Beerection day!

I have noticed lately that every fourth year is a lot longer than the intervening three. This is partially due to the fact that this is the leap year and therefore contains an extra day – February has the cheek to add an extra day even though it’s in the middle of winter – but the real reason this particular year is so incredibly long is that it happens to be the year when Americans elect their president. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of democracy and the idea of chucking your ballot into a box to say “good luck” to your chosen candidate and “bugger off” to the rest, but for some reason or other, the good people residing in the United States of America have decided to make this contest into a year-long event. This would not be so bad were it not for the fact that the rest of the world, containing 95% of the members of the human species, also decides to fill 95% of available space in their newspapers with speculation and analysis concerning the aforementioned American election. In contrast, the main (parliamentary) election in my own home country of Norway, home to almost 0.07% of the world’s population, has never generated as much as a comma in any foreign newspaper.

Now I am also, through this very blog, part of the world’s media, so it would seem foolish not to write about the election at all. As you may have noticed by now, the main topic of the blog is beer, which also happens to be the most wonderful and diverse drink on the planet. It has therefore surprised me very much that neither of the two main candidates have, as far as I can tell, ever mentioned what their policies are regarding the juice of the barley. It is therefore my duty, dear readers, to investigate this important issue, and to write about it.

I had no idea how to approach this task, so I basically googled “how should I approach this task”. Evidently, Google has some clever algorithms, because it simply suggested “google it”, which I really ought to have thought of myself. Anyway, having been enlightened, I proceeded to google “Trump beer” and “Clinton beer”.

Trump’s first google hit was that gay bars in Pennsylvania and Maryland have apparently decided to boycott Yuengling beer because of the brewery’s support for Trump – it seems that Yuengling has taken the step of actually endorsing Trump, and that this has caused a bit of a backlash amongst the drinkers who don’t share the brewery’s view on this matter. Next comes the story of a Chicago brewery not quite as fond of Trump that renamed some leftover beer they had “Chinga Tu Pelo”, which is Spanish and translates to “fuck you hair”. Nice.

Clinton’s results weren’t quite so interesting. She apparently went for a beer sometime in May to showcase the fantastic American craft brewing industry, and was pictured pretending to like some mysterious concoction that looked a bit like a chunk of black hole in a glass. The only other noteworthy hit on the first place was that someone had come up with the ultimate election night accessory – a Chillary Clinton Can Holder. What more could beer drinkers want whilst either celebrating or drowning their sorrows?

So there you have it – neither candidate has made a big effort to win the beer drinker’s vote, and neither seems to have spent much time in pubs drinking beer. Herein lies the problem, I think. The campaign will be remembered mostly for being the nastiest in democratic history, with each candidate spending most of the time telling the unfortunate voters what a terrible person the other candidate is. Beer drinkers don’t tend to act like that, mostly because we’re a sensible bunch, but also because we realize that there are more important things in life than politics, such as beer. In fact, I am convinced that televised political debates would be much less venomous, as well as much more fun, if they were conducted in a pub serving great beer. You only hear the truth from children and drunk people, they say, and I could imagine the debate ending after like the seventh pint when Clinton and Trump embrace and declare their love for one another whilst agreeing to move the White House to an old brewery in Wisconsin from where they will share the presidency and brew great beer. Then they would invite all the world leaders over for a giant beer festival where, simultaneously, no boring lager would be served and all the world’s problems would be solved.

On this optimistic (though perhaps ever so slightly unrealistic) note I shall wish you all a happy November 8th, regardless of which country you may reside in and whether you have the opportunity to vote today or not. Remember, though, that if you’re in the supermarket, the pub, or perhaps somewhere else where different beers are on offer, you can always vote for your favourite beer by exercising your power as a consumer. Vote and drink wisely, my friends! Cheers!



Humans are very weird. For some strange reason, we have decided that the number 10 is a great base for counting when 12 would have been much better, and for some even stranger reason we find it endlessly fascinating when we’re dealing with so-called “round” numbers – such as the numbers 5, 50 and 500. Imagine my delight, then, when I dis-covered that these particular three numbers all ganged up on me last weekend to provide me with the ultimate excuse to both drink beer and then subsequently write about it.

The number 500 should require no explanation. It is, after all, the main anniversary of 2016 since it marks 500 years since some Ludwig or other suspected that brewers at the time added too much dodgy stuff into their brews – apparently, some were chucking in horse manure, soot and various poisonous herbs to make the beer taste better or last longer – and thus declared that beer was only allowed to be brewed using three ingredients, namely water, hops and malted barley. Of course, brewers have since discovered that a fourth ingredient sneaks into the beer as well, namely yeast – without which there would be no alcohol in the beer – so the actual law has been updated accordingly. However, apart from this, the law has remained in force for 500 years except that it hasn’t since the EU banned it after the Belgians complained.

The Beer Blogger seeking inspiration for his 50th beer blog post
The numbers 5 and 50 both relate to this very blog, though – for it was here, 5 years ago, that I took my first beerful steps into the world of online, unedited publishing, hoping that my ramblings may reach an audience of millions and providing me with endless product placement opportunities from all the good breweries in this world. It hasn’t quite gone to plan, but I have still managed to keep writing – and what you’re reading is blog post number 50. I hope you’ve enjoyed the journey as much as I have, and feel free to send me more beer.

Back to the aforementioned law. It is known either by its German name, the “Bayrische Reinheitsgebot”, or by its somewhat meek English translation, “the Bavarian Purity Law”. You can discuss until the cows come home whether or not German is a beautiful language, but you cannot deny that some of the words carry more weight than their English equivalents, mostly due to them being about ten times longer. What is beyond reasonable doubt though, is the fact that the law was signed in the Bavarian city of Ingolstadt, a smallish town sat nicely on the mighty Danube about halfway between Munich and Nuremberg.

An authentic recreation of the first proclamation of the Reinheitsgebot

The Germans usually know how to put on a good party, whether it is the world’s biggest – Oktoberfest – or a small village event in some dog-forsaken place that no-one’s ever heard of. These parties usually revolve around drinking loads of beer and listening to some oompah band playing cheesy tunes whilst dancing on the benches in a big tent. It was therefore exactly such an event I foresaw when I spotted an ad for Ingolstadt’s 500-year celebration party, to take place on the weekend of the 23rd of April 2016, exactly 500 years to the day after the Reinheitsgebot was signed. For this reason, it came as a big surprise when we finally got there and discovered that the theme was distinctly medieval and based on a surprising number of bands sporting bagpipes and drums in various combinations of bagpipes and drums, though I also spotted a flute. These bands toured around three or four stages set up in a couple of streets in the old city, farting their pipes and banging their drums so loudly that the only thing to do was to buy beer and sit down to listen and tap a foot or two. Needless to say, it was fantastic fun.

What was also nice to see was that this fest actually did celebrate beer instead of merely using beer as a lubricant to get the party going. Nine different breweries had set up stands where excellent beer was dispensed and where real choice was on offer, from standard Helles through Rotbier to a hearty Bock.

We made loads of friends in Ingolstadt
Furthermore, there was an absolutely superb guided tour that took you through the history of the Reinheitsgebot – unlike many such tours, this was anything but dry since was it both extremely well narrated by people who knew how to entertain an audience, and more importantly broken up nicely by visiting all nine brewery stands for tastings. These were supposed to be 0.2 litres each, but every time our goblets were filled we seemed to “accidentally” get a fair bit extra, so by the end most people had imbibed at least two litres plus perhaps what their other halves could not handle. The general mood of the tour was, therefore, continuously getting more boisterous – and then, the grand finale! A water fountain was ceremoniously turned into a beer fountain, thus finally making sense of the concept "drinking fountain", and we were once again allowed to fill our tankards to the brim. I have since decided to start a political party with the sole aim to get all drinking fountains to occasionally dispense beer. What a day – and it was not yet 3pm!

The popularity of the fountain increased exponentially once it started dispensing beer
Sadly, we had to catch the train home just after this, which turned out to be a major anticlimax. However, looking back at Ingolstadt, the Reinheitsgebot and everything I have ever known about German beer, I think I can safely say that this was one of the highlights of my beer-loving life. A lot of beer aficionados debate whether the Purity Law is good or bad these days – some think it stifles innovation, others think it encourages brewers to maintain or improve quality. What is beyond unreasonable doubt though, is that Germany has some of the best beer in the world and that the Law has done its reputation no harm whatsoever. Having witnessed a tendency for German brewers to be a little bit “stuck in the past” over the last decade, I am also happy to announce that the beers on offer in Ingolstadt included several made by young, enthusiastic and innovative brewers who seem happy to experiment a little, even though they may prefer to do so with only water, malt, hops and yeast.

Anyway, this turned out to be a relatively long 50th post, but I nevertheless hope that you’ve enjoyed reading my beery ramblings for the last 5 years or so, and if you haven’t then you should probably try and read them all again since they’re awesome. In some ways I’ve come full circle – I intended the blog to be mainly about German beer, but it has turned out to be more international than I had anticipated – so on this massive occasion of the 50th post it is nice come back and give my adopted home a good whatever the opposite of bollocking is. Don’t worry, I shall be back writing about foreign lands soon enough, I’ve got several plane tickets booked and I’ve packed a toothbrush. As they say in Kuala Lumpur: Sorakan!


A smokin’ cold country

The Nordic countries are, as the name indicates, situated to the north of just about everything except the North Pole. Made slightly warmer than the latitude would justify by the presence of the Gulf Stream, these countries are populated by people who enjoy lots of daylight in summer, endure lots of darkness in winter, and imbibe lots of beer all year. The Nordics consist of five independent countries: Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland, which together measure about 1.32 million square kilometres (about three-quarters the size of Alaska) and are home to about 26 million people (about 35 times the population of Alaska). By far the least populated, most mysterious and furthest away of these is Iceland, a volcanic pile of rock situated so far out in the Atlantic that you can practically smell North America.

Growing up in Norway, we learnt a fair bit about Iceland in school, mainly because the country was settled by Norwegian Vikings who seemed to think that it was a great idea to abandon the relatively mild (!) climate in Norway and start a new life in conditions that even then would have pushed the boundaries of harshness. Naturally they brought their language with them, but because of the remoteness of the island the language evolved much slower than back in Norway, with the end result that to this day, Icelandic is essentially the Old Norse that was spoken by the Vikings more than 1000 years ago – vaguely familiar to modern Norwegians when written, but utterly unintelligible when spoken. Having learnt all this in elementary school back in the 1980s, I have always been fascinated by this place, but never had the chance to visit – that is, until a couple of weeks ago.

In the end, work sent me to Iceland, and the capital Reykjavik to be specific. Reykjavik is actually a fairly big city, housing around two thirds of the entire population of the country. It’s a pleasant place to stroll around unless you’re facing the icy wind, and it’s also full of nice pubs, bars and restaurants that serve up food and drinks of high quality with prices to match. Of course, my main interest once work had finished for the day was to explore the beer scene. On that note, Iceland has possibly the saddest history of all European countries when it comes to beer. After a failed experiment with prohibition of all alcoholic drinks in the early 1900s, wine and spirits were allowed back in the shops in the 1930s, but for some utterly unfathomable reason beer remained banned for another half century. No doubt they knew that the soon-to-be-famous beer blogger would turn 18 in 1990 and thereby start his quest to drink all the beer in the world, so Iceland decided to legalize beer a few months before, on March 1st 1989 to be precise. Iceland has not looked back since, though they may have looked forward to my finally getting around to visiting.

As in almost all countries, a couple of big breweries have risen to become the suppliers of the industrial lager that most people drink – regular readers know what I’m talking about. Of course, since the total population of Iceland is only about a third of a million, there’s a limit to how big these breweries can actually get, and I did not expect a big selection of interesting beer. Imagine my unbridled delight then, when I discovered that there are surprisingly many microscopic breweries on this island, some of which brew very good beer indeed. The main craft brewer seems to be one called Einstök from Iceland’s second city Akureyri, and it was also this brewery that, in careful consideration of my visit, had sent a selection of their finest brews to the first restaurant I happened to stumble upon.
The beer was much better than this picture
I went about the tasting job methodically by ordering one of each. First up was “Icelandic White Ale” which proved to be surprisingly tart and fresh, much better than most continental European equivalents. It was an excellent aperitif beer which doubled nicely as a starter. Next up was Arctic Pale Ale, a pleasantly hoppy interpretation of this style which also had a firm malty body. It was an excellent second beer which also doubled beautifully as the main course. Finally, the highlight of the evening: Icelandic Toasted Porter. Unfortunately, I had not brought a tuba with me because this beer was so good it was worth at least one oompah session, maybe two. As the name hinted, the toasted barley was as much in evidence on the palate as on the label, and since it also avoided the normal porter-trap of being too sweet – in fact, it was delightfully dry – it was perhaps the best porter I have ever sampled. The only problem with it is that my wife also likes it, which means that the small selection I brought home for my fridge is in constant peril. It was an excellent dessert beer which also doubled exquisitely as the cheese plate, espresso, grappa and cigar.

The Toasted Porter.
Impressed and very satisfied, I left the restaurant to explore the city. There were definitely more bars than volcanoes, and loads of people out drinking even on a Monday. It looked like a fun place, but the real Iceland is elsewhere – and you don’t have to travel far to find it. Hop in a car or a tour bus and you’ll find somewhere that emits some kind of steam and/or reeks of sulphur within minutes. The whole place looks about to blow up, but in the meantime you can dive into various hot springs for a revitalising dip. Just make sure that you check the water temperature before you do, since some of them are more suitable for boiling eggs. You can also gawp at wonderful scenery, especially if the fog lifts to reveal it, and if it doesn’t you can always check out Google Street View to see what it would have looked like if you’d visited in whichever year the sun last paid a visit.

The scenery is quite impressive despite some low clouds
In conclusion, Iceland should be on the shortlist both for beery and non-beery reasons. It’s a fascinatingly remote and wild country, and the population speaks excellent Icelandic when they’re tired of showing off their flawless English. I only sampled a tiny portion of both the beer and the country, but I was very impressed. An added bonus is that you can fart as much as you like, because the hot water is not heated, but tapped straight from some sulphuric hell-hole that causes everything to stink anyway. So, go ahead and read up on a few of Snorri Sturluson’s old sagas to get in the proper mood, then book a flight, bring a weatherproof jacket and head off. As the Vikings used to say before cracking open a beer or a skull or whatever happened to be in the path of their axes: Skál!