Beer Culture

Stories about great beer from the countries that invented it.

Berentsens Sorte Får Stout

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?

Wait. What?

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.


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  1. I had two bottles of this. The first left me underwhelmed somewhat, but the second was much better – when I had it some 2 months after the first one. Sheep shearing is as good a reason as any I guess for making a special beer. Talking about special beers, I was disappointed to notice that Primator’s “Christmas Special” was just their Premium re-labelled with icicles and the like on the label. Could the failure to experiment on behalf of the Czech brewers come from the idea that Czech beer is the best in the world, so why bother?

  2. I had my second bottle the other day as well. Liked it more than the first, too. And I also did a comparative tasting of it with Primátor Stout, together with Super Bock Stout from Portugal, you will have to wait a couple more days to read my findings…..

    And I totally agree with you on the lack of specially brewed beers here. One of the things I thought that last Christmas Beer Market was missing was just that.

    Talked today wiht Honza about this year’s Pivní Festival Praha… Quite interesting news on that front.

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