Flavours of the Month
A trip to Ikea has Alastair Gilmour singing the praises of a Swedish lager and a single hop variety of beer has him reaching for the turntable.
Ikea Öl Mörk Dark Lager Beer (4.7% abv)
We measure up for a Billy Bookcase and take a shine to a Klippan sofa. Into the yellow bag go varying Ribba frames and that’s us at last, heading for the checkout after two hours in the maze that’s Ikea before searching the food market for a pack of Allemansrätten* and a hotdog.
It’s mandatory you buy a hotdog on leaving an Ikea store; it’s in the small print, like filling your pockets with paper measuring tapes or adding a small brown pencil to the collection that you’ll never, ever, use again.
But, what’s this in the food market fridge? A display of Öl Mörk beer, a Swedish black lager, its bottle headed with an Ikea logo. Small print again – it’s brewed at Krönleins Bryggeri, a brewery founded in 1836 in Halmstad, Sweden. In Germany, this would be called a Dunkel – deep red or dark brown-to-black in colour with malty overtones. In fact, Krönleins produces König Ludwig Dunkel for the Scandinavian market, along with Weihenstephan Weissbier, Borg Viking Beer, Kaltenberg, Crocodile and Kiss Destroyer, named in honour of the US shock-rock, glam-metal band.
Krönleins also produces a range of beers, ciders, spirits, soft drinks and flavoured water. The company specialises in adding flavourings to vodka that include the taste of those Black Jack chews that turned your tongue scarily black as a teenager.
Ikea’s delightfully surprising Öl Mörk Dark Lager Beer displays more than a passing resemblance to cold coffee – different lights show it off as deep red or dark chocolate brown and we can’t decide whether the coffee is Columbian in origin or Sumatran (that’s a joke, by the way) but anyway it pours with an enticing tight head. The combination is altogether rather good.
Earlier, we had bought a Barlast lamp from the lighting department (my least favourite section of Ikea, head-to-head with cushions and curtains in the hurry-through stakes).
Once home, our Öl Mörk is just reward for managing to tackle Barlast’s fiddly, springy, swear-inducing lampshade that requires an extra pair of hands to uncoil, press down and clip. After 20 minutes of cursing, make that two Öl Mörks.
*Meatballs. That’s living all right.
Durham Brewery Zappa Saison (5.5% abv)
Frank Vincent Zappa was one of rock’s most talented, creative, subversive and multi-disciplined musicians of all time. Alongside his band, The Mothers of Invention, he created albums with names such as Weasels Ripped My Flesh, Sheik Yerbouti, Zoot Allures and You Are What You Is, so the sight of a bottle of Zappa Saison just had to have slightly crazy roots marinated in Lumpy Gravy (another album) that deserved much more than a little attention. OK, fanciful, but a guy can dream.
Zappa in this case is nothing more exciting than an American hop variety (100% Neomexicanus) originating in the mountains of New Mexico – but it comes with the recommendation that it has ‘developed its own rebellious aroma and unique flavour characteristics; passionfruit, mint, spice, tropical fruits and fruity pebbles, and is the perfect summer thirst-quencher’.
‘Fruity pebbles’? Well, if Frank Zappa can get away with saying “tobacco is my favourite vegetable”, we’ll go with the flow.
Saisons are generally highly-carbonated pale ales – fruity, spicy, hazy and often bottle-conditioned which have gained the alternative description ‘farmhouse ale’ though the original characteristics of low alcohol beers brewed only in the winter-into-spring months for Belgian farm workers has long since disappeared. They are now brewed with moderate to high levels of alcohol all year round.
This Durham brewery version is terrific and disappeared so quickly I never had the opportunity to mull, sniff and swirl properly. But I spent enough time with it to realise that both Zappas are characterised by an American genre of cultural nonconformity, free-form improvisation, experimentation and virtuosity. Radical rock meets radical beer.