Listen, we’re beer lovers: we’ll accept just about any excuse for a special brew. Feel like putting out a beer for a public holiday (like our Czech Christmas beers)? Sounds like a great idea. Maybe it’s the anniversary of the founding of your brewery? We could always use more Fuller’s 1845. Or perhaps your country is hosting the 2008 World Championships in Sheep Shearing?
At least that seems to be the reason why the Norwegian microbrewery Berentsens released its Sorte Får Stout last year. When sheep-shearing teams from around the world descended on the Norwegian town of Bjerkreim last autumn, they were met with far more than mere wool: a special dark beer, named after the local wild sheep, was brewed to celebrate the occasion.
Thanks to Gunnar Jensen from the frozen land to the north, I was able to try the Sorte Får Stout (apparently a rare thing, as the beer has just four evaluations on Ratebeer at this point). To put it through its paces, I compared it simultaneously with Guinness Extra Stout and Primátor Stout. Here’s what I came up with:
Berentsen’s Sorte Får Stout
(4.7%, 330-milliliter bottle)
Pours a very dark amber, nearly black. It has better coffee and smokiness in the aroma than the drain-pour Guinness. Its loose, sandy-colored head is upstaged a fair bit by the creamy microfoam of Primátor Stout. The nose has plenty of cold coffee with some vinous, stewed-fruit notes. In the mouth, it has a tart fruitiness reminiscent of raspberries with a bitter chocolate finish, like raspberries or under-ripe strawberries dipped in bitter chocolate, then dusted in ground coffee. Very good.
Mr. Jensen was kind enough to include an English translation of the label, which I’ll reprint here.
Sorte Får, the Norwegian wild sheep, brings the tradition from Rogaland further on. An autumn market, sheep shearing an a good brew belong together. The 2008 sheep shearing championship was held in our area in October, and our contribution was this dark and tasty stout beer, made of the best ingredients. Drink this brew cold, in the shadow of your barn.
An excellent idea. What remains to be seen is how many more excuses we can come up with for brewers to make special beers. Some of them seem quite obvious, and yet they are often overlooked. In the Czech Republic, for example, last year’s big beer festival aimed for thirty beers — but not a single one of them was brewed for the occasion.