Sunday, September 9, 2012

Visit to Larvik Mikrobryggeri

On a sunny Friday in September 2012, I made a short daytrip to the town of Larvik in Vestfold, Norway. Larvik is situated between the mouths of the rivers Numedalslågen and Farriselva with a long waterfront and a big harbor on the Oslo fjord. Besides its harbor, with daily ferries to Denmark, Larvik is known for its old ironworks and wood industry at Fritzøe Verk, for being the hometown of explorer Thor Heyerdahl and ship builder Colin Archer and for its mineral water Farris. Perhaps, one day, it will also be known for its brand new brewpub - Larvik Mikrobryggeri.

The gates to Fritzøe Verk and Larvik Mikrobryggeri.

Assuming you're in Oslo, the quickest and easiest way to get to Larvik Mikrobryggeri is to come by train. Trains depart hourly from Oslo Central Station and takes about 2 hours to Larvik, the only downside is that the last train back to Oslo leaves Larvik at 21:33. From Larvik railway station walk northwest, along the waterfront, past the new Fritzøe Brygge complex. Follow the signs to Fritzøe Verk. The brewpub is located in the buildings of Larvik Museum in Nedre Fritzøegate 2.

The idea to start a brewpub in Larvik came to Terje Henriksen one day in 2009 and he brought it up with two friends from Larvik Beer Club, Roy Dahl and Jørn Einar Gjertsen. They liked the idea too, and the three of them spent the next couple of years visiting brewpubs in and outside Norway to learn as much as possible about running a brewpub.

Late 2010, they heard about a pub closure in Larkollen near Moss and bought the furniture and bar from the owners of the closed pub. In January 2011, with a group of volunteers, they drove to Østfold, dismantled the pub and brought all the stuff back to Larvik.

With the equipment of a proper pub at their disposal they now needed a location and found one, in an old brick building from 1854 in Nedre Verksgård at Fritzøe Verk. The building was no longer used for industry but had been taken over by Larvik Museum. The town council thought it would be great to have a brewpub there, and allowed Larvik Mikrobryggeri to start constructing their pub and brewery there.

The bar at Larvik Mikrobryggeri.
While renovating the old building, Larvik Mikrobryggeri opened up a shareholder program and signed up 133 local shareholders in the spring of 2011. With the financial situation taken care of, brewmaster Terje Henriksen ordered a 500 litre micro brewery from Leif Stana in Bratberg Produkter, who has custom built micro breweries for a number of Norwegian breweries.

The pub officially opened its doors to the thirsty public on 3 December 2011, but the micro brewery had not been installed yet, so to give the pub an edge they offered two "house beers" on draft that was contract brewed for them at Lillehammer Bryggeri - Larvik Bødker Pilsner and Larvik Weissbier. In addition to the draft beer, the pub also offered a good selection of bottled beer from Belgium, England, USA, Germany and Norway.

In May 2012 the micro brewery finally arrived from Hardanger and was quickly installed in a room next to the bar. The first beer brewed on the micro brewery was a German-style Kölsch, named Svenner Skum, which was put on draft on June 8, 2012, finally making Larvik Mikrobryggeri a fully fledged brewpub.

Some 46 years after Larvik Bryggeri closed in 1963, the town of Larvik finally had a working brewery again!

Since June, Larvik Mikrobryggeri has brewed two other types of beer - an English Bitter and most recently a German-style Oktoberfest beer called Festival. This latter beer was labeled "a topped bayer" on their Facebook page, and Oktoberfest / Märzen on RateBeer.

The 500 L micro brewery at Larvik Mikrobryggeri.
Unknown to me, brewmaster Terje Henriksen has been ill for a while, so the micro brewery had been inactive for so long that the pub had run out of their Bitter when I paid my visit on September 7. The Oktoberfest beer was also close to empty, in fact I got the very last glass of their Festival beer before the tank ran dry! Still, the few hours I spent at the brewpub was worth the trip.

Larvik Mikrobryggeri is a cozy and quiet pub, even on a Friday night, and in the summer season it's great to sit outside in the historical surroundings of Fritzøe Verk. The draft beer selection wasn't that impressive, despite the seven tap lines. They offered two light and tasteless lagers from Union Bryggeri in Skien and the even less tasty Arctic Ice from Mack. Larvik Bødker Pilsner was ok and their own Svenner Skum kölsch decent, but with two empty tap lines this meant I had to go for bottles after just a couple of draft beers.

But the bottle menu was decent, offering beers such as Tripel Karmeliet, Wye Valley Wholesome Stout, Samuel Smith's Nut Brown Ale, Anchor Porter and Kulmbacher Mönchshof Bockbier. I had no problems stretching the time for my train ride home.

Another thing I missed was some good pub grub, since Larvik Mikrobryggeri is located some distance outside downtown Larvik. But this can be solved by calling one of the local pizza shops and have them deliver food at the pub.

Before she left, I had a short conversation with Elin Svendsen, the daily manager of Larvik Mikrobryggeri (who has just resigned because of health issues). She mentioned that Terje Henriksen is planning to brew more interesting beers in the fall, including a porter and a Christmas beer, so I will certainly consider making a second visit to Larvik Mikrobryggeri later this year.

In the meantime, I hope they get the micro brewery up to speed to keep their currently empty tap lines flowing with fresh beer.

Larvik Svenner Skum - a decent Kölsch

The complete set of photos from this visit can be found at Flickr.

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