Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Ölmönger Special: Craft Beer Helsinki, 1 July 2016

While having a small break with the blog - when there's a choice between writing crap about beer & music and enjoying Finnish summer & life, I'll choose the latter - I got a chance to visit Craft Beer Helsinki a.k.a. CBH from now on. Since I'm probably not the greatest fan of beer festivals (see the previous posts on the subject here and here), the list of the breweries got me breaking my habits. Most of the Finnish summer beer festivals have the emphasis on Finnish breweries, but CBH had lured roughly the half of the breweries outside Finland. Some pretty known big names like BrewDog, De Molen, Founders and Stone and many unknown European microbreweries turned out to be a temptation I couldn't resist.

The start: De Molen Bommen & Granaten

To cut the crap of personal excuses and explanations, some short facts about CBH. The festival was organized first time ever on 30 June - 2 July at Rautatientori in Helsinki by Helsinki-based gypsy brewery Humalove and running school & event organizer Runner's High. There were 23 breweries present - each having a selection of 5-10 beers available mostly on tap. To get inside the festival area you needed to pay 3 € for a glass (or 4 € for a tulip as I did) and load some money to a Seamchip card which was the only acceptable payment device in the event. There were couple of loading points where you could increase your card's credit as well as couple of glass washing and free drinking water tents in the area. Also there were many reputable street food shops present, which is an exception in a Finnish beer festival, and a craft cider corner. The complete beer lists were available at CBH's website and the festival had pretty often updated Facebook pages.

Having heard about the first day's problems with the payment cards at the entrance and the resulting queues, I was at the scene when they opened at 2 p.m. Since "Only cash payment" line as well as the festival area were practically empty I got in quickly. There were no price lists of the beers available beforehand, so that's what had to be checked first. The normal price rate seemed to be 3 € for 15 cl and 5-6 € for 30 cl of beer but there were few cheaper and many more expensive brews available: the lowest price for 15 cl was 2 € and the highest 5 €. The prices of cider and food didn't catch my attention, because I was there for the beer. And meeting a long-time-no-see friend by a pint or some, and enjoying the sunny Finnish summer weather. At 6 p.m. I got out, since the place started to get packed with beer-thirsty people and I had spent enough time and dimes sipping small doses of good stuff.

Beer festival at Friday afternoon in July. Oh, the crowd! :)

What do I remember, that is: which beers were harder to forget than the others?

Both of the barley wines I had, De Molen Bommen & Granaten and Beer Hunter's Mufloni Barley Wine, were quality stuff. Bommen & Granaten as a heavy start had sweet fruity malt flavours with silky smooth bitterness. Mufloni Barley Wine had more malts and bitterness and less sweet fruits but didn't pale in comparison.

Spanish India pale ales Bidassoa Basque Larrun and La Quince LLIPA! tasted nice and were positive surprises. Larrun was a hoppy and fruity imperial rye IPA with strong malty and grainy character. LLIPA! was a fresh-hopped American-style IPA with moderate grapefruit. This experience convinces me that I'll have to get to know more about Spanish craft beer.

The most uncommon beers I had were Founder's Mango Magnifico and Hopping Brewsters Grimr. I tasted Mango Magnifico purely out of curiosity: a strong fruit beer with mango juice and habanero chilis is so out of the box for me, that it made me to get out of the box. And I got happy - thanks to sweet mango over-domination and habanero afterburn. Grimr on the other hand is an ancient gruit ale spiced with juniper, orange peel and cardamom. Like Starkadr, the darker gruit from the brewery, Grimr also has a fresh combination of slight sourness and strong spice. Works for me - would say that it was my festival fav brew.
Founders Mango Magnifico

Stone's Arrogant Bastard BBA and Americano Stout ought to be superb brews. However the weather was clearly wrong for enjoying a strong ale with a grip of oak and vanilla (Arrogant Bastard BBA) and an American imperial stout with surely delicious coffee (Americano Stout). Excellent turned to decent. My bad - have to taste these again in the darkness of Finnish autumn or whenever I get the chance.

To wrap it all up, the event felt and tasted quite nice. Most of the beers were good or very good: nothing mind-blowing but nothing tasteless or bad-tasting either. The prices of the beers were mind-blowing, meaning too high: asking 3 € for 15 cl of IPA and 5 € for same volume of barrel-aged imperial stout is utterly greedy. But it seems that in the Finnish craft beer market it's still seller's market: people seem ready to pay high price to get something that actually isn't so rare in Finland anymore. I must say that free drinking water was a big thumbs up for the organizer.

As a proof of still missing some political correctness or good taste towards the beer festivals, I must compare the squirrel logo of the event to something completely different. On the left in the pic is the event's logo from an empty tulip. On the right is the logo of Finnish bank Kansallis-Osake-Pankki, KOP (National Share Bank) which was merged to another large Finnish bank in the 1990's and which was later sucked into the Nordea group. I can see the similarities in business in the logos, can you?

Black, blue, where do these squirrels come from? ;)
Since I took only few bad pics in the event, there are more and better pics and also better stories available in these Finnish blogs:


After a beer festival it's time to get back to real business. Let's forget the taps for a while:

Calvin Harris (ft. Tinie Tempah): Drinking From the Bottle (YouTube)

From the 2012 album 18 Months, the song was written by Calvin Harris, Patrick Okogwu, James F. Reynolds and Mark Knight. 

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