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Notes of a Beer Nerd: Nøgne Ø Peculiar Yule

August 20, 2010 1 comment

Peculiar indeed.

***Notes of a Beer Nerd is a column written by resident cellar dwelling mammal, Timperial Stout. Feel free to e-mail him at beerblotter@gmail.com with any questions, concerns or comments***

Enjoyed on 9/19/2010

Brewery: Nøgne Ø

Location: Grimstad, Norway

Beer: Peculiar Yule

Web: http://www.nogne-o.com

Presentation: 16.9 oz. – Brown Glass Bottle – Capped

Vintage: 2008

Style: Winter Ale

Barrel: N/A

ABV: 6.5%

IBU: 30

Hops: Chinook, Cascade

Malt: Maris Otter, Munich, crystal, and chocolate malt

Vessel: Tulip

Recommended Serving Temp: 55 degrees

Notes From the Bottle:

This holiday ale draws its inspiration from Glogg, a Norwegian spiced beverage enjoyed hot in the winter. Like Glogg, it goes well with nuts, dried fruits or cookies, but we recommend serving Peculiar Yule at proper cellar temperature of 55F.

The name Nøgne Ø means “naked island”, a poetic term used by Henrik Ibsen to describe any of the countless stark, barren outcroppings that are visible in the rough sea off Norway’s southern coast, where the brewery sits.  The founders gave Nøgne Ø a subtitle – “The Uncompromising Brewery” – a plain statement of their mission: to make ales of personality and individuality.  Brewing in traditional styles but thoroughly inspired by the boldness of American brewing, these Norwegian brewers fearlessly chart their own course.

Food Pairings: Chili, smoked meats, roasted turkey, nuts, dried fruits, cookies, raisins, gingerbread

Cheese Pairings: Monterey, Pepper Jack

Beer Advocate: A- (4.02)

Rate Beer:  91 (3.45)

Timperialstout’s Notes:

One great advantage of cellaring beer is that, if you are in the mood to drink a winter beer in the dead of summer, you can.  I have the itch and I’m able to scratch it – lucky me.

I might be alone on this one, but even in the heat of August, the idea of cuddling up by a fire and drinking a rich beer sounds pretty amazing.  Now, if that fire was in a cozy cabin in the icy Scandinavian Tundra, well, now I’m really getting excited.  With beer, we are able to close our eyes, sip, and let our imaginations expand.  In this case, enjoying this Norwegian brew in Ballard, Seattle’s Norwegian center, seems to allow my imagination to expand just a little bit further.

This bottle is from ’08, the first year that Shelton Brothers imported it into America.  I’m not completely sure that it was a good idea to age this, due to the fairly low abv, but I guess we will soon find out.  But before we get to that, let’s get a little bit better of an idea of what this beer is all about.

First, the brewery.  Nøgne Ø was founded by 2 homebrewers in 2002.  The story behind the name is right on the bottle and can be found above, but how do you pronounce it?  I long thought that it was pronounced “nagano”, as in the city in Japan.  I thought that because that was the way that the Stone Brewing reps that I met pronounced it.  I figured that they would know since they had recently collaborated with Kjetil Jikiun, head brewer.  Well maybe I miss heard but it’s actually “nir-gneh-err”.  Good to know.  Now, how you pronounce Kjetil Jikiun, you’re on your own with that one.

The founders started their brewery as a mission to show the Norwegian people what real ale is all about – to essential bring American brewing creativity to a demographic that only knows and drinks macro lagers.  This is a very respectable undertaking indeed, but it doesn’t seem to be catching on quite as well as they may have hoped.  70% of the roughly 20 different ales that they make are exported.  I don’t know how much of that comes to the U.S. but I do know that Kjetil Jikiun is highly respected by many American craft beer brewers and aficionados.  Hopefully, for now, that is enough to satisfy the aspirations of Nøgne Ø.

Though American brewing may be a strong source of inspiration for many of Nøgne Ø’s beers, one reason why I am so excited about this one is that it plays tribute to a piece of Norwegian culture, while still utilizing boldness and creativity (obviously, two of the clear hallmarks of American brewing that the founders intended to incorporate).  The honest truth is that there isn’t very many breweries in Scandinavia that are worth a damn.  Maybe that’s my opinion because a large majority of them aren’t “American Craft” enough for me.  The land, the climate, the people, the culture, on the other hand, is all so beautiful and intriguing to this ill-traveled American.  Drinking beers from Nøgne Ø allows me to have a deeply profound experience with a little piece of that far off world, and that is such an enormous reason why I love beer in general.  Beer allows us to taste far off (some more that others) lands.

Now, Peculiar Yule.  Some may know this brew by a different name – Underlig Jul is the original Norwegian name.  As you may have inferred from the bottle notes, the inspiration of this brew is a Scandinavian version of mulled wine.  According to Wikipedia, the traditional spices used in Glogg are cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cloves and bitter orange.  The spices used in Peculiar Yule are ginger, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves.  Sounds like Masala chai tea spices to me, which I just so happen to be very fond of.

Now on to my experience with the brew in question.

When I cracked the lid, foam came gushing out of the opening and all over the counter.  This is not a good sign.  The bottle was not disturbed in any way and was refrigerated for the last few days.  Let’s hope that I didn’t spoil it by aging it.

After all was settled, Peculiar Yule filled my glass with a very dark brown, near black fluid possessing a breathtaking tan head that never dissipated and left very small traces of lace.  The chocolate malts played their role in the hue.  Light is unable to pass completely though, but it does make it far enough to show me the lively carbonation suspended within.

Maybe this doesn’t smell or taste exactly like the brewers intended, but all the more “peculiar”.  I’m thinking that the intensity of the spices and the illusion to wine has covered up any off flavors that may exist here.  PY is wine like indeed, vinous and slightly tart in both nose and flavor.  In gathering the aroma, it becomes most apparent why this is best enjoyed at cellar temperature.  When cool, all that really comes out is a mishmash of quelled spices.  After warming quite considerably, placing my nose deep within the tulip glass nearly brings me to tears.  It’s truly sublime and outrageously complex.  Layer upon layer of stratified spices become individually recognizable.  There is still a lot of wine recollection, but the malts are now standing taller.  Sweet chocolate and cinnamon has been sprinkled on candied ginger, coriander and cloves nipping at their toes… Yeah, my imagination is working overtime.  There is something in that southern Norway water.

The mouthfeel is slick.  The carbonation that previously appeared heavy has mostly subsided, leaving so many attributes that continue to bring the wine aspect home.  I can’t seem to pinpoint what exactly it is, but all I think about is wine until well after the swallow when I get a bit of deep malty chalkiness on the very back of the tongue.

At the very moment the brew engages my taste buds, the ginger and cardamom scream for attention.  There is a unique interplay between the ginger’s heat and the cardamom’s cool that, well, reinforces just why these two spices play well together.  Chai tea is definitely on the mind initially.  Late in the flavor profile I’m greeted by a dark, roasted maltiness and a slight tartness.  Yet another contradiction with positive results.  It seems a fairly short description of the flavor when written, but within those words there is a very distinctive, unique, complex beer that I feel very lucky to have before me on this night.

At this point I can really feel the warmth of the flames…smell the charred wood…hear the crackling sunder…  If I could sit by a fire with the good company of the folks from Nøgne Ø, I sure would have a story to tell them.  A wild tale about one summer night in Seattle when I was transported to a cabin deep in the white Norway winter, warmed by Peculiar Yule.

If you like Nogne O Peculiar Yule, you should try…

Anderson Valley Brewing Co.‘s Winter Solstice; Short’s Brewing Co.‘s Nicie Spicie; Saint Louis Brewery‘s Christmas Ale

Disclaimer: This beer was purchased on my own with my own hard-earned money at a local bottle shop, and aged to perfection by yours truly.

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