January’s one of those months that seem to just zoom by in some kind of a blur. It always tends to start off on a great note – together with old friends for a great party, good food and beer, and a superb atmosphere as the clock strikes midnight. Unfortunately, the rest of January usually doesn’t follow up in the same vein, so the fact that we’re already in February is quite OK – the days are getting longer and what the Germans call the 5th season – carnival time – is just around the corner. Loads of opportunities to drink good beer, in other words.
The reason I sit down here feeling inspired to write a blog entry is something that did happen in January, though: together with a couple of old friends from university, I went skiing in the Austrian Alps. This was very nice in its own right, but these great chaps had also thought further ahead and bought a few great beers from the duty free store as a gift for yours truly. And therefore, since the beer blogger always tries to acknowledge free beer by posting some ramblings on the internet about it, I will acknowledge the generosity of my friends by posting some ramblings on the internet about it.
One of the first and also most successful micro-breweries in Norway is called “Nøgne Ø”. You may think that this name has a lot of zeroes or other strange characters in it, but the letter “ø” is actually the 28th one in the Norwegian alphabet. It’s quite simple: you take an “o” and you slash through it, and you get something that’s pronounced more or less the same as the vowel in “turd”. The brewery’s name translates simply as “naked island”, presumably a nudist's paradise, and their slogan is “the brewery that does not compromise”, presumably by refusing to wear clothes even in winter. These days their "no compromise" attitude rings a little bit hollow since they allowed themselves to be bought out by a big brewery multinational, but their beers are still very drinkable even though the brewery is situated in a place called “Grimstad” which means simply “ugly town” in Norwegian - a corresponding name in the English-speaking world may be "Shitville" or "Crapton". They don’t lie when they say that Norwegians tend to get straight to the point.
Today’s beer was the “Imperial Stout”. Imperial, no less! Defined by the internet as “relating to an empire” – I guess only “global”, “solar systemal”, “milky wayal” and “universal” would trump that. It is also interesting since Norway is one of the few countries that have never been part of an empire, even though the empire did strike back in Norway when they filmed it up in the freezing mountains back in 1980. This beer is black. In fact, it’s so black that it seems that it sucks the light out of the room, like a black hole. It’s also very thick – like crude oil with a head, only much more expensive and, hopefully, better tasting. And tasty it was – a full frontal assault on the taste buds, delivering massive amounts of firepower to make you instantly forget whatever else you had been tasting that day. In fact, it’s got notes of every single taste you’ve ever come across except apricots and aardvark droppings, so even though the beer was great there’s clearly room for improvement. I hereby confidently predict that they will release a “Universal Stout” later this year that will have notes of every single taste known to man and/or woman (and/or his/her dog).
So, what else is going on? Germans have a great way of saying this: “was ist los?” Which just goes to show that not all German words have 17 or more letters in them, unlike “Dampfbierbrauerei” which is a great little brewery in Oberstdorf, way down south in the Bavarian Alps. We went there to do some skiing, but since it got dark conveniently early we also managed to fit in a couple of hours in this fantastic place where you can sit at the bar and look at the staff dispensing huge amounts of beer that has been brewed in the kettle situated just behind the bar. The brewery is right next to the train station, so if you’re somewhere in Europe you can always think of these great beers as just a train ride away.
Well, the effects of the Imperial Stout are slowly wearing off, so inspiration is turning to tiredness, which means that I better wrap this post up before I start yakking on about things that nobody really cares about, like trees. Don’t get me wrong, I love trees, especially oak, which is one of the most suitable trees for making oak barrels in which you can mature beer. But you see my point, this is a beer blog and not a tree blog, so I’ll try to stick to that. Finally, I wish you all a great beery 2015, or at least what’s left of it. As they say in large parts of East Africa: Maisha marefu!