Norwegian Farmhouse style 'maltøl' 7.4% in 330 ml bottles
Brewed on: 28.7.2016 Bottled: September 2016 onwards. Released from 8.10.2016
This is the second brew of the traditional Vossaøl that I went to Norway to discover and learn how to brew. You can read about the trip in several of my own blogs entitled Trip to Norway, parts 1 to 4. The name of the beer is pronounced 'Voss-earl' and despite the similarity to the Norse/German Christmas drink 'wassail' they are not related. Here is a summary of the Norwegian farmhouse brewing tradition.
On this occasion I made a special effort to obtain juniper branches to make an infusion for the brewing liquor. I undertook a road trip to Scotland and the Lake District in July 2016 and one of my goals was to bring home juniper. A friend of mine in the Lake District told me where to find it but I also kept my eye out in Scotland. In the end I obtained a small amount by the A9 near Dalwhinnie and obtained some more beside Haweswater. A total of 2.7 Kg spread over two countries is not going to endanger any colony of juniper, I think.
The Dyrvedalen 'kveik' yeast I used was saved from the first brew in December 2015 and stored under beer in my refrigerator. Maybe I under-pitched, as neither fermentations went as fast as this legendary kveik yeast does in Norway. The main part of the fermentation took a week, whereas the Norwegians are already sampling the beer after two days in their traditional get-together called oppskåke described by Lars Marius Garshol in his excellent blog. The flavour is more authentic than the first brew, as I used proper juniper instead of substituting Serbian spruce. I think this leaves the beer a little sweeter and with only a hint of the coniferous flavour in the background. The quantity of juniper was about right. I used some dark malts as the examples I saw and tasted in Voss were a little dark but perhaps next time I will row back on those of even omit them and just use Pilsner malt. Looking at the photos of the guys around the table in the oppsåka I notice that their maltøl is orange coloured, although the paleness is accentuated by the yeast still in suspension in the still-fermenting beer.
The photographs on the label were taken on my phone of the farmhouse at Voss Folkemuseum and the wooden walls of Bjørne Røthes' ancient brewhouse in Dyrvedalen near Voss.
I was also inspired to make a yeast ring with which the farmhouse brewers would preserve the kveik for brewing at a later date. I blogged about how to make one of these and it was read 17,500 times in the first two days.
A newly minted yeast ring.
Sterilising the ring by boiling in a pan.
The ring, coated in yeast slurry from the fermenter, is hung up to dry in the brewery.
What the Customers say
"A couple of years ago Martin Warren, owner and brewery at Poppyland went on a journey of discovery through Norway which is lovingly described in his blog. While there he collected an heirloom yeast and lovingly looked after it, culturing and growing it in his brewery in Cromer, and this Kveik that he took from Voss in Western Norway plays a major part in this fascinating beer.
Vossaøl is a traditional Norwegian homebrew beer style, that is sometimes brewed as an uncarbonated drink, much like the first version of this beer that Martin created in 2016.
To give you some context, Norway has a very strict governance over alcohol sales and some very high tax on booze that sees the main access to alcohol being through the Vinmonopoly, literally the government's Wine Monopoly.
It's why so many Norwegians distill their own Aquavit and brew their own beer.
Vossaøl is a conker red beer that smells of apricots and prunes, a beer that has a lovely rich round toffee body, the yeast adding a great big meaty backbone with just a hint of sourness, and a teeny tiny glimmer of damp woodland fungal Saison flavours.
The hopping is all hedgerow greenery, lemon zest and orange marmalade, giving you a delicious bitter bite that hints at a prickling sourness, but the beer swings back towards a delicious treacle tart brown sugar sweetness in the finish.
Vossaøl is an astonishing beer." Simon Williams,
Martin Warren, The Poppyland Brewer