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Talk to the Haand

HaandBryggeriet “Norwegian Wood” (Norway) – Smoked ale with juniper. And it tastes like? Smoked ale with juniper. More the former than the latter. And, too, there’s oak aging. Which makes everything taste just a little butterscotched. It’s not overwhelming or actively unpleasant, but I’m yet to be convinced by (here comes a made-up-on-the-spot percentage that’s still not far off the mark) 99.9% of such brews. This has so many oak-masking and oak-integrating things going on that I’m inclined to nudge this up to the precipice of that .1% But I still think the beer would have been better without the wood. (2/11)

HaandBryggeriet Barrel-Aged Porter (Norway) – In this case, the porter is aged in aquiavit barrels. OK, so I like porter. I’m Norwegian, and am supposed to like aquiavit. I should like this, right? Well…I almost do, which is becoming my predictable reaction to this brewery’s work. The porter is of a surpassing quality, deep and rich, like a much-reduced broth for an excellent stew. But the barrel-smoke is very marked here, so much so that the final effect is more than of an actual smoke beer rather than a porter. The aquavit signature is mostly expressed as a trailing apostrophe of heated sweetness, although I think some of that sweetness is also the wood. Basically, if one absolutely insists on barrel-finished beer, this and others from this brewery are fine examples of the genre. But I’d still prefer the unwooded versions, were they to exist. (2/11)