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Larsblog - beer

Personal blog of Lars Marius Garshol.


Brewing koduõlu on Hiiumaa

2018-03-11 15:06:00 CET

On Hiiumaa we drove off the ferry, then a couple hundred meters up the main road, turned off, and within a few minutes we were outside the house. We were there to brew a koduõlu, an Estonian farmhouse ale, with Paavo Pruul, who runs a small bed & breakfast. We parked outside the guest house, where the wooden brewing vessels were standing right outside the door. It turns out Paavo's brewery is actually in the guest house.

Aarne Trei, a koduõlu veteran

2018-02-18 11:45:00 CET

From the previous stop we drove just a few kilometers, to meet brewmaster Aarne Trei. I'd really been looking forward to meeting Aarne, because for a couple of years I'd been reading and re-reading the only piece of documentation I could find on koduõlu, a report from a Finnish home-brewer who visited Saaremaa in Estonia in 1995. One of the brewmasters he met and interviewed was Aarne Trei.

Pihtla, a farmhouse brewery on Saaremaa

2018-02-13 16:02:00 CET

Koduõlu is one of the few farmhouse styles that you can actually buy right now, thanks to the commercial brewery Pihtla Õlleköök, in the village of Pihtla on Saaremaa island in Estonia. They make a number of beers, but the star is undoubtedly their koduõlu, called Pihtla Õlu. As far as I know, that's the only koduõlu that's easily available at the moment. It's even served in Tallinn, at Põrgu, and maybe other places, too.

Meelis Sepp, maltster and brewer

2018-01-28 13:57:00 CET

From Setomaa we drove right across all of Estonia to the west coast, then took the ferry over to the island of Muhu. From there we took the bridge over to the island of Saaremaa, the second biggest island in the Baltic, after Gotland. Saaremaa is famous for its farmhouse brewing, in a style known as "koduõlu", meaning "home beer." We have an appointment with Meelis Sepp, a farmer and brewer in Kõrkkula, in the south-western part of the island.

Taarka Tarõ: A Seto restaurant

2017-11-12 11:32:00 CET

From the festival in Värska we drove on lonely forest roads to Obinitsa. The landscape here is mostly thick forest, with the occasional field here and there. At Obinitsa is a museum of Seto culture, and our main destination for the day, the Seto restaurant Taarka Tarõ, which is named after famous Seto singer Hilana Taarka.

Seto kingdom day

2017-11-05 10:36:00 CET

In south-eastern Estonia, and across the border in Russia, lives the Seto people. They have kept many of their ancient traditions, and one of them is the traditional farmhouse brewing. Every summer they arrange Seto Kingdom Day, a kind of fair celebrating their traditions, and of course they serve traditional Seto koduõlu as part of it. So in the summer of 2016 we attended the festival to see what their beer was like.

"Kveik" - what does it mean?

2017-10-29 11:26:00 CET

I've been writing about kveik for about four years now, and that word, which seemed so crystal clear to begin with, is now beginning to confuse people. So, let's see if we can set things straight. That's not easy with a word that's already in active use around the globe, but let's at least try.

A family tree for kveik

2017-10-06 10:02:00 CET

In 2016 I was contacted by Canadian researcher Richard Preiss. He wanted to do research on the kveik cultures I had collected, and after a while we agreed to set up a collaboration. Since then I've been sending a part of every farmhouse yeast I collect to Richard, and he has been keeping me up to date on his findings. Since this was ongoing research I haven't revealed his findings, but now a paper by Preiss, Tyrawa, and van der Merwe has been submitted to a journal, and everything is out in the open.

Emil Chr. Hansen and the yeast revolution

2017-09-10 14:05:00 CET

In the late summer of 1883, disaster struck at the Carlsberg brewery in Copenhagen. The beer started smelling off, and had an unpleasant bitter taste. The dreaded "yeast sickness" had hit Carlsberg, a heavy blow to brewery owner Jacobsen, who used to boast that Carlsberg had never had this problem and were still using the original yeast Jacobsen brought from southern Germany four decades before.

Pasteur and the beer of national revenge

2017-09-03 13:40:00 CET

Pasteur was already a scientific icon when he decided to work on brewer's yeast. He had done revolutionary work on wine-making, dairy production, silk worms, and important theoretical work in chemistry and biology. His reason for taking up work on beer was rather surprising: he wanted national revenge over Germany. Germany attacked France in July 1870, causing his only son to enlist and interrupting construction of Pasteur's laboratory.

Farmhouse ale festival 2016

2017-08-12 14:21:00 CET

Last year the first ever festival wholly dedicated to farmhouse ale (I think), Norsk Kornølfestival 2016, was held in Hornindal in western Norway. "Kornøl" is the local name for farmhouse ale, so the name really means "Norwegian farmhouse ale festival," and that's what it was.

A family tree for brewer's yeast

2017-08-08 09:09:00 CET

I wrote a series of blog posts on the family tree of yeast, starting at the very top and continuing all the way down to the family of yeast species. The story doesn't end there, however, because within the species of Saccharomyces cerevisiae (ale yeast) the different strains form a family tree of their own. However, when I wrote those blog posts in 2015 the shape of this tree was poorly understood.

Dånnåbakken såinnhuslag

2017-05-07 14:55:00 CET

They call themselves Dånnåbakken Såinnhuslag, the group of 4-5 brewers and malters who share one brewery and malt kiln. From the outside the house looks like someone's home, except it's too small and doesn't have enough windows. Inside, the malting part of the house is bare and functional, but the brewery is more homely, with a kitchen and a table for gatherings. (This is the fourth part about the Stjørdalen visit in January 2016.)

Where the mayor makes his own malts

2017-04-30 11:36:00 CET

When Martin, Amund, and I were invited to visit Roar to explore the local beer style stjørdalsøl Roar figured that he might as well make use of the three visiting beer "experts," and have us do a set of talks for the local home brewing association. Which we of course happily agreed to do, even though this is an association at least as much for modern home brewers as for the traditional brewers. (This is the third part about the Stjørdalen visit in January 2016.)

Svein, maltster and brewer

2017-03-19 11:17:00 CET

At first glance it looked like any house in the area, a two-storey wooden house. At second glance, there was something odd about it. There was no garden, and very few windows. It looked oddly functional, and not very homely. Sure enough, Roar pulled the car off the road, parking right in front of the house. So this must be a såinnhus (malt house). (This is the second part about the Stjørdalen visit in January 2016.)

Stjørdalsøl — the tasting

2017-03-09 14:58:00 CET

During our 2014 farmhouse ale expedition, Martin and I visited Stjørdal, a region in Norway famous for the many farmhouse brewers who still make their own malts in the traditional way. Roar told us that on December 26th there was a beer tasting at a cabin in the woods where 40-50 different beers were served. In fact, there were other tastings at different cabins, too, and he thought the total number of beers on offer might be as high as 200.

The juniper mystery

2017-02-02 09:43:00 CET

When I started looking at farmhouse ale back in 2010, one of the first things that struck me was that nearly everyone seemed to be using juniper. That was unexpected, since the beer literature generally has very little to say about juniper. Now, six years later, I'm beginning to realize that the international beer community has somehow managed to miss a huge story here.

The yeast scream

2017-01-25 16:58:00 CET

A strange custom they have in Stjørdalen in Norway is to scream into the fermenter as they pitch the yeast. The brewers claim they do this so that the beer will be strong, and people will be cheerful when they drink it. This might sound like a tall tale, but it really is true. The local radio station in Stjørdalen even had a competition over which brewer had the best "gjærkauk" (yeast scream).

Norwegian farmhouse ale styles

2017-01-19 19:23:00 CET

People are confused over what to call Norwegian farmhouse ale and what styles there are. So this is my attempt to clear things up as far as I can. This blog post is about the beers as they are today. The past is much more complicated, and I've covered it earlier.

Gotlandsdricke - an overview

2017-01-08 13:24:00 CET

A lot has been written on Gotlandsdricka, but the writers generally call it "an ancient beer" or "indigenous beer" and variations on that theme. Nobody seems to have realized that it is of course a farmhouse ale. Farmhouse ale was made all over Sweden until it was replaced by modern commercial beer. Except on Gotland, where the farmers never stopped brewing it. Eventually it came to be seen as something unique to Gotland and part of the Gotland identity, but that's a recent development.