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Oakes Weekly -- August 19, 2004

Stockholm - Part One
Oakes Weekly August 19, 2004      
Written by Oakes

Vancouver, CANADA -

I arrived in Stockholm a sweaty miserable mess. It was hot and I was loaded down with beer for the Ratebeer European Summer Party. Better still, there was no bank machine at the ferry terminal so I had no kronor. It was only by the generosity of a stranger that I was able to get to the city centre. After two weeks, all of my clothes stunk, so there was nothing attractive about my presentation.

Fortunately, I had a couple of hours to clean up before the pre-fest vintage beer barbeque. The evening started inauspisciously as the barbeque bottomed out - a function of being composed more of rust than of metal. There was enough real estate intact to pile the coals and get some steak and sausages done.

We kicked things off with a round of Swiss micros that Bov had sent Per. Then we got down to some serious business - Gale’s Jubilee, 1992 Courage Imperial Stout and some Falcon Gammelbrygd (’92 and ’96). This beer has been discontinued for some time now, but I’ve had it a few times and it’s always fun. Gammel Brygd means "old brew" and that’s precisely what it was - a strongish dark lager aged 3 years at the brewery before release. About forty-seven seconds after Carlsberg bought out Falcon, Gammelbrygd was discontinued. After all, when a brewery makes what it bills as "probably the best beer in the world", they naturally have to kill off as many better beers as they can in order to make such a claim look more plausible.

From there, it was Thomas Hardy’s time. We had an O’Hanlon’s bottle, plus a 1995 and a 1975 that Per somehow found on sale for fifteen pounds. The ’75 was the best when I tasted them individually, but the ’95 ruled when I took short consecutive sips of the three. Either way, the O’Hanlon’s seems brewed to be more immediately approachable, as my previous impression was that Hardy’s is undrinkable when young.

We then dipped into four vintages of Carnegie Porter. The 1989 was stellar when I cracked it at midnight on January 1, 2000. I don’t think any beer I had the rest of that year was better, and that was a fine beer year. Clearly, the 1989 was past its prime now, but it was still better than the 1999, 2001 and 2003 vintages. Carnegie Porter today sucks. It’s thin, lifeless and more akin to Shiner Bock than a real porter. And yet - and I know I’m harping on what is essentially a minor detail - some people are still calling it a Baltic Porter. Given my extensive travels throughout the Baltic region and keen interest in the style, I am more than qualified to talk about Baltic Porters and Carnegie isn’t one in its grandest hallucinations. Writing style guidelines to specifically include this beer is an injustice to Baltic Porters, historically ignorant (it does not share the same pedigree as other Baltic Porters) and just ridiculous. That’s like changing the definition of Pilsner to include Miller Lite because their ads say it’s a pilsner. This nonsense has to stop.

We did have a real Baltic, a 2000 Zywiec Porter, which to my suprise did not age well. Its hoppy balance had faded into astringency. We ran though the early Nils Oscar Julols as well - the Barley Wine is really rounding into form. We finished off with Basque micros. Strange stuff, that.

The Ratebeer European Summer Party began the next night, in brilliant style. We took the train down to Nynashamn for a visit to the members-only Hagges Barsklubb, where we were granted special permission to spend the evening. For years, I’d heard about their Pickla Pils, and its 50 IBUs. Yet, it had consistently eluded me on all previous attempts to procure it. They don’t usually brew it for the summer, but Per convinced them to make a batch this year specifically so I could have it. And it was worth it. Yes, the hopping is huge, even by the generous standards of Nynashamns Angbryggeri. But there was a wonderful backbone of pale and light crystal malts that provided the perfect structure from which the hops leapt gleefully from glass to mouth. Simply one of the best pilsners on Earth.

There were other beers on offer as well - old friends like Bedaro Bitter, and new ones like Bernard Polotmavy and Martinin Dunkel Weissbier. We brought with us some traditional Lithuanian beers from Chimkora Alaus Darykla in Pasvalys. Their Vyru Alus was typically delicious with all the minerals, diacetyl, sweetness and total lack of alcohol taste (at 9.1% mind you) that defines this type of beer. I can only hope that others in attendance found it as enjoyable as Per and I did.

Summer Party continues next week...


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start quote After all, when a brewery makes what it bills as "probably the best beer in the world", they naturally have to kill off as many better beers as they can in order to make such a claim look more plausible. end quote