Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Stockholm Beer Festival 2010

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to visit the Stockholm beer and whiskey festival as part of the UKTI mission to promote British beers in Sweden. I jumped at the chance as a friend of mine attended it last year and all we heard for several months was how good it was and how he had such a good time.

Like most cities during a festival or trade fair it’s a nightmare finding accommodation and if you do your paying through your nose, the list of hotels the UKTI gave me were located in the equivalent of London Mayfair. So no guessing quickly done my own Google search.

Discovered The Red Boat, yep a boat moored within walking distance of the Gamla Stan the old town, the most wonderful views across old and new Stockholm and at a bargain price. Great result and I was even given the Captain’s quarters which has a large wheel which thankfully did not control the ship.
Discovered several pubs on Södermalm walking distance from the boat and they all stocked a huge range of beers from all over the globe, I was well impressed as I’ve not seen such a selection over here. If your going to Stockholm then I do recommend a pub called Oliver Twist near the Central Train Station on Repslagargatan, you will not be disappointed.

The UKTI had organised this place as a pre show get together and laid out drinks and a meal for us plus i got a chance to meet the brewers from the UK who had come over to promote their beers. I won’t mention any names just in case but you know who you are and great meeting you.

Stockholm Beer and Whiskey festival is held in a venue called the Factory in Nacka Strand a very nice part of Stockholm and organised by Stockholm’s Öl & Vin AB headed by the delightful Marianne Wallberg. The setup was not like the GBBF, it has several halls one with distributors showing off brands they carried from the US and UK and then a hall for Swedish brewers and another for just spirits. This festival attracts around 25,000 visitors each year and I can say Beer not Vodka rules here.

The distributors hall had the big guns these guys had the all international brands and are the main suppliers to the Systembolaget the Swedish Alcohol Retail chain and the only place allowed to sell alcohol other than a pub bar or restaurant. Serving a market of 10 million Swedes, Systembolaget is one of the world's largest buyers of wine and spirits from producers around the world.

Two of the main players were Great Brands who had the largest selection of US beers I’ve even seen and Galatea for European beers and Cask who is distributing Brew Dog and doing an incredible job. But being in Sweden I wanted to taste the local beers so I headed in the direction of the local brewers.
Craft beer is certainly what it’s all about the brewers I met are taking brewing very seriously, creative experimental and certainly not shy to try out the unusual.

Theses are my top three to look out for:

1, Nils Oscar – Currently brews approx 18 beers and has recently launched a range of spirits.  One I sampled was God lager, which means ‘good’ and is also now available in the UK. India Ale (IPA) which I thought was terrific pours a coppery colour nice spicy aroma and really hoppy just as I like it.

2, Närke Kulturbryggeri - These guys were rock n roll defiantly ones to keep an eye on and certainly not shy to experiment. Närke Bäver is just that Bäver meaning Beaver (you know where I’m going now) is brewed with Castoreum which is the name given to the exudate from the castor sacs of the mature North American Beaver (I’m not joking) and it smells of piss but I put my hand up it tasted flipping good drinking with my nostrils closed. They also had normal beers and I tried Närke Mörker a dark beer oozed roast, coffee, toffee and malts in aroma.

3, Sigtuna brygghus - Based in Arlandastad is one that’s very strong on branding and again not shy to experiment. Recently launched Imperial Stout at 18.5% called Ace of Spades unfortunatly was not available at the festival. I tried the South Pacific Pale Ale 5,4 % Gold in colour. Pineapple aniseed aromas hoppy taste with much grapefruit. Extra Sigtuna Bitter 5,6 % I’m told was good but I never got round to that one.

A very educational three days at the Stockholm beer festival highly recommend visiting next year event if you can, great atmosphere nice people and good beer....great night life.

From what I can see, the Swedish are coming.


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