12 August, 2008

The Beer Scene in Scandanavia

On our trip to Stockholm and Copenhagen we visited some of the best beer destinations in the world and some would never know they were there. The beer landscape in Scandanavia is dominated by Carlsberg and Tuborg but there are many great craft brewers in Sweden and Denmark and some in Norway and Finland as well. One problem with beer in Sweden and Denmark is the sales tax applied. I think in Sweden taxes were about 23% on top of the price and in Copenhagen it was even higher at 25%. Despite that, we had to take advantage of being in this great beer area!

We first landed in Stockholm on 8 August and after checking into the hotel and roaming around a little, we took the T-metro to Akkurat, a bar that has been described as one of the best on earth with many rare beers made exclusively for them by Cantillon and other Belgian brewers. When we arrived at maybe 7pm, all of the outside seating was taken and most of the seats in the bar area as well but we were able to snag one bar stool and then an hour later a second stool.

The bottle list at Akkurat is simply amazing. They have a very extensive selection of Belgian beers, many from old vintages and many hard to find or rather I should say impossible to find beers. There were about 5 main beers that I was hoping to get while here, most of them from Cantillon. After having a nice Cantillon Gueuze on tap, I grabbed the huge bottle menu and asked for a rare Cantillon Soleil de Munuit but was sad to find out it was no longer available. I then "settled" on a rare Cantillon Reed Gueuze Pinot Noir and after several minutes of the bartender searching in the beer cellar (which is behind lock and key) for this beer I was relieved to see him come back to the bar with a beautiful bottle and a nice wicker basket to serve my beer from. He also brought 2 nice glasses for Paula and I to share. The beer was in a champagne bottle, like nothing I have seen from Cantillon and this was one damn fine beer!! The beer was several years old but the fruit character from the Pinot Noir matched very well with the tartness of the gueuze. Although this was a pretty expensive beer (about 400 Swedish Kronas which is approximately 40 Euros) but it was definitely worth it and due to the fact that it is not legal to take bottles away from bars in Sweden, I didn't feel bad spending the cash.

We went back to Akkurat the following day shortly after they opened and found it to already be half full but we had no problem getting 2 seats at a table in the bar area. I had one purpose in mind at this point, getting a bottle of Westveleteren 6. The production of this beer was stopped long ago and there are really only 2 or 3 places on earth that I know of that still have this beer and one of them won't sell it. Akkurat had it listed on their menu and although it was about 30 euros for a 33cl bottle, I felt it was worth it for this 1996 gem. The wait was worth it as the taste was still very present, malty and it was served in a proper Westvleteren glass! Overall Akkurat was a great experience and the 2 bartenders that we talked to on both occasions were very nice and helpful. They even remembered us the 2nd time we went, probably because we dropped a nice pile of kronas on both trips.

Later that same evening we ventured out in the rain to Monk's Cafe. No, not the Monk's Cafe in Philadelphia but the unrelated bar in Stockholm. This is a relatively new bar but has gained a great name for carrying a large array of Swedish, Belgian, German, American and other beers. Although the prices for some beers were quite high (like about $500 for a bottle of Sam Adam's Utopias) there were several reasonable beers and several on tap brewed by Monk's Cafe at their little brewpub or for them by local brewers.

We only had about an hour or so to spend here at Monk’s but we enjoyed it while we were able. Upon walking in I was greeted with a BeerAdvocate magazine sitting on a wine barrel at the entrance so I grabbed it to get a good English read in! We were quickly greeted by the bartender who spoke perfect English and was helpful in providing beer suggestions. As Monk’s brewed a few of their own beers or had them made my local breweries, I decided to start with their British IPA and then later moved on to an orange ale which sounded interesting and turned out to be pretty good. The bar was pretty empty and we found out was closing at 9pm as they had a late night the previous night due to the Stockholm 08.08.08 festival.

Check out pictures from beery travels through Stockholm

On the afternoon of 10 August we made the short flight to Copenhagen to take in the culture and the beer. In Copenhagen is what many believe to be one of the best beer shops in the world, Olbutikken. Olbutikken is a small bottle shop but has a crazy selection of Danish, Belgian and even American craft beers. The shop is owned by Jeppe, the brother of the brewer at Mikkeller, a great Danish craft brewer. Olbuitikken has several beers made especially for the shop so I was geeking thinking about getting the chance to try some of these. Before we left for our trip I had traded emails with Jeppe to setup a time to visit his shop on Monday as they are only open 3 days a week for a total of 12 hours. Jeppe was kind enough to open up for us at 2pm on Monday and we took advantage of it. The shop was only about a 10 minute walk from our hotel so we headed towards the shop a few minutes before 2pm with a bag full of American beer to trade with Jeppe.

We got to the shop a little after 2pm and were greeted by Jeppe from the back room. I spend the first few minutes just circling around the shop looking at all the Danish, Belgian and American beers that he had to offer. Although the size of the bottle shop is not large, the quality of what he has packed into the space is just amazing, all killer, no filler. It seemed like they had every available bottle from Mikkeller including the newly released Beer Geek Brunch One – for - One which was made in a limited quantity for Olbutikken. The selection of Belgian beers was also great including Black Albert and Pannepot Grand Reserva from Struisse and several Cantillon beers including Blabaer Lamik, a blueberry lambik made exclusively for Olbutikken. I think the Blabaer was actually brewed by Jeppe at Cantillon. There was also a very nice selection of American craft beer including some from Allagash, Southampton and Jolly Pumpkin.

We spent about 40 minutes in the shop talking to Jeppe about beer and Copenhagen. He spoke English very well and was a wealth of information. I brought 6 beers from American craft brewers including some Russian River and Lost Abbey to trade with Jeppe. Thanks to my cousin Keith for sending these bottles over to me to help out with this trade. After I selected about 8 bottles or so to take home, we worked out the trade so that I owed nothing for my acquisitions! I tried to pay Jeppe but it would not allow it.

For the rest of our time in Copenhagen we had some decent Danish beers at a few bars and made a quick trip to the Norrebro Bryghus brewery to sample a few of their beers.

Check out beer related pictures from our Copenhagen travels

1 comment:

anita strods dore said...

Hi there,
my husband and i are moving to luxembourg in a few weeks. it's nice to read your blog and get a sense of what we can expect when we live there. my husband works for Citigroup and i'm a designer for an american company. we also have two cats and it sounds like you have a cat as well. the real estate agents are saying that it's very hard to find a place that accepts cats. did you find that to be the case? how did you find your apartment? did you use a real estate agent?

thanks in advance and apologies for all the questions!

Anita Dore