Naturally, the brewpubs were the highlight of the trip. Forty minutes south of Oslo, in the rather dull fjordside town of Moss, lies the Møllebyen Mikrobryggeri. This large pub-restaurant in a restored industrial building brews five beers on site. Two are lagers: pale, musty Kong Carl and smooth bitter Mossepils. The latter is far superior. There's a Krystal Dunkel Weiss which touches on the all-important caramel and smoke buttons but ultimately lacks full-on flavour. The English Ale is better: warm, floral and mildly bitter, very similar to beers I've had in England, right down to a slight metallic twinge at the very end. As ever in Norway, it's the Porter which excels. Møllebyen's Porter has a wonderful toasted flavour, bitter but not dry. There are notes of chocolate and a touch of liquorice in there as well. A very well-rounded complex beer. The beers in Moss are significantly cheaper than anything I found in Oslo's bars. Unfortunately, high public transport costs mean you'd need to be drinking 28 pints to recoup your train fare. The Moss trip is for the die-hard beer aficionados only, and I'm happy to do it on your behalf.
Oslo itself has just the one brewpub, inventively called Oslo Mikrobryggeri. This place has been going since 1989, much longer than most brewpubs, and has damn near perfected its art in that time. Steamer is the flagship beer, a dark-red ale, not too heavy but with a refreshing bittersweet character. Like an Irish red with an extra dose of hops. The IPA is the weakest of the bunch, nitro-kegged, much too cold and lacking in the strong flavours of the style. Have an Amber X instead: this is another relatively light ale, but with a zesty hops kick reminiscent of an American pale ale. Finally their Imperial Chief Stout isn't really an imperial stout, but is one of the finest black beers I've ever tasted. The sweet chocolate notes are complemented by a late dry bitterness and the whole flavour hangs together in perfect balance. Smoothly drinkable yet not at all bland.
And that ends my Norway round-up, with the conclusion that, if you can get past the extreme prices, Oslo isn't a bad place to go beer hunting, especially if you stick to the darker side of the selection.
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