One of the nice things about writing about beer for The Brew Club, is that while no UK beer sellers have yet rushed to offer me samples for tasting, my well traveled friends often bring me unusual beers that they’ve found on their travels.
Stockholm Fine Festival Beer is one such beer brewed, as you might expect, in Halmstat, Stockholm, the capital of Sweden. Alcohol is expensive in the Nordic countries, when I briefly worked in Helsinki it was cheaper to go to the cinema than drink a pint of beer!
Accordingly the Nordics tend to brew their beers strong, to maximise the bang for their buck, and as I mentioned in another beer review about ‘beers from the end of the world‘, stronger alcoholic drinks are sold exclusively by the government run ‘Vinmonopolet’ stores.
Stockholm Fine Festival Beer is brewed by Kronleins in Halmstad, Sweden. The brewery can be traced back to the establishment of the Appeltofftska brewery in 1836. It expanded in 1897 to a former bastion on the old city wall which was served with a freshwater spring and had extensive ice cellars for lagering. The traditional Swedish beers (called ‘Svenskol’ )at that time were pale, sweet and relatively weak, until 1843 when Fredrik Rosenquist’s ‘German Brewery’ first introduced a dark, sweet ‘Munich’ style lager. This was slow to catch on, but in the 1850’s Kronleins started brewing Munich beer.
The acceptance by the Swedes of Munich style beers means that there was some resistance to the adoption of paler ‘Pilsner’ style beers and they weren’t really accepted until after the first world war, far later than much of Europe.
Anders Kronlein took over the Halmstad brewery in 1920 and began a process of extensive modernisation. The brewery developed an expertise in brewing stronger beers, and sold these for export until the law in Sweden changed in 1955 to allow the sale of stronger beers.
Fine Festival Beer was first brewed specifically to enter international brewing competitions, and following the success of the 5.2% ABV beer, a stronger 7.2% brew was developed in 2005 when it won a gold medal at the Brewing Industry International Awards in Burton-upon-Trent.
And it is the 7.2% ABV bottle that I am about to taste, brewed using the Halmstat spring water and two different varieties of hop – Magnum and Perle. Let’s be honest, 7.2% Lager is normally favoured by the sort of people who frequent bus stations in the early hours of the morning, and subtle flavours are not normally the top priority of those drinkers.
The beer pours with a hoppy nose and a slight, but white head that quickly disperses. There’s no lacing on the glass, but that’s not unexpected for a pilsner style lager.
The mouth feel and flavour is really deceptive, I was expecting the sort of kick you get with most strong lagers, but this was really well balanced. This beer is very much a wolf in sheep’s clothing, it tastes and feels like a 5% premium lager rather than the super strength (nearly 50% more alcohol than you expect) that it really is.
It’s easy to see why this beer won awards, it’s been really well crafted, by a Brewmaster that clearly knows his art; and in a blind tasting I would not have guessed this beer’s considerable potency.
Bob the Brit