of course – I’m sure they will be featured in the future. Jämtands I hardly know at all but looking forward to trying!

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