Larsblog

The Campaign Against Raw Ale

It's April 5, 1780, at "the usual time in the morning". In the upper lecture hall of Åbo Academy, Carl Niclas Hellenius is preparing to give a talk. He is a researcher in natural history working at the Academy, and about to present the results of his investigation into "the brewing methods of the Finnish commoners". We know this, because his treatise has been preserved, and is today the oldest known description of the brewing of sathi. ...

Read | 2015-01-13 18:34 | 2 comment(s)

Process or ingredients?

Recently there have been a whole range of initiatives in Norway to develop beers that are more truly Norwegian. One is the Scandinavian project for New Nordic Beer, but there are also a few research projects run by Bioforsk, Østforsk, etc. Common for all of these is a focus on finding local ingredients, in part by exploring the local farmhouse brewing traditions. I think this is not the most interesting approach. ...

Read | 2015-01-04 14:44 | 0 comment(s)

The solera paradox

After I wrote about the ever-lasting Christmas beer, I read on the Wikipedia page for solera that soleras are used for vinegars, too, and some Italian producers then report the age of the entire solera as the age of their vinegar. The logic being that (a) "Italian labeling laws permit blended vinegar to be labeled with the age of the oldest vinegar in the blend" and (b) consumers are impressed. I woke up the next morning wondering ... what age should they have put? That is, if I were writing the law, what would I require them to state on the labelling? ...

Read | 2014-12-24 14:41 | 5 comment(s)

The ever-lasting Christmas beer

In the early 17th century, walloon smiths were famous for their ironwork, and the Swedish kings therefore invited them to settle in Sweden. A substantial number did, but quickly found that they did not like the Swedish beer. Instead, they preferred the walloon type of beer, which from the description sounds similar to Flemish red or oud bruin. One style seems to have been "Maastrichts oud", which was lightly soured by cellaring in wooden barrels. ...

Read | 2014-12-21 11:51 | 5 comment(s)

Brewing stones

The year is 1851. Sociologist Eilert Sundt is walking across a field in Hedmark, central Norway, when he notices a pile of stones. They catch his eye because they look peculiar. They're small, about the size of a fist, with obvious signs of burning, and they have been chipped and cracked somehow. He asks a farmer working nearby what the stones are.
"Brewing stones," says the farmer.
"Brewing stones?"
"Yes, boiling stones."
"Boiling stones?"
"Yes. They were used for boiling in the old days, when people didn't have metal kettles."[1] ...

Read | 2014-12-09 21:04 | 14 comment(s)

Truly local beer requires a beer culture

I expressed concern that beers are becoming more similar all over the world, even though there people who are trying to develop genuinely local beers, by exploring local ingredients and practices. As Martyn Cornell argues, it's hard to develop this into something genuinely local in a world where any ingredient can be exported anywhere. And, I might add, where everyone is eagerly copying everyone else. ...

Read | 2014-12-02 20:58 | 6 comment(s)

The sameness of craft beer

I can remember when and where I became seriously interested in beer. I'd been mildly curious for a while, but it was in May 2002, in Barcelona, that it got serious. Geir Ove and I were there for an IT conference, and quickly noticed that a number of bars were selling interesting Belgian beer. This was my first meeting with real Belgian beer, and I remember being deeply impressed by an old-fashioned-looking beer called St. Bernardus 12. I suddenly realized there was a lot more to beer than I'd been aware of. ...

Read | 2014-11-25 18:11 | 17 comment(s)

A rough guide to Lithuanian beer

My first trip to Lithuania, way back in 2010, was a deeply odd experience. I found more than just a good bar, or an interesting brewery, or some new, exciting beer. I found a whole beer culture, complete with its own frames of reference and styles of beer, effectively developed independently of the rest of the world. The beer was great, the bars were interesting, there were lots and lots of beers and breweries. ...

Read | 2014-11-09 13:17 | 5 comment(s)

Was all beer sour before Pasteur?

It's often said that before Pasteur's work on yeast (and Emil Christian Hansen's introduction of the pure-yeast system) all beer was sour. Various lines of reasoning lie behind this claim. One is that all beer was spontaneously fermented back then, because nobody knew what yeast was. Another is that because brewers had no microbiological control over their yeast, they were effectively using wild yeast, and thus they would necessarily get sour beer. Many people claim there must necessarily be other organisms than pure brewer's yeast in these yeast cultures, and that these would turn the beer sour. ...

Read | 2014-10-26 18:01 | 10 comment(s)

Farmhouse ales of Europe

Having surveyed the state of farmhouse brewing in Norway it's time to look at the same thing in Europe generally. The last time I did that was four years ago, but I've learned so much in the meantime that the picture looks completely different this time around. The most surprising thing about it is how much of the farmhouse tradition that is actually left, and how incredibly little known it is. ...

Read | 2014-10-18 16:46 | 7 comment(s)

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