Sorry, craft beer fans: it's all over. Time to go back to whatever you were drinking before you became obsessed with the minutiae of beer. We have the Swedish brewery Närke to thank for our liberation, following their Penn-and-Tellerish revelation of the secrets of craft beer at the Borefts Beer Festival last month:
Närke had plenty of other tricks and gimmicks up their sleeves. Not publishing their substantial beer list was one of them; including a beaver musk beer served from a urinal was another. But sadly that sold out too quickly for me to grab a mouthful of it. In fact I left all their beers a bit late and only managed to rush down a few towards the end of the second day. Black Golding was the first of them, a well balanced strong porter of 7.3% ABV with just the right mix of dry roast and succulent dark fruits. A perfectly constructed beer that really throws the sarcasm of the banner into sharp focus.
Another was Tanngnjost & Tanngrisnir: light on vowels, heavy on smoke. This is a sticky red-amber ale with bags of toffee overlaid with acrid, hot, delicious phenols. The Werther's Originals factory is on fire and I'm loving it. Finally, McPeat Tribbel: as the name suggests a peated tripel. 8% ABV, orange amber and tasting of earthy smoke and almost nothing else except a little bit of jaffa cowering beneath. Very one-dimensional but I loved it.
Keeping it Scandinavian for the moment, Mikkeller were operating nearby but I just gave one of theirs a go while I was passing: SpontanDoubleCherry, a kriek with one whole kilo of cherries per litre. It was available in six-month and one-year versions, and I opted for the younger, hoping for a little more fruit character. But there wasn't a whole lot of fruit going on: in fact it wasn't sweet at all, nor particularly sour. A dry pepperiness was all it had to say for itself, really, and none of the wow factor that used to come with Mikkeller's lambic adventures.
But where are my manners? I have got this far yet totally blanked our hosts, De Molen. They were operating out of the windmill, in the brewery hall, and down at the mobile bar. The selection was extensive and ever-changing, though I noticed something of a reduction in the number of imperial stouts available: a worrying trend. The first one I tried was an extra-Cascade-dry-hopped version of Nat & Droog. It's a heavy, toffeeish affair providing a warming milky coffee sensation, but is spiced up by the hops, giving what m'colleague Zak Avery described as a nutmeg quality, plus rising citrus reaching a sharp bitter crescendo. A very interesting blend of flavours in there.
Milk stouts were something of a theme to the festival and De Molen had produced Koetjes & Kalfjes: a whey stout. 3.5% ABV and stinking in a very specifically rural way. The flavour offers a pungent blend of cheese and coffee (what's not to like?) and there's a long silage aftertaste. It's heavy and tough going to drink. I'll go with "interesting" rather than "nice". (The Kernel was the other brewery doing this, live-mixing their Export London Stout with whey from a corny to create a mad salty chocolate concoction which didn't quite work.)
Funnily enough, early on day one, Koetjes & Kalfjes was the last De Molen beer I had. Plenty more from other breweries to come tomorrow and beyond.
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