The Danish Invasion of Leytonstone
It’s been about a thousand years since last the Danes dominated British soil. But on a sunny Sunday in August they were back. This time they didn’t rape and pillage (as far as I know). This time they brought a shipload of craft beer.
East side London’s Leytonstone, with its concrete facades and stockpile of genuine hardboiled cockney geezers, can already boast some pretty decent beer credentials. This is mainly down to Brodie’s Beers operating out of William IV, a proper local pub complete with drunk pensioners playing slot machines, footy on the telly and the barkeep’s nine-year old son pulling pints for jovial local loudmouths. It sure as hell isn’t the most obvious place to find a selection of craft beer that would have any beer-lover fall to his knees in awe. The pub’s 20 odd pumps, usually featuring a fantastic selection of Brodie’s most popular tipple, had been taken over by the Danish brewery Fanø Bryghus. I don’t know much about Fanø, but I do know they’ve got some pretty famous friends. On the line-up were collaboration brews from all over the world. Names like Mikkeller, Evil Twin, Cigar City and Hoppin Frog should have all beer-buffs worth their salt sit up in attention. They were all there, along with a selection of Fanø’s own brews.
I came prepared. I had printed the lineup and colour coordinated it in order of preference. I take my beer geekism seriously. I’m not ashamed. Well, maybe a little bit, but it felt necessary. There were 20 things on that list so I needed a plan. First up was a couple of barrel aged and sour samples, namely:
Fanø/Tired Hands – Tuff Ghost – 8%
American Wild ale aged 10 months in Brunello Red wine barrels with 3 different strains of Brett.
Fanø/Mikkeller/Stillwater – Barrel-aged Gypsy Tears – 8.5%
Stout fermented 100% with brett and aged 6 months in Brunello Barrels
I’m no expert on yeasts, and definitely not on the conundrum that is Brettanomyces, or Brett as they call him in brewing circles. But I do know that Brett is sour, and I do like sour beers. To say that these two were outstanding is an understatement, a dishonour to their imprisonment in dark barrels for months and months. Both of them were woody, winey and fruity, all at the same time. Like someone had distilled the whole flavour of a forest, brimming with sour berries, squeezed out all the juices and sap and bottled it. The Tuff Ghost came out slightly ahead of the Gypsy Tears, it just sang a bit more – zing zing pop pow, etc, you know.
Next up was:
Evil Twin – Sønderho Hipster ale – 5.7%
Pale ale aged in white wine barrels with Brett for 5 months and Dry hopped with Cascade
Fanø Batch 300 Imperial X-mas porter – 10%
Imperial Porter with Coffee, Vanilla, Cinnamon, and oak chips
Due to the massive amount of beer geeks (and some of them were massive too) congregating around the bar area, like a pack of hungry dogs about to be fed, it was important to get two drinks every time we queued. These two were very different, the Hipster ale, another sour treat that tasted like sour wine gums, but in a fresh and tasty way, and a porter that had me singing Joy To The World in the middle of summer. At this point I was getting pretty darn merry and from here on and out it was less tasting and more just necking down some world-class beers. I was thirsty for something slightly lighter, but all the session beers had at this point vanished into other people’s faces, so the only option was to stay on drinking the strong stuff, which might explain why I don’t remember the journey home.
Out of the drunken haze that veils the rest of the evening there is one beer that seems to shine a bit brighter than the others.
Fanø – Gorm – 10%
Imperial Milk Stout with 3 different types of Chocolate. Nibs, Powder, Dark Chocolate Chunks, and Vanilla.
Every now and then I encounter a beer that just makes me silent. My face usually takes on a look of slight pain while I stare into the distance. The pain is my brain trying to cope with the pure complexity of the joy it is experiencing, a deep bass kind of feeling emerging from within my very being. This beer from Fanø did just that. I wanted to run away with this beer. Leave all my friends and build a house in the forest and live there, just me and this beer. And it’s a testament to this small brewery from countryside Denmark, that out of all the beers I had that evening, made by some of the best brewers in the world, this black viscous chocolate supremacy of a liquid took the prize as the best I had.
But then again, I was very drunk and maybe a bit over emotional.
Anyway, Fanø is one hell of a brewery and we’ll definitely endeavour to write more about them in the future. Until then, keep on drinking the good stuff you ugly bastards.
Photos are by Adrian Peskin