They say you should save the best till last, which is exactly the opposite of what I did at this year’s Stockholm Beer & Whisky Festival, although my motives for drinking the beer awarded the ‘Best of Show’ first were somewhat flawed.
When I heard there was only one 30L keg of Omnipollo’s tongue-twisting Nebuchadnezzar left and that it was being connected at 12 noon on the Thursday of the second SBWF week I decided the Brill stand would be my first port of call.
As well as wanting the chance to try this beer (after all creator Henok Fentie had set the bar pretty high with his mission statement that he had set out to “brew the best IIPA Sweden has ever seen”) I also theorised that I would improve my chances of pronouncing it correctly if I hadn’t drunk any beers beforehand.
As it turns out it didn’t help a bit.
But ‘Neb’ as I now prefer to call it was an amazing start to yet another amazing festival, one which saw the attendance record smashed yet again as 35,600 people squeezed through the doors of Nacka Strand – some of them waiting up to four hours to get their hands on their tasting glasses.
This year I had someone rather special with me on my rounds – my wine-loving father from French France. Watching his reactions to the constant stream of exciting beers we tried was the highlight of my festival. I’ll always be glad I was there to see when he took his first ever sip of Lambic!
If starting off at the Brill stand was easy, getting away from it was anything but. Within minutes we had tried Neb (a tropical fruit punch beautifully balanced on a crisp biscuit malt base), Bitch Slap from Croocked Moon, Raid Beer from To Øl and one of my favourites from the entire show Dead Cat Amber Ale from Beer Here, which Christian Skovdal Andersen has flavoured with Simcoe to give it a distinctly blood orange spin. Delicious!
Boulevard Brewing may be a new name to many Swedish beer drinkers but they are in fact the 10th largest craft brewer in the USA with an annual production of over 18 million litres in 2011.
Big of course doesn’t always mean beautiful but if any brewery had a better looking bottle line-up at this year’s show I didn’t see it. I just love Boulevard’s comic-book inspired retro branding, particularly their Smokestack series, some of which are coming to the Systembolaget next month. Of all the Boulevard beers I tried Tank 7 stood out most, with a velvety banana body and spicy farmhouse finish.
Another newcomer to the SBWF was Magic Rock Brewing, whose co-owner Richard Burhouse and head brewer Stuart Ross were in town to co-host a ‘Meet the Brewer’ event with Ska Brewing. Quiet and soft-spoken their beers are anything but and were for me the ultimate mixture of British drinkability with American flavour intensity. Clown Juice and Hire Wire were particularly exceptional.
So many beers and I had still only scratched the surface of this show. I was going to need another day…..
In part 2: Dad tries a Danish Lambic, I meet the SKA boys (and live to tell the tale) and I sip my way through the new line-up of bretty beers from the Brekeriet brothers.