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The World Juniors of Beer

Buffalo is hosting the World Junior Hockey Tournament starting December 26th.  We’ll see teams representing 10 countries playing in 31 games.  Most of them take place at HSBC arena, the rest will be at Dwyer Arena at Niagara University.  We at CBW thought it would be fun to talk about a few beers and breweries in the countries sending teams.

North America

I like maps & beer

The USA – Its the US.  There is an amazing amount of craft beer here but you already know that.  Its actually hard to write this – there is way too much to highlight.  So lets just focus on something definitively American.  Check out Sierra Nevada and Anchor’s offerings.  Sierra Nevada was one of the originators of the craft beer revolution and is celebrating it’s 30th anniversary this year.  SN’s Brewers Reserve Grand Cru is amazing and available in 750ml bottles now.  There are thousands of breweries in the US making amazing beer.  Go buy some.  Look for Southern Tier, Great Divide, Great Lakes, Allagash, Stone, Lagunitas, Flying Bison, Pearl Street, Goose Island, Ommegang, Ithaca, Ellicottville, Bear Republic, Smuttynose..  The list goes on and on.  Just drink it.

Trois Pistoles & Poutine. Hell yes.

Canada – Home to Unibroue and Dieu du Ciel!  Unibroue is one of the better Belgian-style breweries in North America.  I would be happy drinking pretty much anything in their lineup.  They have this amazing house character from their yeast that always bowls me over.  Dieu du Ciel! started as a brewpub but is now distributing to the states.  They are perhaps best known for Peche Mortel, their Imperial Coffee Stout, but they make a great IPA (Corne du Diable) too.  Their Belgian Quad (Rigor Mortis Abt) is worth checking out too.

The Nordic Countries

Ok, you’re asking why I grouped the Nordic countries together.  Why not put them into Europe with Germany and Sweden?  Well, its because these countries are arguably at forefront of brewing in Europe these days.  There has been a brewing revolution in these countries over the past few years, largely inspired by the US brewing scene.  Germany has tradition (tradition is good and we’ll get there) but these countries are making great and exciting beer across a broad spectrum of styles.

YOU SHOULD NEVER GOOGLE IMAGE SEARCH "NOGNE O" WHILE YOU ARE AT WORK. ESPECIALLY IF SAFE SEARCH HAS BEEN TURNED OFF. SERIOUSLY.

Norway - Nøgne and Haandbryggeriet are probably the two best craft brewers in Norway.  Nøgne’s beers tend to be American (big IPAs, Barley Wines, Imperial Stouts) and Haandbryggeriet’s brews sometimes get a bit different.  They’re obviously inspired by American craft brewing but they’re a bit more adventurous than Nøgne with beers like Norwegian Wood, made with smoked malt and juniper berries.

Sweden – Swedish beers are in short supply here in Buffalo.  We can get Nils Oscar Imperial Stout which I’m ashamed to say I haven’t tried.  I’ll have to rectify that ASAP.  I’ve heard stories about how wonderful beers from the Närke brewery are but I haven’t had any.  As with the breweries in Norway, Närke’s brews show an obvious American influence with big, rich, higher alcohol brews making up a large portion of their production.

Finland – Like with Sweden we don’t see much from Finland on the shelves in Buffalo – they don’t seem to export too many of their beers.  My favorite Finish beer is probably Koff Porter.  There aren’t too many Baltic Porters out there and this is a great example of a rare style.  It has a clean chocolatey & roasty malt character and a little bit of booze.  Buy it if you see it!  On a side note, if anyone is travelling to Finland & doesn’t mind smuggling out a bottle of Cantillon Groseille out of the only bar it is sold at & bringing it home please send me a message 😉

Other Europe

same awesome beverage now with a crummy new label

Germany – You’ve heard it before.  Tradition.  Reinheitsgebot.  Really on-time trains.  Germany is perhaps more identified with beer than any other country (sorry England).  German beers tend towards the clean and crisp side of the scale.  I was lucky enough to spend two weeks working on a project in Stuttgart in the summer of 2007.  Some of the beers I had there were so well made that they brought a tear to my eye.  They were the Platonic ideal of their respective styles.  The most widely available German style (Pilsner) doesn’t travel particularly well.  The glorious hop character fades, the bready, perhaps toasty grain character becomes muddled and while they’re still good when you pick them up in the US, they are no longer great.  So skip the Pilseners and look for something a bit more robust.  Bocks and Doppelbocks are better suited than Pilsener and Helles to sitting on boat for a few weeks.  Ayinger Celebrator is an amazing Doppelbock, as is Paulaner Salvator.  Or go for something really intense and seek out Kulmbacher’s Eisbock (huge malt & raisin) or Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen which is one of the smokiest things you’ll ever taste.  Mmmm.

Do not shake, do not stir

Switzerland – What goes on in Switzerland when James Bond isn’t involved in a high speed downhill skiing gunfight?  Well, the fine folks at BFM are making a wide range of interesting and tasty beers.  They do a great job on barrel aged sours (their vintage dated Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien series), some Belgian styles and some strange experiments, like Tarry Suchong, which uses smoked tea leaves as an ingredient.

Points East

Russia – Russia is big.  Do you know how many time zones they have?  Eleven*.  They seem to keep most of the beer they make across those time zones to themselves.  You can find  Baltika beers in Eastern European markets around the area, but they don’t have much market penetration around here.  Try the Euro Deli on Union near Genesee in Cheektowaga if you feel the need to try some.  Get some Kefir while you’re there too.  And a ruben.  And that crazy layer cake thing.  And a bunch of cured meat products that you have no idea what they are but they look cool.

Slovakia – Even less represented on the shelves of beer stores than Russia, all you’re going to see from Slovakia is Golden Pheasant.  And you may not want to drink that.  There are probably really cool beer things going on in Slovakia but we don’t hear about them.  Sorry.  I bet their hockey team is going to be really good.

Good hockey, good beer.  We hope you folks have a lot of both over the next few weeks.  If you are going to some of the games be sure to check out Flying Bison’s booth at section 318 – Flying Bison isn’t positive that they’ll be pouring during the tournament but since they do during Sabres games hopefully they will for World Juniors too.  Not going to the games?  Head out to a better beer store and pick up some of the beers listed above, or an old favorite.

* note – Russia recently voted to decrease the number of time zones they use to facilitate business.  Russia still takes up 11 time zones worth of space but no longer recognizes all of them.