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Old 05-24-2008, 04:14 AM   #1
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Default Norwegian Wood from HaandBryggeriet


This was part of the order I placed with Liquid Solutions when I ordered the mysterious Item #2499. The label describes it as "Traditional Norwegian Smoked Ale with Juniper Berries". The other text on the label reads:

"Once, every farm in Norway was required by law to brew its own ale. All of that ale had a natural smoky taste because the malt was kilned by fire, ad most of it was spiced with juniper berries. Norwegian Wood, a recreation of that traditional style, is made by the 'Hand Brewery' -- four guys brewing in their spare time, on an absurdly small scale."

There's a paper label on the back, informing us that this is "Batch NR 70, Brewed: Mar 07, Best Bef: Mar 10, Ingred: Water, Hops, Yeast, Malted Barley and Juniper, HAANDBRYGGERIET, DRAMMEN-NORWAY, +47 31414140" (In case you want to place a call.)

I've not had a juniper beer before and very few smoked examples. (though I did make a smoked beer once that was over the top. As Evan! put it "licking the bottom of a woodstove")

I'm also verging on more than a little buzzed. Had a couple-few from the kegerator. Then busted my first EKU 28 (also from this order). Going for an esoteric night of druckeness. Anyway here goes:

Appearance:
Good hiss breaking open the cap. Poured tawny with a 1/4" tan head. The bubbles start out pretty large and then subside into a find foam. Head is persistent, though leaving little lacing. Color in glass is nearly opaque but a dark brown not black. Ruby at the edges where the light breaks through.

Aroma:
First whiff is malt, then you get a bit of smoke. Very much recalls my previous (though limited) experience with smoked beers. While drinking it, I occasionally get a hint of something fruity and little sour. If this is the Juniper, its the only hint I get in the whole experience.

Flavor:
Roasty and malty, but also tangy, a bit fruity, some bitterness. There is a smoky character, but at the front it comes across as a roastiness, more akin to a dry stout, or even more akin to an imperial stout. But the finish is much more like a porter, a little tangy, the roasty notes turning smoky. The flavors in the middle and at the finish are very strong and leave a lingering smoky aftertaste with some astringency. In a beer like this, I have difficulty picking out the contributions of the hops or other flavorings like Juniper.

Mouthfeel:
There is a good deal of carbonation, a tingle when you take a sip. As you swallow it is a bit silky and definitely full-bodied. Again, very much like a porter.

Overall:
Very evocative of the 3-4 smoked beers I've had in the (mostly distant) past. The flavor is very strong, very distinct, very smoky (smokey?, whatever). I can't see drinking this more than once in a great while. Frankly, I'm going to be a bit hard pressed to finish the 16.9 oz bottle that I opened. I wish the Juniper wasn't lost in all of the smoke, but it likely contributed something, right? I definitely have respect for the concept, as presented by the brewers: an attempt to "bottle" a bit of fading history.
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Old 05-24-2008, 11:40 AM   #2
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I would doubt the juniper taste it not a little present.

BTW, if you want to know what juniper taste like: If you've ever had gin, then the strongest taste (after alcohol) is juniper berries. Most gins include other types spices as well (coriander, etc.) but the name gin comes from the Dutch "Genever" (Juniper).

Edit: Very great review, I'm now interested in trying this beer (I like my gin) although I doubt it will be anytime soon. Thanks!

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Old 05-24-2008, 11:50 AM   #3
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I found quite a different impression of this beer when I had it last summer. The smoke was present, but faint, while the juniper was very distinct in the flavor profile. My overall impression was that it was well composed and fairly balanced with the different flavor contributions. It was quite nice and the only fault present was that it was overly carb'd.

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