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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.