Skål! Here’s the best craft beer in Scandinavia

With Scandinavian craft beer, the approach from brewing to bottling is precise and immaculate. — Reuters pic
With Scandinavian craft beer, the approach from brewing to bottling is precise and immaculate. — Reuters pic

STOCKHOLM, Jan 19 — When you hear someone talk about “Scandinavian Design,” you imagine sleek, stable furniture hewn with pristine accuracy. This sensibility exists in the region’s beer production as well. Whether it’s a tea-steeped sour, or a boozy, liquor-infused stout, the approach from brewing to bottling is precise and immaculate. Here are some especially inspiring producers from Denmark, Norway, and Sweden.

Brekeriet Beer (Malmö, Sweden)

Brekeriet has carved a niche in Sweden with unique takes on (mostly) sour beer recipes. Committed to fermenting solely with wild yeast and/or bacteria in general, the crew has re-fermented certain beverages by adding fruit, and the results are noteworthy. Special-release Cassis is a prime example: When the berries are added during secondary fermentation, the Brettanomyces yeast used to brew the beer positively feast on the fruit’s particular sugars, resulting in a drink that’s simultaneously dry and jammy.

Lervig Aktiebryggeri (Stavanger, Norway)

To some, Lervig is known as Danish gypsy brewer Mikkeller’s new facility of choice for the production of many classic stout recipes. (Mikkel formerly utilised fellow Norwegians Nøgne Ø to brew such ales, including his Beer Geek Breakfast and Brunch oatmeal stouts.) Make no mistake though, Lervig is very much an autonomously excellent brewery. There may be no better proof than its Brewer’s Reserve Barleywine, aged in Maker’s Mark bourbon barrels. Sugar in the Raw and tobacco notes merge in this quintessential example of the style.

Närke Kulturbryggeri (Örebro, Sweden)

A few years ago Närke’s obscure limited-release imperial stout Kaggen! Stormaktsporter unexpectedly shot to the No.1 spot on’s Top 50 beers in the world. (It usurped a throne usually occupied by better-known classics such as the Trappist monk-made Westvleteren 12 Belgian quadrupel.) Whereas many breweries would have seized this cash-in moment and sold to a larger beverage company, Närke maintained its size and put production of the superlative beer on hiatus. Brewed with heather honey and exhibiting rounding wood qualities from its maturation in oak, Kaggen! was a decadently oily delight that one hopes will return soon. In the meantime, you can enjoy other, more modest gems such as Närke’s unfiltered Örebro Bitter.

To Øl (Copenhagen)

To Øl learned well as disciples of Mikkeller, becoming a tireless experimenter known for attention to aesthetic details. Despite having opened brick-and-mortar establishments with its mentor—among others, Mikkeller & Friends bars in Copenhagen and Reykjavík—To Øl has remained prolific as a brewer. Of note is its recently-released Taanilinn, an uncannily balanced 14 per cent alcohol-by-volume imperial oatmeal stout. (An extra 1 per cent ABV was gained from time spent in a former cognac barrel with Vana Talinn, a rum-based liquor infused with cinnamon and vanilla.)

Nørrebro Bryghus (Copenhagen)

Nørrebro exists for those whose desire for good beer and good food are split evenly; it’s a destination at which both get equally reverent consideration. The impeccably designed brewpub has made a name for itself in Copenhagen, counting American Shaun Hill, of Vermont’s highly-regarded Hill Farmstead Brewery, as former head brewer. Nørrebro’s finely tuned approach is apparent in its Little Korkny barley wine, a rich, full-bodied sipper teeming with caramel and dark fruit flavour.

Omnipollo (Stockholm, Sweden)

Though I have previously waxed poetic on Omnipollo’s high quality, no list of exciting Scandinavian producers would be complete without its mention. Existing in the unlikely space between the worlds of craft beer and contemporary fashion, the duo behind Omnipollo has a knack for consistently releasing bottles that equally please both eye and palate. Last year, it introduced a version of its Agamemnon stout (brewed with Vermont maple syrup) aged in Kentucky bourbon barrels; this was roasty, sweet, and without flaw.

Tempel Brygghus (Uppsala, Sweden)

Since Tempel’s first batch of beer was brewed in late summer 2014, the pint-sized brewery has made an impressive splash in Sweden’s increasingly competitive craft scene. At the moment, it focuses only on specialty sour beers (subject to eventual change). Its kettle-soured Ordained (brewed for a local heavy metal group) was “dry-hopped” with Chinese gunpowder tea, making for a delightfully quenching lemon-forward treat with well-integrated matcha notes. — Bloomberg

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