Naked Islands and other romantic notions

Beer is seeing a resurgence all over the globe, with decent breweries cropping up in the most unexpected of places. One such place is in Norway, where NogneO have carved out a niche for themselves producing "over twenty styles of beer". After spending the best part of a year reading about the brewers I finally came across their beers in stock in Ales by Mail and shortly later Drinkstore.

I ordered everything they had, so ended up with 15 to review,
which I'll split over a couple of posts.

First up with the lowest ABV (4.5%) is the Bitter. Modelled on that classic English style and hopped with Goldings, its nice enough and probably works well as a session bitter in its home market, but having to pay import prices its just a bit disappointing. Typical goldings nose, perhaps a bit paler than a typical bitter with plenty of bitterness in the finish.

A Christmas duo next then Underlig Jul and God Jul - respectively Peculiar Christmas and Good Christmas. The former was consumed on a train between York and Edinburgh and is your fairly typical spiced Yuletide beer. Pepper noticeable on the nose and into the body where it is joined by cardamom at first with roast malt and ginger following on in behind.
The God Jul is a different kettle of fish. Much darker and weighing in at a hefty 8.5% (the previous being a lowly 6.5%...) the change in strength isn't really noticable. Darkest brown with a fluffy tan head, treacle nose. Quite a lot of marmitey yeast umamai too. Fairly sweet with a rich maltiness but not cloying or alcoholic for its ABV, with just the hint of tropical fruit from those centennial hops. A true winter warmer.

A Belgian spiced beer style, Wit, is next up. Its remarkably haze free for one with so much wheat and a nose of Floridian orange groves. The citrus carries on into the body with just the barest suggestions of coriander and a pervasive but subtle TCP which is perhaps contributed by the yeast. Certainly an interesting take on the style.

Following on from the spiced beers, we have a few that are spicy and a Belgian style that has become more popular in recent years - saison:  one regular and one "India" Saison. The first is fairly typical in colour for a saison. It has all the things I enjoy on the nose, complex, some horse blanket, a hint of lactic acid. In the taste there's the unmistakable EKG but they soon fade into the background and the yeast strain is allowed to work its magic of pineapple esters and dry spiciness. The second is a collaboration with the Aussie Brewers Bridge Road. From the moment the bottle is opened the enticing peachy aroma of galaxy wafts up to your nasal passages. It pours a darker amber than the regular saison and retains its head for a good while. There's also the mango associated with citra, which must come from Stella, a hop I have very little experience of. Immediately lighter in body and at once heavy due to increased malt bill. The tropical fruits are there too but at the same time plenty of bitterness. The fruity hops repeat in the finish with the sweetness of fruit salad jacks...remember them? Underneath that is the same earthy spicy yeast in the regular saison. It perhaps loses some of its saison drinkability but an interesting beer all the same.

From spice to smoke and travelling South-East through Europe we get to Bamberg, home of the Rauchbier style. The beer in question? Holy Smoke, winner of a home-brew competition. Looking at the ingredient list its not a true rauchbeer as it uses peated malt rather than beech-smoked. It has the complex nose of an imperial stout with roasted and lactic notes. In the mouth its thick and slightly peppery before the  rich smokiness comes through. None of the harsh phenol of your Laphroaig here, this is much more akin to Bunnahabhain, playfully smoky but plenty of other stuff to tantalise the palate, tobacco, cola, liquorice. Its very drinkable for its ABV (6%) and my favourite of the range so far.

Next week I'll cover the remainder of the beers that I picked up!


  1. good write up, obviously good quality across most of their range

  2. You don't do things by halves do you! ;)
    This will be quite the post once completed, not sure I've seen anyone else review the range? I've tried a handful of them in the Imperial Stout, Porter, Saison and Brown Ale. Heard great things about the IPA and will pay the price if I see it. Looking fwd to the next installment.

  3. I had forgotten I'd asked Ales by Mail to reserve so many! Reuben (Tale of Ale) picked a fe wof these up from Drinkstore for me and he also has a post himself; looks like he set himself quite a challenge: http://www.taleofale.com/search?updated-max=2011-12-26T10:31:00Z&max-results=7

  4. Hmm. Something interesting in the point you make about their bitter: is a good bitter you've paid a lot for a less good bitter? (The answer is no, but it's a poor value one.) This is why, in the global craft beer market, strong and wacky styles are king. Imported US bitters and Koelsches are rarely exciting, even if there's nothing really wrong with them.

  5. That and the fact that people perceive that higher ABV beers are worth more, more booze per buck as it were.

    I need to try more German Koelsches before i bother with US ones. One thing taht annoys me is that US ratings site invariably obscure the traditional beers by rating US-brewed beers higher. There's the double effect that if they try a US variant on a style first and have preconceived ideas on what the original is going to taste like and it doesn't meet their expectations, they'll rate it lower. Even if the newer beer couldn't have existed without the earlier.

  6. That lot must have cost a pretty penny.
    The cheapest I saw any of their beers in Paris was over €11 where I might have paid €7 in Dublin...