Sunset over Grimstad harbour
The title probably makes it sound as though I've been to yet another IT conference, but this was actually something completely different. RBNAG is short for RateBeer Norway Autumn Gathering, and this was the first gathering of Norwegian RateBeer users. There's been many of these in the US (they're already planning next year's in either San Diego or Philadelphia) and several in Europe, but this was the first in Norway.
A beer community
For me, beer started as a private interest that was sparked by Geir Ove, way back in the late 90s. The interest slowly developed, and in about 2005 we both started entering tasting notes on RateBeer. We also started blogs, me in late 2005, Geir Ove about a year later.
Through RateBeer and the blogs we gradually got in touch with others in Norway with the same interest. The first person I met was Knut Albert, and later the Beer Tourist. We've gathered every now and then over the past year and a half or so in each others' flats to taste beer, each bringing some bottles to be shared in a tasting.
Gradually the network expanded, largely thanks to Knut Albert, but also partly through the online forum of Friends of Nøgne Ø (the most important Norwegian micro brewer). Now there is a group of about 10 people in Oslo who have gathered a couple of times, and another 10 or so enthusiasts in various places in Norway who kind of know each other.
The two main people behind Friends of Nøgne Ø, Erik Dahl and Yngvar Ørebek, invited some homebrewers, RateBeer users, and bloggers (the three groups overlap substantially) to what they decided to call RBNAG'07. It took place this weekend in Grimstad in southern Norway, which is where the Nøgne Ø brewery is located.
Where we stayed
Geir Ove, RateBeerian Ole Richard, and home brewer Richard, and I took the bus down from Oslo together on Friday afternoon. We passed the four-hour journey chatting and, of course, tasting a few beers in plastic glasses brought along for the purpose. It turns out that tasting beer in a crowded bus is quite tricky. For example, pouring the beer more-or-less equally into four glasses while the bus is moving is quite challenging. But we managed with only a very minor spill, and arrived in Grimstad in high spirits.
In Grimstad we installed ourselves, and of course the beer, in the cabin, ready to start on the very impressive program the organizers set up for us:
- Christmas beer tasting at Nøgne Ø on Friday evening,
- Tour of a closed, local winery in Grimstad on Saturday morning,
- 7-course lunch specially composed to match a set of Nøgne Ø beers at Apothekergården in Grimstad, and, finally,
- A grand tasting of beers brought by the attendees all Saturday evening and night.
We were 10 participants in all, all staying in one camping cabin in Grimstad. Most of us knew one or two of the others when we arrived, but beer drinking is a very social thing, and so we all knew each other much better by the time we left on Sunday morning. For me this felt like the start of a real Norwegian beer community. There are lots of more-or-less formal Norwegian beer societies, but they are all either dedicated to a local Norwegian brewery (which is utterly pointless unless you love soulless industrial pale lager) or local to some small town.
This group, on the other hand, is rather informal, but bound by a strong shared interest in beer, and consists of people from various places scattered around Norway. The people from middle and northern Norway did not show up this time, but once the stories from the event spread, their interest in making the (rather long) journey next year is likely to grow quite a bit.
There was general agreement that it was more or less inevitable that there should be an RBNAG'08, and that it should take place in Oslo. That should make it easier for people to get to, even if it will make it harder for the organizers to come up with good events, since Oslo has no good beer places. Still, we'll do our best, because this was much too nice to only do once.
Read | 2007-11-27 20:13
For the grand tasting at RBNAG'07 we had gathered 87 beers to be sampled during the course of the evening
Read | 2007-11-18 17:53
Knut Albert - 2007-11-07 07:48:48
When we have a gathering in Oslo, we can easily have excursions to Drammen and Moss.