Stone brewing in Latvia

The small town of Aizpute, in western Latvia, is home to SERDE, which calls itself an "interdisciplinary art group." Their focus seems to be mostly art, but they also study traditional culture, including traditional brewing. They've travelled around Latvia finding and interviewing traditional brewers, and then brew recreations of these traditional beers now and then in the summer. So I invited myself along to see what I could learn. ...

Read | 2016-03-13 12:03 | 7 comment(s)


In older times there were a whole host of detailed social customs around the drinking of beer, but the only one I'm aware of that has survived into the present day is oppskåka. Oppskåke is a party for friends and neighbours held after primary fermentation, when the beer is transferred from the fermenter to the cask. When Terje invited me to brew with him, he also invited me to stay until oppskåka, since that was only 48 hours after the brewing. ...

Read | 2016-02-14 12:45 | 13 comment(s)

Hornindal: interviews and collecting kveik

Terje learned to brew from his uncle when he was 16, while helping him on the farm during the summer. While we were waiting for the beer to finish fermenting, we drove off to Hornindal to meet him. His uncle lives in the tiny valley you see in the photo above. It's essentially a small notch in the sheer cliffs along the north side of the lake (Hornindalsvatnet). The only inhabitants there now are Terje's uncle, Rasmus, and another family. ...

Read | 2016-01-03 14:15 | 8 comment(s)

Brewing raw ale in Hornindal

I tried a Hornindal raw ale at a tasting with friends, and was blown away, for two reasons. The first was that the flavour was nearly indescribable. The second was that it was so good! The consensus was that it felt like a step up from the Cantillon we had before it, and the top-notch Belgian we had after it felt like a step back down. So this really was a world class beer, fit to compete with just about anything. ...

Read | 2015-12-26 11:35 | 14 comment(s)

Telemark: the world of yesterday

Driving through the pass after Notodden, I could see the landscape changing. The hills had given way to real mountains with snow on their caps. It was the last day of May, and the fresh snow was almost blindingly white in the sunshine. I was leaving flat, prosperous eastern Norway for the mountainous region of Upper Telemark, a part of the country that used to be quite remote. ...

Read | 2015-12-01 16:35 | 0 comment(s)

Traditional malting in Morgedal

The guys I visited in Morgedal were definitely brewing traditional farmhouse beer, but they bought the malts. I'd read a lot about the old techniques for malting, but hardly ever seen any of the old malting equipment. So before going to Telemark I'd tried calling various museums to see if they had anything I could look at. That didn't really lead to anything, and I told Terje and Halvor about how disappointed I was. Terje then offered to show me his malt house, because there's one still standing on his farm. ...

Read | 2015-11-21 13:09 | 1 comment(s)

Brewing in Morgedal

The farmhouse survey showed that brewing in Telemark was still alive in the 1950s, but for a long time I thought it had died out. Then I found a video from the 1980s showing a recreation of farmhouse brewing. And then, on Facebook, I found something called "Morgedal susle og ølbryggarlag". In other words, Morgedal brewing association. Their photos of steaming wood-fired kettles full of juniper left no doubt: farmhouse brewing was still alive. So to learn what was going on and how they were brewing I contacted them via Facebook and invited myself to come and brew with them. ...

Read | 2015-10-29 14:00 | 4 comment(s)

The Saccharomyces family

The series on yeast taxonomy now ends with a post on the various species in the Saccharomyces family. If you don't know what a genus is, or what, exactly, Saccharomyces is, read the first post in the series. The family contains two members most people know very well, and then a whole series of lesser-known members. ...

Read | 2015-10-17 12:19 | 11 comment(s)

How hops prevent infection

The increasingly inaccurately named series on yeast terminology continues with a post diving into how, exactly, hops prevent bacteria from infecting beer. I realize now I should have called it "the microbiology of beer," but too late. Anyway, in essence, bacteria can't handle alpha acid, and the IBU scale measures the amount of alpha acid in the beer, so higher IBU = more bacterial resistance. It's the details of how this happens that is interesting, however. ...

Read | 2015-09-18 14:43 | 6 comment(s)

Yeast terminology, part 2: bacteria

We continue the series on the family tree of yeast with a post on bacteria. As I explained in the first post, bacteria are very different from yeast, but they are still important in beer. (Yes, I should have thought of a better title while I was still doing part 1. Ah well.) ...

Read | 2015-09-05 15:28 | 3 comment(s)

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