Haand Bryggeriet’s Norwegian Wood
By Alex Brown and Evan George
We just happened upon the perfect accompaniment to outdoor fire-cooking: Norwegian Wood. Not to be confused with blond Viking fuel for fire, this ale is mahogany-colored gas for the grill master.
Like many of the boutique ales coming out of the Nordic lands, Norwegian Wood is steeped in tradition that stands in stark contrast to the brews of its countrymen. More than 90 percent of the beers brewed in Denmark and Norway are bland pilsners, but as Black Metal is to NorPop, so are breweries like Haand Bryggeriet to Carlsberg. According to the importer, the “Hand Brewery” consists of four geezers who brew in their spare time.
"Norwood" is based on traditional Norwegian farmhouse ales—kilned over open flames and spiced with juniper twigs and berries. Many ales were once quite smoky on account of wood fire cooking the wort, but the tradition has died off significantly in deference to the mild and chuggable.
These smoked suds are a solid match for grill-side swilling, especially in the not-yet-sweltering afternoons of spring. Norwood is solid indoors and out, as an evening workday ender or over lighter fluid-soaked mesquite coals. The smokiness lingers in your mouth and the malts leave a lasting sweetness that finishes with a slight bitterness from hand-harvested juniper. Don’t look too hard for the mediciny Christmas flavors of wreaths; the berries and twigs are used exactly as coriander and orange are in Belgian ales—they contribute to the roundness of the beer's flavor without standing out. Serve at just colder than room temp—a 15-minute ice-down in your cooler—and all the flavors of woods and fires will really sing.
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