Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Day 144, Beer 144 - Einstöck's "Icelandic Pale Ale"

Today's Beer

Name – Icelandic Pale Ale

Brewer – Einstöck

Classification – Pale ale

Strength – 5.6% ABV

Verdict - At A Glance

On the eye – Deep, rich orange amber. Not even remotely bad looking.

On the nose – Sharp fruits. Tree bark. Honey roasted blind rage.

On the tongue – Robust, punchy, vividly flavoured. A weapon of Norse destruction.

On the subject – There's one almighty, jaw dropping fact to mention here. It's a fact of too great a scale to reduce into a quick soundbite. You're going to have to read on...

On the market – In terms of the UK, the lucky so-and-so's at Harvey Nichols have exclusive sales rights for the time being. I call upon war-axe wielding warriors everywhere to rise up in revolt against this travesty! Failing that, I suggest they speak to their local MP.

On the

Full Review

It seems hard to believe, but my sources tell me that beer was effectively outlawed in Iceland for 74 years up until 1989.

Just writing that sentence has given me the shakes.

In fact, hold on a second, I need to take a few breaths...

Maybe just lie down here for a while...

(Several hours pass)

I feel a little better now.

The feeling in my legs has returned and I'm seeing far fewer stars.

I guess I can press ahead again...


One of the ways in which these poor Icelandic citizens try to compensate for that hideous mass of stolen years is by having a national 'Beer Day' on the first day of March each year, which is arguably a concept every bit as sublime as that previous concept is shocking.

Perhaps due in part to this extended period of state organised torture, I can say with a reasonable amount of certainty that today's beer is the first Icelandic ale I've ever tasted.

And for a country who missed out on decades worth of practice, they appear not to have suffered in the slightest – because this is a very decent beer indeed.

The reality is that 'craft' beer, as such, isn't exactly massive in Iceland. It's there, but it can take some finding. A fair amount of 'big' beer brands exist, but Einstöck – the newest kids on the ice block – are almost entirely unique among their peers, having decided to be the first in the country to attempt to mix 'big' with 'craft'.

And on this evidence, this approach is working.

The Viking imagery on the brewery logo is matched here by unbridled bullish strength – both in terms of taste and sheer alcoholic punch – but there is also a notable sense of refinement at work here, not least in the slick smoothness of body and the delicate use of certain fruit and herbal flavours.

I suspect the thing I like most about this beer is the thing that others might classify as its drawback. There is a directness or even a brutishness to this beer, and to achieve this kind of an impact it stands to reason that a certain level of nuance and complexity is reduced. But that's the point of such beers, and I think we need beers like this. We need Vikings among the Romans and the Greeks, otherwise we'd all be taking long baths, sculpting and engaging in endless philosophical debates without ever getting anything done.

But don't misunderstand. This ale is no thug. What this beer does is done with great enthusiasm – but also with great skill. The weapon it attacks you with has been well crafted. The recipe, whilst not being overly intricate, is delicious. It's fruity, bitter, carefully malted, and it's just impossible to drink without having it forcefully grab your attention.

It's one of those beers that gets the job done first and negotiates later.

And I like a bit of that every now and again.

I certainly liked it this time.