Thursday, May 26, 2011

Beer and Clothing in Scandinavia

This is the first in a handful of posts relating to a recent trip to Europe that incorporated some pretty special beer hunting.

Searching in Oslo for somewhere to get a few items of clothing washed led to one of the more serendipitous finds you could ever hope for. Because the polite chap at the mobile phone shop sent us to the “Laundromat Café” (http://www.laundromat.no/). There were no fewer than eight craft beers on tap, (plus a few others) including Nøgne Ø & Mikkeller. Tap beers start at around 80 kroner (nearly $NZ20) for a US pint.

I had a very good Caesar salad. The place had a bright library-cum-cafe feel, free wifi, staff had a helpful, unfussy manner, as seemed to be the norm in Norway. AND we got our washing done in the self-service laundry.

I was pretty stunned by the prices but was told later that their prices for Nøgne Ø were the cheapest in Oslo.

All things considered the Laundromat Café appeared to be a totally original and refreshing concept. Until that is, we got to Copenhagen and were again in search of a place to wash some clothes. In the bohemian district of Nørrebro was another Laundromat Café. Here again were a self-service laundry, shelves full of books and a bustling café with a bright feel to it. I was told that there was no connection between the two businesses, and perhaps the Oslo one was a rip-off. So… chalk one up for Copenhagen on the grounds of originality except for one crucial difference… where was the good beer? The Copenhagen outlet had a few taps, but nothing distinctive.

It did have free wifi and it was in the district of Nørrebro, which I recognised as the name of a brewery. So it didn’t take long to establish that we were five minutes walk from a craft brewery. While our clothes soaked, washed and spun there was time to check out Nørrebro.

Nørrebro, it turned out, had one of the most attractive public faces of any brewery. The brewery occupies a space with a floor just below street level but with a ceiling high enough for some decent sized brewing equipment. But the brewery itself takes up just one end of the available space. The other two thirds is divided into a lower bar and an upstairs café, both looking across to or down on the brewery. The space is uncluttered and only a rope and a change in flooring separate the bar and brewery.

I mentioned that I’m from New Zealand to the staff behind the bar and was told that they were familiar with 8 Wired. I was all set to say “wow, that’s incredible, I know Søren”, when I remembered I was wearing an 8 Wired t-shirt.

There was time for a tasting tray covering what was on tap on the day. The range was impressive – nine beers covering a decent range of styles and all good or very good, but with only one or two beers designed to please the inner hop-head. But on another day I’m sure that would be different.

Standouts (to this hop-head) were the Ravnsburg Red and the North Bridge Extreme. And, like a certain other brewery whose name starts “Nø”, they’ve done a great job with simple, consistent branding.

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