Saturday, August 25, 2012

Midtfyns Bryghus at Amundsen

On Thursday August 23, 2012, Erik Nielsen and Eddie Szweda of Midtfyns Bryghus visited the brewpub Amundsen Bryggeri & Spiseri in Oslo, to brew a special beer and give a beer tasting. This blog post is a brief summary of that eventful day and night.

Midtfyns Bryghus at Amundsen in Oslo.

Midtfyns Bryghus
Midtfyns Bryghus was founded in late 2004 in Brobyværk, on the island of Funen (Fyn) in Denmark. The first beer was released in March of the following year, but the brewery struggled to make a profit - hardly selling for a million Danish crowns in its first year of operation. It wasn't until Eddie Szweda took over the reins in November 2006 that things started to get better for the small brewery.

Eddie Szweda is a US expat who is married to a Danish woman and has lived in Denmark for the last 19 years, speaking the language fluently. When he took over the brewery, he changed the way Midtfyns Bryghus brewed their beers and completely revamped the beer lineup, introducing a number of exciting new beer styles. Over the next few years, Midtfyns Bryghus would consistenly be named one of the top craft breweries in Denmark, and they've won the "Årets ølnyhed" (best new beer of the year) competition, hosted by the Danish Beer Enthusiasts, three times:

- For 2007 with Midtfyns Imperial Stout
- For 2009 with Midtfyns Chili Tripel
- For 2010 with Midtfyns Rough Snuff

No other Danish brewery has won this competition three times.

Brewing Rough Snuff
Rough Snuff is a remarkable beer, in many ways. It was originally created by home brewer Erik Nielsen and made with real snuff (snus). Eddie Szweda got to taste it and liked the beer so much that he asked Erik to brew a full batch at Midtfyns Bryghus, which he duly did. And it turned out really well. However, shortly after being voted the best new beer in 2010, Rough Snuff was banned by the Danish authorities because it was brewed with real snuff, which is illegal according to EU regulations. Thus, a Rough Snuff II was created, brewed without the use of snuff, and this is the beer you'll find in most beer shops and bars today - not the long gone original.

Tom Alfred Øimo and Erik Nielsen brewing up to something
This legal business was the reason why Erik Nielsen and Eddie Szweda decided to make a trip across Skagerak and visit Oslo in August 2012 - to brew Rough Snuff according to the original recipe, in a non EU country. That latter part is crucial here, the beer in itself is illegal to brew in the European Union, but it can be brewed elsewhere and still be sold within the EU.

On August 23, the brewer at Amundsen, Tom Alfred Øimo, opened up his 500 litre brewhouse to welcome Erik Nielsen for a memorable Rough Snuff brewing session. Using real snuff. This batch should be ready in time for the Oslo Ølfestival in early October, but it will not be bottled only sold from keg.

Erik Nielsen, by the way, now has his own contract brewery, Ø-Bryg.

Beer Tasting
Eddie Szweda is an experienced beer tasting leader, according to he holds some 160 beer tastings annually and has so far had more than 10 thousand people at his tastings! So, it was only natural to add a beer tasting event to the program at Amundsen. Thus, with Rough Snuff fermenting happily a few feet away, some fourty guests turned up for the Midtfyns Bryghus beer tasting at 7 o'clock.

Eddie Szweda of Midtfyns Bryghus

The plan was to taste five different beers, three from keg and two from bottle, but because two of the kegs had gone bad we ended up with only one beer on keg - the Wasabi and Ginger pale ale - plus an extra beer on bottle, the Gleipner:

  • Midtfyns American Pale Ale with Wasabi and Ginger (5.9% pale ale)
  • Midtfyns Ale (6.5% ESb)
  • Midtfyns Chili Triple (9.3% abbey tripel)
  • Midtfyns / De Molen X Porter (8% imperial porter)
  • Midtfyns Gleipner (9.2% black ipa)
  • Midtfyns Barley Wine (10%)

For some reason or other, the largely Norwegian audience felt more comfortable with English, so despite being fluent in Danish - a sister language to Norwegian - Eddie Szweda held the beer tasting in English but with Danish terms liberally used throughout. He started by telling us about the brewery, that Midtfyns Bryghus makes batches of 800-1100 litre and that all of their bottles have been manually filled and capped. At most they can bottle 9,000 bottles per week. That's craft brewing for you!

Another thing he was very proud of was the beer brewed for the 100 year anniversary of the Danish Blind Socity. It was a brown ale which came in bottles with blank labels, they carried not text whatsover. Except for braille. Thus, a normal seeing could not tell what kind of beer it was, only a blind with knowledge of braille!

Midtfyns Wasabi and Ginger Pale Ale
The beer tasting started with a brand new beer, the American Pale Ale with Wasabi and Ginger. Eddie Szweda got the idea for this beer while enjoying a meal of sushi with a tasteless Japanese lager, which didn't really stand up to the food. After playing around with some ingredients he ended up with a mildly hopped American pale ale, spiced with wasabi and ginger.

The beer poured a cloudy orange color with a white head. It had a mild spicy aroma, with a green apple fruitiness and hints of ginger. It had a nice, light mouthfeel with a soft carbonation. The taste was fruity too, with a mild ginger flavor and some herbal spiciness. The wasabi added a mild hot touch at the very end, but very subtle. This is a surprisingly balanced and good ale, and it does go really well with sushi.

As for the other beers at the tasting, Midtfyns Ale, Gleipner and Barley Wine were of the more average kind, but still pleasant to drink. The highlights for me, in addition to the wasabi and ginger pale ale, were the Chili Tripel and the X Porter.

The Chili Tripel is an awesome abbey tripel, with all the right fruits and yeasty spices but with a surprisingly warm touch from the chili at the very end. The high alcohol is well concealed making this a very drinkable beer. Eddie Szweda told us that the Chili Tripel is their best selling beer, accounting for 22% of Midtfyns' annual sales.

The X Porter, originally made with dutch brewer Menno Olivier from Bouwerij de Molen, after the Copenhagen Beer Festival 2010, is a silky smooth imperial porter with a lovely "dark aroma" of roasted malts, licorice and chocolate and a rich taste of coffee, cocoa and mild caramel. It's a rich and delicious beer. 

At the end of the night, Eddie Szweda walked around answering questions and asking what people thought of the various beers he had presented during the tasting. I can safely say I had a great time, enjoying some excellent beers from Midtfyns.

Thank you very much to Amundsen, Beer Enthusiast, Erik Nielsen and Eddie Szweda for making this a great night!

More photos from the brewing session and beer tasting can be found at Flickr.

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