Scandinavia

Copenhagen, Denmark 9/24-9/28

We returned the car in Namur, Belgium and got a train heading to Lubeck, Germany.  It is a two night stopover before continuing on to Copenhagen. The train ride was to last four hours, when halfway through an announcement was made for us to get off the train and leave our bags! What is going on?

We found out that our train was boarding a ferry! Yes, can you believe it? We couldn’t. This is a 1st for us. No one was allowed to remain on the train during the 45 minute cruise across the sea. Not only was the train on board so were cars, buses, and 18-wheelers.

As we headed upstairs to the upper deck of the ferry we found that this cruise liner had everything – shopping, eating, drinking, you name it. We simply enjoyed the view . . .

We arrived in Copenhagen and got back on land in our same train. When we arrived in the main center we found that it is a bustling city where bicycle riders outnumber autos.  It’s a city with a long history and plenty of action to keep us busy for a few days.

Nina said it reminded her of a cross between Vienna, Prague, and Amsterdam; homes and restaurants on canals, shopping and walking down multiple winding streets, and enormous buildings too big to capture on film!

After our Hop On Hop Off tour and walking the Royal Palace we found the famous waterfront canal, a long double-sided street.  It represents fishing history and is lined with small indoor / outdoor cafes which have high-end dinner options for the theatre crowds. 

We enjoyed lunch and of course a beer at Nyhaven Havfruen, this cafe roughly translates to the New Port Mermaid. 

Our Danish beer at lunch was Bryghuset Swaneke Mork Guld, 5% brewed on an island which matched perfectly with our dish of two different types of fresh herring, raw onions, and capers and of course the superb dark bread.

We finished our beer inside the bar. Not surprisingly, named after a mermaid, inside and over the bar we found a life size, beautiful hand-carved wooden beauty which reminded us of home at SYF with our own little Rutgers Mermaid, Isabella – now we have met “Isabella’s Danish Cousin –Havfruen“!

Before we left, Nina worked her charm on the bartender who willingly gave up a small glass for our collection. A nice surprise gift for me.

mikkeller (5)

Mikkeller Bar was a target destination for us while in Copenhagen.  The brewer is gaining popularity and his brews have received great acceptance.  He is sort of a “gypsy” brewer with no brewery of his own. To find one Mikkeller beer on tap in the US would be a great find. This small bar had 15 of his own on tap along with five guest beers on tap. Where does a “gypsy” beer taster start?

The selections covered a wide spectrum of styles so I started with the Pils style and worked my way up. A highlight for us was the George, a Russian Imperial Stout at 12% abv.

Small plates of sausage and cheese were available including a sausage flavored with hops! We made sure to layer our food with our beers which made for a delicious day.

The bartender Tore, another Danish brewer, invited Nina to see the storage cooler, photograph the various Mikkeller series’ of Weiss Beers and Black Hole, and then finished off with some fun pouring a round. By days’ end, we shared a bottle of wine-casked Black Hole – this beer is great to cellar if you get the chance to find one!

The Danes take their beer brewing seriously. You’ll find Carlsberg and Tuborg everywhere, and fortunately the craft brewers are making a strong move. We may even see a collaboration with some US brewers . . .

Oslo, Norway 09/28-10/01

We boarded an overnight cruise ship for our journey to Oslo. It’s a fifteen hour trip. This gave us plenty of time for a beer tasting! We have a perfect window table to enjoy five generous tastings from the Skands brewery in Denmark. The beers were each different with good individual flavor. Most of them were low alcohol volume and paired well with the assorted international cheeses, salami, and fruits. We especially liked one beer in particular,Bla Chimpanse, their version of Chimay Blue. Seconds please!?

After our excurion to the Viking Ship Museum, where by-the-way we saw a 900 year old excavated beer barrel, we made our first beer stop in Oslo, the Beer Palace.  They have a lot of international bottled selections with several from Norway.  Ringnes and Frydenlunk are the big brewers but Bill begins with the Nogne O IPA, and then the Two Captains Double IPA from the tap.

Nina loved her first Norwegian brew, HaandBryggeriet Blond, a south Belgian style which reminded her of a delicious Duvel.

A customer and new traveling beer friend, Christian gives us a good background on the brewers of Norway and helps us with our pronunciations. He also suggests we visit a local restaurant named Handverker Stuene.

Handverker Stuene has a terrific beer menu to match their good food. In fact, the first ten pages are dedicated to beer, and the last page lists the wines – now that’s a big switch.

We quickly met Amund the manager who personally selects all the beers. Fantastik! As they say in this region. Nogne O, Aegir, and HaandBryggeriet were local beers on tap. Bill enjoyed a dark, smooth and slightly smoked beer from HaandBryggeriet named Norwegian Wood, a traditional farmers brew at 6%. (More about that one later.)

Amund suggested we visit a brewery while in Oslo and personally phoned HaandBryggeriet to make an appointment for us. We’re in! Tomorrow’s agenda: train ride to the South.

HaandBryggeriet‘s Odin’s Tipple is a Dark Norse Ale, 11%, made with chocolate malt which gives it great flavor with a hint of coffee.

This restaurant is quite special and historical. Recently renovated, the owner told us about sayings and paintings revealed during construction which they kept and enhanced. Looking in the background of this photo there is writing on the wall.  Loosely translated, this one says the color of your glass enhances the attitude of your mood.

The next day we took Amunds suggestion and got a train ticket for Drammen, Norway.  About 20 minutes SW of Oslo, it’s a quaint little town on the water, surrounded by mountains.  It reminded us of a Norman Rockwell picture.

After a quick walk we located the tiny home brewery. We walked through the door, up the stairs, and found the only two employees, owner/brewer Jens and brewer Andreas.

Jens was doing the paperwork and Andreas was in the middle of brewing the Norwegian Wood which uses juniper branches hand picked by Jens and his wife the evening before in the local forest. Now that’s fresh ingredients!

Jens was a great host offering us several interesting beers.  He also informed us there was a brew pub opening in Oslo later that night.  This opening is the first in Oslo in twenty years.

We plotted the map and found our way to the brewery. It was a nice walk and it is always fascinating to see the sites on foot while getting deeper into the locals life and away from the tourist spots.

What a great surprise. Schous Bryggeri, a grand building with the statue of a brewer atop was visible from down the street!

The entrance looked like a speakeasy and led us deep below to an all brick cellar where the copper brewing kettles were nestled into many corners.  The dimly lit interior was filled with Friday night beer lovers.

Jens and his wife Helen introduced us to several people, enjoyed some beer before we headed out for dinner.  One of the owner/brewers use to brew with Jens at HaandBryggeriet before going out on his own.

We find the beer in Scandinavia to be expensive.  We heard that the Norwegians drink in Sweden to save money, the Swedes go to Denmark; and the Danes go to Germany. Go figure!

Stockholm, Sweden 10/02-10/05

Stockholm is a major city made up of several small islands connected with waterways, roadways, and pedestrian ways. It’s a robust people city with plenty of easily accessible parks. One park is named Hofgarten Park. The park was built with a focus on growing hops so that the labourers who built Stockholm could have their daily two liter supply of beer!

The Royal Palace is located in the Old Town, an area called Stella Gami, which seems like the center of all the islands.  There are boats everywhere, similar to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

Our first stop after our long trek was Monk’s, a solid beer place.  We bellied up to the bar, met our bartender from Atlanta, and asked for a list of Swedish brewed beers.  “None here” was the reply.  Monk’s had a fantastic collection of world beers, including the USA.  I enjoyed a Goose Island Bourbon County stout which I can’t buy at home. Okay, maybe we’ll find some Swedish beers tomorrow. 

Using the Hop On…Hop Off Tourist Bus to get ourselves oriented, we noticed many taverns were either Irish, German, English or Belgium design.  One stop was Wirstroms Pub which has been around for several hundred years. They had a good list of English and Irish beers, but only a mass produced Swede beer.

In our next stop we found a tasty Swedish pilsner and dark ale brewed by Nils Oscar.  The owner gave us a local beer pamphlet; a brochure produced by the Swedish Beer Consumers Association. Just down the street was Glennfiddich Warehouse No. 68 on the map.  It’s menu listed 18 Sweddish microbrews.  We tried several.  The Wisby Sitting Bull Dog was an IPA at 6.4% and was pretty good. Other breweries were Oppigards, Jamptlands, Nils, Norrlands, and Helsinge.  We tried several styles but all seemed to fall just short of fullfilling our taste buds.
Walking home one night, still a little thirsty and hungry,our ‘travel brains’ wanted Swedish, our tastebuds screamed for flavor …, so, we went for the Belgians. 

We remembered one from our list we hadn’t gone to yet, The Duvel Cafe.  Bring on the Duvel and the Maredsous and mussells.  Oh, to see their fantasticly displayed beer cellar at the heart of the restaurant ~ any collector would be envious.  Most impressive. Those Swedes really appreciate their Belgian beers!

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