Nogne Ø and Aegir are the red hot craft brewers in Norway that have made their way to the States, following the hoppy path from Scandinavia to our local craft brew bars paved initially by Mikkeller from Copenhagen.
During a recent visit to Norway, I conducted a grand tasting of various Norwegian (and one from Mikkeller) brews, mostly consisting of IPAs, porters, and a few barley wines or strong ales for comparison purposes. With how cold and rainy if often is here, porters and barley wines just sound so much more tempting than a hefeweizen.
Nogne Ø’s saison and IPA are standards to judge others by and Aegir’s Sunbel porter actually received the highest rating during this tasting at Henrik’s, an incredibly stocked craft beer bar in Bergen, Norway, where when I visited there were 5 times as many beers on draft (roughly 45) than people in the bar on an early Saturday night.
However, the one that everybody left talking about and for the rest of the trip we couldn’t stop comparing others to, was the Rye IPA from Lervig Brewery, Norway’s third largest city (Oslo is first, then Bergen). A brilliant head caps the more amber colored body than a typical IPA. Plenty of hops with grapefruit peel dominate the nose and follow through in taste, with a finish reminding me a bit of sesame seeds. The rye notes come through with the maltiness that compliments the hops. The hops are smoother because of the rye, not as sharp and bitter. It almosts adds a slight element of fruitiness.
Yes, rye IPAs don’t need to taste like they’re meant to be the bread for a pastrami sandwich. IPAs can also be hoppy and under control. Norway may be known for its strong ales and earthy, vividly espresso tasting stouts and porters. Lervig has now demonstrated how to expand the IPA repertoire, without going crazy for an imperial IPA. This is a smooth, comforting, also intriguing brew.