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Oakes Weekly -- September 2, 2004

Stockholm - Part Three
Oakes Weekly September 2, 2004      
Written by Oakes

Vancouver, CANADA -

With the sun shining, Per, myself and a couple of others arrived in the morning at Gula Villan on the Stockholm University campus. We had a full carload of beer to load into the fridge. There was food to prepare, glasses to wash, and signage to set up so the other participants could find their way to the Ratebeer European Summer Party.

A couple of hours later, everything was ready and the Ratebeerians were arriving, anxious to crack into the 100-odd offerings on hand. It was sweet to have such a venue - there was a bar with a full-sized fridge. That was filled to capacity. There is a huge dining table and a couple of decks as well. Further, there was pinball and darts (poor DrNate) and even a computer so we could update live on the forums.

We started relatively light with Oppigards Golden Ale, from a new Swedish microbrewer. Soon, the long-awaited Nogne O was on the table. I played bartender to the crowd. Some other much sought-after new brewers were available - Valdres from Norway and Narke Kulturbryggeri from Sweden (with their IPA). A Dogfish Head Pangaea tried to take my head off with corkish violence. After that, I faced every cork with protective eyewear.

It was not long before an anti-freeze-style jug of homemade gotlandsdricke was centre stage. Akin to smoked sahti, gotlandsdricke is a traditional ale from the island of Gotland, in the Baltic Sea. No commercial examples exist, and we were lucky to have the chance to try this. This was from a different brewer than the one I previously tasted a few years ago, and I found it quite a bit rougher in smoke, esters and alcohol.

I could wait no longer and started cracking the Danish micros, starting with Wintercoat Oatmeal Stout. We then took a break for lunch, but not before madsberg had his 1000th - a Drie Fonteinen Schaarbekse Kriek. Oh, and I also managed to squeeze in time to present side-by-side the Speedway and Barrel-Aged Speedway. In all, I would say that due reverance was paid to AleSmith as the eager Europeans, unused to seeing such beers in the glasses, lapped them up.

During the break, someone for whatever reason had decided to start whistling O Tannenbaum. It is a rare day when I actually pick up on a hint, but I did and we commenced with the Christmas beers, from Nogne O, Nils Oscar, AleSmith and more.

Then we traversed the world, with Brazilian micros - all decent - a good blond ale from Macau, and the much-sought-after Belikin Stout from Belize, a respectable foreign stout. Scandinavian micros followed again - Norrebro among them. Cantillon Jonge Cognac is lambic aged in cognac barrels and a handful of bottles were produced at their open brew day this past spring. It is well balanced but the days are long done that you’d find me complaining about a Cantillon.

Then came Southampton Abt 12, which like the cursed Pangaea and Belikin Stout before it was a gift from the US. I liked it. French beers were up next, Valmy Biere Blonde being a tasty one.

After another, after another, after another they came - Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Denmark, Belgium. Oh yes, the latter still has some fine beers undiscovered by export markets. Like the session versions of Flemish sour ales - delicacies like Liefmans Odnar, and Verhaege Vichte Oude Bruinen.

Things wound down as the fridge, once filled to the brim, was systematically emptied of its contents. I found myself swimming in an ocean of opportunity, with wonderful new beers being opened every few minutes. I did my best, ladies and gentlemen, I did my best, but it unrealistic to think that any human could try them all.

In the end, we had some spare bottles and I took a supply to share with the Finnish Ratebeer contingent.

The next night we went back to Akkurat for the Connoisseur’s Session. I was beat, but still managed a few unblended lambics and various vintage beers before conking out.

I awoke and headed for Turku, Finland, via the archipelago of Aland. All of my sources (some in the know) had told me the only thing I could expect for new beer there was Alands Ol, a somewhat insulting offering from mainland brewery Sinebrychoff. Sitting on the ferry, sipping on the aforementioned insult, I did what every good beer hunter should do - exhaust all avenues of information-gathering. Beer sources know nothing? Try conventional sources. Like tourist brochures. I leafed through three or four of these and at the back of one was exactly what I was looking for - Alands Bryggeri. It was in Grelsby, which was a little out of my way, but I was headed for Mariehamn, the only town in Aland. Surely I would find it there.

Not so fast! As I learned in Krakow, there is a simple equation: tourists=money=big brewers. The big boys aren’t into sharing all those tourist dollars, not even in little Mariehamn. Fortunately, another beer-hunting tip came into play - fine restaurants sometimes have fine beer. A) because it tastes better and B) because they have no chain affiliation and generally lower than average beer sales, they have no need of big brewery ass-kissing. So on the upper floor at Hamngatan 2, the refined Restaurang Nautical, overlooking the famous ship Pommern, I found my Stallhagen Pale Lager. It’s actually a pretty good pilsner. True, the Nautical didn’t quite know what do to with a sweaty backpacker. True, I poked my head into over a dozen other establishments before arriving there. But either you want the beer or you don’t. And as the unofficial discoverer of Aland’s first and only microbrewery, yes, I want the beer!


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start quote A Dogfish Head Pangaea tried to take my head off with corkish violence. After that, I faced every cork with protective eyewear. end quote