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Beer in Sweden: Looking beyond the lager

Beer in Sweden: Looking beyond the lager

Published: 24 Mar 2011 10:33 GMT+01:00
Updated: 24 Mar 2011 10:33 GMT+01:00

In this month's column on what some enthusiasts like to call the amber nectar, blogger Darren Packman reminds us that brews come in all colours and that staying loyal to one is like having the same meal for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Imagine I offered you the choice of only eating one type of food – let’s say a cheeseburger – for every breakfast, lunch and dinner for the rest of your life.

Unless you had one serious fast food addiction you probably wouldn’t agree to it would you?

The funny thing is a lot of people do exactly this when it comes to their beer, with a majority of beer drinkers stubbornly sticking to the same style of beer (and often the same one or two brands) for most of their drinking lives.

Very often these beers are the pale yellow lagers that represent the vast majority of beer consumed around the globe. Brands such as Budweiser (the planet’s largest-selling beer brand), Corona, and closer to home Carlsberg and Falcon Export, are often the only style of beer many people ever try and thus define it.

The great news is that fizzy yellow lager is only a single page in the very thick book about beer.

In this month’s article I’m urging you to turn that page over by asking you to try five different styles of beer that are all easily available to buy at the (Swedish state alcohol monopoly retailer) Systembolaget.

In doing so I’m hoping you’ll give beer a better chance to impress you, to flirt a little with your taste-buds and to show you that the earth’s favourite alcoholic drink is everything but a one-trick pony.

Let’s start off with something that’s probably pretty familiar to most of you:

LAGER

Yes I know I said that lager is the sort of beer I’d like you to break away from once in a while but the truth is lager is the world’s most popular beer style for a reason – it’s very refreshing to drink!

Try Pilsner Urquell – recognised as the first golden beer created back in 1842, with a deliciously subtle malt body that hides a spicy bitter backlash from the famous Saaz hops used to brew it.

BITTER

Once the UK’s national drink before the arrival of fizzy Euro-lagers, bitter is as British as the Queen, William Shakespeare and David Beckham all rolled into one.

By definition bitter beers have a medium to high level of bittering hops in them but come with an almost endless choice of supporting flavours and qualities.

Bitters are generally low to mid-strength in alcohol, making them the perfect drink when out socializing.

If you want to go ‘old world’ try Spitfire Premium Kentish Ale or Adnams The Bitter. However for a more contemporary spin try Bedarö Bitter from Nynäshamns Ångbryggeri that uses US hops to add layers of pine and zesty fruit flavours.

WHEAT BEERS

When wheat is added to beer the effects can be spectacular. The beer itself takes on a lighter colour and the distinctive top-fermenting yeasts used to make them often throw out smells of bananas, cloves and band-aid.

In Germany weissbier (white beer) or weizenbier (wheat beer) is served in huge ‘flower vase’ glasses and is often drunk with food. Belgium has developed its own style, witbier, often seasoned with curacao orange peel and coriander.

Go German with Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier or Belgium with Hoegaarden Witbier.

INDIA PALE ALE

If you like your beers to pack a stinging hoppy punch then this is the beer style for you. First developed by the British in the 1800s to withstand the long sea voyage to India and to quench the thirst of the Raj.

Classic IPAs use hard water to deliver a refreshing mineral quality, while a boat-load of hops provide grassy aromas and a tongue-curling finish.

US brewers helped revive IPA in the 1980s and it is today one of the most brewed styles of craft beer in the world.

For a more traditional style IPA try Marstons Old Empire. If you want to ramp up the hop hit then give Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA a whirl.

PORTER/STOUT

The boundary between these two beer styles is so blurred it’s sometimes hard to tell them apart. What we do know is that porter came first around 1720 and that stout grew out of it as a stronger, often darker, more roasted version.

Today’s porters and stouts are often an orgy of malts producing chocolate and coffee character while US versions also boast lots of pine and grapefruit action from the aggressive use of hops.

You shouldn’t miss trying the highly rated Fuller’s London Porter or indulge in the chocolate orange decadence of Slottskällans Imperial Stout

While enjoying the malted delights outlined above, remember that there are dozens more beer styles out there to try, so why not grab a glass and start exploring!

Darren Packman (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

17:33 March 24, 2011 by Åskar
If we are really technical Czech beers are generally not lagers at all.
19:00 March 24, 2011 by mojofat
And if we are really and truly technical, swedish beer isn't really beer at all...maybe more like watered down cat urine.
20:06 March 24, 2011 by BeerSwedenDarren
Åskar - actually the lager definition does incorporate Pilsner (which is the style I believe you're referring to in your comment).

To quote the wonderful Wiki:

Lager (German: storage) is a type of beer that is brewed and stored at low temperatures. Pilsner, Bock, Dortmunder Export and Märzen are all styles of lager.
21:56 March 24, 2011 by Dazzathethird
"And if we are really and truly technical, swedish beer isn't really beer at all...maybe more like watered down cat urine."

I'm sorry mojofat, but have you actually tried anything other than pripps or spendrups?

Närke Kaggen Stormaktsporter is currently one of the best beers in the world (www.ratebeer.com) , Oppigårds is a fantastic brewery (peronal opinion), and there are fantastic beers coming out from Eskilstuna, Gothenburg, Västerås and Sigtuna, cupled to that the new "craze" of micro beer bars, Pict, OT , Akuraat and the bishops Arms (yes, they are great for beer) the Swedish beer scene is one of the best around.

and I'm not a biased Swede, I'm an englishman with years of around the world beer drinking experience
06:05 March 25, 2011 by technoviking
Nils Oscar makes the best beer in Sweden...
10:18 March 25, 2011 by HYBRED
There is a IPA by West Coast out this month that is really good. I was hoping that Oppigårds would come back with their Amarillo Spring this year, one of the best American Pale Ales ever.
11:03 March 25, 2011 by Åskar
@BeerSwedenDarren "Lager (German: storage) is a type of beer that is ... stored at low temperatures"

Sorry, but that is exactly what the typical Czech beer isn't. What happens when you store it for a while at low temperature is that a chemical compound (the name of which escapes me at the moment) that gives the beer a "fudgey" (smörkola in Swedish) taste disappears. The Czechs, however, like this taste so they drink their beer without putting it aside for a while first.
15:24 March 25, 2011 by Borilla
To quote Monty Python - Why are Swedish beer and American beer and making love in a canoe alike? They are f*&%#$@ close to water.
16:45 March 25, 2011 by HYBRED
Always argueing over beer. Just shut up and drink!
09:44 March 26, 2011 by cornpone
Pilsner is named after the Czech city of Pilsen.

The microbrew trend and high gravity beers has continued to grow in the states and drawfs anything going on in Sweden or Scandinavia.

Also the growth of wineries in the USA is astounding. 15 years ago the choices of American wines were very limited now high quality wines like pinot noir are everywhere.

I have always wondered why Swedes don't produce any real mead. They do in Poland, Russia, Ukraine, etc... Why not here. A good honey wine would be just right for Sweden after all it was Odin's drink and gave him wisdom.
13:33 March 26, 2011 by mojofat
The swedish beer scene is the best around? I doubt that...but I expect there has to be something better than the swill I've had thus far. The problem is trying to find anything in System Bolaget. I don't want to have to order something and wait for weeks...just stock it.

BTW, there are american microbrews that are in leagues of their own. If you all know of american beer is budweiser, miller, etc., then you don't know much about beer.
14:01 March 26, 2011 by Rick Methven
@mojofat

Are you old enough to drink?
23:43 March 28, 2011 by Sarzparella
fun campaign that carlsberg just launched .. http://unbottleyourself.com/
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