Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Einstöking Up

One of the countries of the world that I would love to visit properly is Iceland. I say "properly" because I am not convinced that stopping in Keflavik airport 4 times in the last few years en route to and from Scotland really qualifies. One thing I love about coming into land at Keflavik is just how much it reminds me of home in the Hebrides, maybe it's a north Atlantic thing?

When it comes to booze I have generally associated Iceland with Brennivín, Iceland's caraway flavoured aquavit which I absolutely adore. Until recently though I had never tried an Icelandic beer, despite there being a bar in the airport, time has never allowed so far. I started noticing beers from Einstök Ölgerð in a couple of the local bottle shops toward the end of last year, but always in a six pack rather than available as singles and being a cheap dour Highlander I was loathe to spend $12 on beer that might be crap - and no, I don't consult things like Ratebeer and Untappd when buying beer.

Anyway, between Christmas and Hogmanay my neighbour came round with some beers, including a pair of Arctic Pale Ales, which I enjoyed very, very much later that evening. I knew that at some point I would have to get a collection, especially after I also indulged in the Toasted Porter that was delightful. Our local Wegmans has also recently started stocking them, and being the bastion of sense that they are, had most of the range available as singles, so I made a six pack with a couple each of Arctic Pale Ale, White Ale, and Wee Heavy.


Starting off with the Icelandic Arctic Pale Ale, so named as the brewery is only 60 miles south of the Arctic Circle. It pours a delightful amber, bordering on recently polished copper that has faded a little but still has that sheen of polished metal. The head is white, firm, and lingers at about a quarter inch for the duration of the drinking. So far so classic pale ale, good and clear, it does my heart good to see clear beer in these murky days. The aroma is mostly a citrus thing that melds oranges, grapefruits, and mandarins, as well as a touch of pine resin ,as well as a touch of caramel and a toasty edge. From the drinking perspective we are looking at toffee, marmelade (yay, love me some marmeladey beer!), floral hops, biscuity malt character that made me think of rich teas, and just a the slightest hint of pine. Damn this is one tasty beer. Beautifully balanced, and a good looking beer as well, Arctic Pale Ale made me think of a stronger, more US hopped version of Landlord, guess what is going to be seeing the inside of my fridge quite a bit?


From pale I went to white. Witbier is one of those styles that I really do like but very rarely drink, perhaps because really good examples are few and far between, so how does Icelandic White Ale stack up? Well, it certainly looks the part, hazy gold, white head that dissipates eventually, leaving patches of foam on top of the beer. It also smells the part, dominated by lemons and a touch of the coriander that is in the recipe, there is a nice crackeriness to the the aroma that hints at what is to come. What is to come is a beer that tastes remarkably like a homemade lemon meringue pie, and a bloody delicious one at that. Seriously, this is a damned good beer let alone a damned good witbier. I would say it has a little more going on that Allagash White, so if you are a fan of that, hunt this stuff down.


Finishing off the evening's drinking then was the Icelandic Wee Heavy, brewed with smoked malt and angelica root, and very much leaving the pale beers behind. The Wee Heavy is a gorgeous deep chestnut brown, it's almost lascivious in its rich colour. The head is light tan and in common with the other beers lingers around for the duration of the drinking. The smoke is noticeable in the aroma department, but it doesn't utterly dominate to the exclusion of all else, there are some nice herbal notes floating around, and a touch burnt sugar. On the flavour front, the smoke is again clearly present, and the burnt sugar aroma becomes a nice black treacle character, there may also have been a hint of unsweetened cocoa, but that seemed to come and go. At 8% this is a bit of beast, but given it's superb balance, rich flavours, and smooth mouthfeel it is a cracking beer to put your feet up by the fire and just indulge - I came very close to buying some peat from Amazon to chuck on the fire to make the fantasy complete.

Three absolutely storming beers, and now I want to visit Iceland for real even more now.

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