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Trivial things like work have come between my writing on this blog and me. I visited Stockholm Beer and Whiskey Festival a little more than two weeks ago and planed to write about it at the festival but things came in between. So here it comes though a little late.

(Courtesy Stockholm Beer Beer and Whiskey Festival)

The festival runs Thursday to Saturday for two weeks. I was there the first time the first Saturday but had to leave. I was just to many people there. I heard that Saturday night was crazy. All the Swedish breweries were in a separate hall of the venue and in there, people couldn’t move. Thanks to a good friend of mine I was able to come back the following Thursday which was a huge difference. I was there when they opened at 3 PM and that was just perfect. If you decide to go to the Stockholm Beer and Whiskey festival you should go early Thursday or Friday. It’s just to crowded during evenings and all of Saturday. I don’t think adding wine and spirits made the festival better, on the contrary. It made it less pleasant for beer lovers.

So I went there Thursday afternoon and had a great time with the focus on Swedish beers. The Swedish beer scene have changed since I got involved in it in the late nineteen nineties. The engine in the Swedish beers scene has been Stockholm. The market for interesting beers is bigger and thus easier for small breweries to make the necessary profits. It doesn’t mean that there was no interest for craft beer in the rest of the country but the craft beer scene grew faster in Stockholm. The amount of breweries didn’t follow. It’s interesting that many of the craft breweries in the earlier days were not located in Stockholm. A brewery that I remember as one of the leading craft beer producers is Jämtlands Bryggeri. They brewed delicious beers like the Porter (also on cask), Postiljon, a classic Pale Ale and of course the hoppy lager Hell that they did in collaboration with Oliver Twist and Akkurat. It seems like they have lost a little of their glory which is a pity. Nynäshamns Ångbryggeri (steam brewery) was also one of the breweries that in the early days lead the beer community in to something more exiting and

None pasteurized Pilsner Urquel (Courtesy Stockholm Beer Beer and Whiskey Festival)

new. They started really small and have been growing slowly to become one of the leading craft breweries in Sweden, maybe not by size but definitely when it comes to brewing interesting craft beers. Both of these breweries were located outside of Stockholm, Nynäshamns Ångbryggeri in Nynäshamn south of Stockholm and Jämtlands Bryggeri in Östersund in the north part of Sweden. (Yes I know, Östersund is actually almost in the middle of Sweden but I’m from the south. Everything that is north of Lund is considered the north to me.) Stockholm had two breweries that brewed some really good beers. One is Gamla Stans Bryggeri. I was a brewpub that brewed a pretty good lager. The restaurant is still up and running but they don’t brew beer there anymore. The most interesting brewery located in Stockholm was Kungsholmens Kvartersbryggeri. I was located in the middle of Stockholm and brewed a hoppy lager called Lundgrens Lager that became very popular. The brewery was bought by Tärnö Bryggeri  in 1998 and they moved the brewery to Nyköping south of Stockholm. . Tärnö Bryggeri brews the Nils Oscar products.

At the Stockholm Beer Festival there was some interesting new breweries that I never sampled any beers from before. One of the breweries is Sigtuna Brygghus. They had a very good traditional Bitter Ale that I really enjoyed. Their South Pacific was a little out of taste. To me it tasted cold meat stew with a dry after taste. Handverksbryggeriet in Västerås had an HSB that was fruity with a slightly bitter after taste. The beer brought back great memories from my many visits to pubs in England. The Swedish craft breweries are not out on the edge like many of the breweries from America. An IPA from a Swedish craft brewery tastes more like the traditional IPA from England. One is not better than the other but I am getting a little tired of the over hopped American IPAs. Dugges Ale and Porter Bryggeri from Gotherburg had an 5% APA (American Pale Ale) that to me tasted more like a British pale ale but still a good beer.

Stockholm now days actually only have one brewery and it’s called Monks Food and Beverage. It’s a local pub chain a little like Tyler’s Taproom in the Raleigh and Durham, NC. Two of Monks locations also brew beer, Monks Café Brewery and Monks Porterhouse. Monks IPA is ok but served to cold. Just like in America IPA is a popular beer style in Sweden. My favorite IPA at the festival was Oppigård India Tribute with 6.6% (ABV). Oppigårds tried to break in to the US market a few years ago but I don’t think they had much success.

The past few years beer trend has been a lot of everything, a lot of hops, a lot of alcohol and preferably in combination

American beers available at the Swedish monopoly in the coming months.

with names like imperial this and double that. I think it’s time for a more minimalistic trend with less of everything but done delicately to still keep the flavors. The text on Left Hand’s 400 Pound Monkey kind of summers it up for me, “Any monkey can throw 400 pounds of hops in a kettle”, anyone can brew a beer with a lot of flavors by adding more of everything. The challenge is to brew a beer with little of everything so I started a quest at the festival to find a good draft beer with the lowest alcohol. I was not that easy. It’s hard to find something below 4% that is good. Nynäshamns Bryggeri have a 4% stout that has a good roasted flavor that is not intimidating; Monks Svea Pale Ale with 3.2% ABV is a little to watery in it’s flavors which is not unusual in low alcohol beers. By fare the best low alcohol beer was the 3.5% Bonden (The Farmer) from Hantverksbryggeriet. All the beer flavors are well-balanced but without hitting you in the face like a Governator punch; perfect balance between the malt and the hops without the watery flavor. This is a “I can’t believe it’s only xx %, wow!” beer. Bonden only got a bronze medal in the Stockholm Beer Festival beer competition in the 2.8-3.5% any style category. The bronze and silver medal in the low alcohol category on draft went to Ystads Färsköl and Monks Svea Pale Ale which I think were a little to watery.

Many of the Swedish breweries have one or maybe two beers that are out on the edge like many American beers. One brewery stands out when it comes to brewing beers on the edge and that it Närke Kulturbryggeri. They of course have a

few really good session beers and like Närke Slättöl (plain beer like in The Plain) and Närke Mörker (darkness). Their

Tap for Närke Bäver

vintage barrel aged porter is a hit; the Svensk Öl is brewed with honey and smoked malt and Bäst Rököl with elderberry and peat smoked whiskey malt is just a few samples of what they have. They brew a beer that is probably the most out on the edge beer I ever had. It’s the Närke Bäver (Beaver). The beer is brewed with castoreum that is “the exudate from the castor sacs of the mature North American Beaver”. It’s not solvable in water so they solve it in alcohol and add only a few drops to a brew. The beer has a very gamey and forestry flavor. The flavors are very strong and can be a little too much in the long run. One small glass of the Beaver is enough. Make it your last beer of the day, which I did and this was a perfect ending to a revisit to the festival where my interest for beer started to grow.

The Stockholm Beer and Whiskey Festival competition

The competitions is a blind competition where the judges never know what beer they are sampling. The judges’ backgrounds are wide, all from certified beer judges to beer enthusiasts. You can download the complete list here. (96KB)

There is also a whiskey competition. You would think that the Scottish distilleries would win all the medals at the whiskey competition. That was not the case in Stockholm. Suntory Lim from Japan by far won the most medals. The “new” world is taking the lead in whiskey just as in beer.