Friday, 13 May 2011

Down and out in Oslo

Nøgne Ø IPA
The basic outline of this tale is pretty simple: I went to Oslo, I had three great beers (and one dull one), and now I’m broke. You can read further if you’re into good beer, but if you’re not, you won’t get much more from the story, I’m afraid.

I’d been to the Norwegian capital a number of times before. Actually, it’s where Fiona and I first celebrated our engagement after hitchhiking around Scandinavia with no money for three weeks and figuring that if we could survive that, we might as well buy some rings.

Still, I always forget just how expensive it is. I mean, rationally I know it’s dear, and I mentally brace myself for high prices. But then I get there and freak out when I see what things cost.

I do, however, have a duty to you, gentle readers, to describe the beers of far off lands, so even though I had to sell one kidney and half a spleen to fund the research, here are the tasting notes from my trip...

First was Nøgne Ø IPA, and right from the first whiff of this beer’s aroma, I knew I was going to like it. Nøgne Ø IPA smells so good, I almost forget that I paid 165 Norwegian kroner for a bottle of it.


HaandBryggeriet IPA
Sorry to keep going on about money. Really, I know it’s vulgar. But you need to get your head around this.

165 kroner converts to something like 20 euros, 18 British pounds or 30 US dollars. For a single half-litre bottle. And that’s not so hugely exceptional for a beer in Oslo. Or for anything else there, in fact. How anyone manages to go out in this city is just beyond me.

At these prices, I’d have to make each beer last a while. Like three days.

That wouldn’t be easy with Nøgne Ø IPA, because it tastes as good as it smells: outstandingly hop-driven through and through. Toasted lemon notes, woody florals, long-lasting bitter zest aftertaste. Its 7.5% alcohol fits in well with the overall mix. In sum, it’s crisper than a new 20-euro note -- which sadly only reminds me of the aforementioned issue.

Slow sips, everyone, I thought. Slow sips...

Nøgne Ø IPA is produced in Grimstad, Norway.

Easy. Take your time...

I was trying it at the Beer Palace in central Oslo.


Nøgne Ø IPA
It is bottle-conditioned.

Oh, it’s no use. It’s all gone. Damn.

The next day -- although I knew it would almost surely put me on the edge of financial ruin -- I decided to try another two beers in Oslo: Nøgne Ø Saison and HaandBryggeriet IPA.

I enjoyed both of these at the Amundsen Bryggeri & Spiseri, also in central Oslo. Neither of these two draughts set me back as much as the bottle of Nøgne Ø IPA. Still, at about 100 kroner (12.50 euro) each, they would have be the end of the end of the fun, as I'd already maxed out my monthly tasting budget.

But enough about money already! What about the taste?

Nøgne Ø Saison on tap turned out to be every bit as wonderful as its brother Nøgne Ø IPA. The Saison was sharp and hoppy, not like the IPA in terms of brutal hop astringency, but more restrained, more refined even.

It went down smoothly, with a very slight, yet welcome, touch of creaminess.

HaandBryggeriet IPA
, also on tap, is an excellent IPA, very hop-rich, again with those distinctive toasted lemony notes, but this time wrapped in a sort of hempish mustiness. Again, it is not as overpowering in hop as Nøgne Ø IPA, and it’s not as dry, surely, but this has a good balance: it drives right up to the edge of too far, but it thankfully slams on the brakes just before it gets there.

Ringnes & herring
The fourth beer was the thoroughly unspectacular Ringnes pilsner. It was, I guess, just about reasonable enough when ice-cold, but it grew syrupy when it warmed up. With a bit of herring though, it went down OK.

At least it cost less than the quality beers. Still, for my money -- or better, yours -- I’d rather have a Nøgne Ø IPA, the Nøgne Ø Saison or the HaandBryggeriet IPA.

So, rob a bank, go to Oslo and try them.

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