Grimstad, Norway’s Nøgne Ø is Norway’s golden child in their growing craft brewery scene. Luckily Albertan’s have been privy to many imported bottles of Nøgne Ø beers over the last year. In May of this year I made an adventuresome trip to Scandinavia to climb mountains and see the fjords. Starting in the beautiful harbour city of Bergen I found myself to arrive on May 17th or Norwegian Constitution Day. Little did I know at the time that this would be the most eyeopening and interesting day of my entire European vacation. After watching the parade along Bryggen the strip of old Hanseatic buildings along the harbourfront I made my way to Hakon’s Hall and Rosenkrantz tower atop a hill overlooking the entire harbourfront. From there I could see the true amount of Norwegians who were out to party the town in traditional dress. I made my way up towards the hills and mountains surrounding Bergen to take the Mt. Fløyen funicular up to see the best view of the city. Due to an overflow of locals trying to take the funicular I thought maybe I would go back later close to sunset. So I made my way back to my hotel to meet my hiking group for the next week and passed by a bar called the Garage a block from my hotel. I noticed the Garage had a few signs up for Nøgne Ø and Haandbryggeriet so I thould I should probably take a look.
Before I continue I should note that Norway is the most expensive country on earth where a Big Mac costs 95 NOK or $19 CAD. Walking up to the bar a very friendly bartender asked me where I was from and why I was in Bergen. I told him I was going hiking on the fjords and glaciers for 10 days and this was the starting place and that I was from Calgary, Alberta. He asked me if Calgary was like Stavanger in Norway which are both oil cities. After questioning him about the Norwegian craft beers he had he offered me a pint of Nøgne Ø Imperial Stout on cask for 110 NOK ($22 CAD) which was truly delicious despite its price tag (but a pint of crappy lager was around 80 NOK). I sat down in the corner and used the wifi to check some news back home until a young Norwegian guy named Jos approached me and asked why I was in the corner and not celebrating with the rest of the locals. Jos was in Bergen to celebrate with his friends who were late to the party after travelling all the way from somewhere near Trondheim. The next few hours were an interesting insight into Norwegian solcialist life and the high cost of living. Jos was a factory working who welding compression parts for off shore oil rigs. After several more expensive beers Jos and I were discussing the differences between Norwegian and Canadian life. We finally talked about the etreme right wing people in Norway like Varg Vikernes and Anders Behring Breivik discussing the church burnings and murders in Bergen in the 1990’s. Later that night after thinking of all we had talked about I could not of asked for a more interesting experience than meeting Jos in Bergen and seeing Constitution Day celebrations. But now maybe I should talk about the beer…
Nøgne Ø Imperial Stout aged in cognac barrels is a 9% ABV beer laid down in previously used cognac barrels for an entire year. Pouring out of the 8oz bottle a gloopy viscous entirely opaque black with a thin light tan head. The glass has a few noted alcohol leggings with sizable lacing splotches. The appearance is definately that of an aged Imperial Stout. The aroma is outrageous with huge roasted and slightly smoky malts leading to earthen barrel notes and vanilla bean shavings. After a few more whiffs of the aroma an overall sublime aroma of vanilla and woody booze is left. Sweet, syrupy mid palate with vanilla nuances and a light cocoa dusting are well combined. Sweet finish with roasted robustness and a rather mild bitterness caps off the aged flavour. Earthy and woody barrel flavours persist into the finish with a noted barrel emphasis throughout. This beer is incredibly complex and well rounded for a barrel aged Imperial Stout. Although I am a bit biased because Imperial Stout and in particular barrel aged Imperial Stout are my favorite, this is one hell of brew. Expertly and exquistely crafted and aged I think I would like to try more of Nøgne Ø Imperial Stouts.
Price: $7.99/8 oz