A Kranz (wreath) of Kölsch beer.

A Kranz (wreath) of Kölsch beer. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The most popular draught beer in Iceland for some years, Viking Lager, is now also available in cans. It is pleasantly mild with a slightly sweet flavor. Less filling and more refreshing than many other beers, Víking Lager has an alcohol content of 4,5%, making it ideal for those who prefer a medium-strength beer with less bitterness.

Víking Golden lager is an internationally recognized quality beer that has received Monde Selection gold medals in 1992, 2002 and 2003. It has an alcohol content of 5,6% by volume and is brewed using a large quantity of hops to give it its much coveted bitterness.

Brewed using a special method that leaves almost no residual sugars, Víking Lite contains a third fewer calories than ordinary beer, making it ideal for those who wish to enjoy a fine beer with limited carbohydrates. Viking Lite has an alcohol content of 4,4% by volume.   A mild and refreshing beer, best drunk ice-cold.

Víking Classic is a Vienna style beer with golden amber colour.   It has a medium body and firm enough hop bitterness to provide a balanced finish. Taste is malty and with some toasted notes . Balancing sweetness and a hint of caramel in the aftertaste.

Víking Strong lager has an alcohol content of 7%, making it the strongest beer in the Víking range. It has a pale golden colour with little bitterness and the slightly sweet savour of malt.   Víking Sterkur is popular because of its pleasantly mild character which is retained despite its high alcohol content.

Víking Christmas beer has been the best seller in Iceland for many years.  This Marzen Vienna style beer was first introduced in 1990.  It has golden amber colour and taste notes of malt,  burnt sugar and caramel.  The brewing takes longer time due to low heat secondary fermentation after main fermentation is finished.  Due to this method the beer has better balance and body.

Viking Easter beer has been brewed since 1990, it is a South-German Dunkel style beer. The brewmaster uses four types of malt to gain more fill and hint of chocolate, coffee and caramel. Viking Easter beer has medium bitterness and a hint of roasted flavors.

Víking Þorrabjór style has changed from year to year in past couple of years. The brew master brings something new and special each year.

Víking Malt is a sweet malty drink with taste of liquorice and caramel.   It is low carbonated with dark brown color and quite foamy.

Víking Hátíðarblanda is a traditional Icelandic Christmas blend of Víking Malt and Hátíðarappelsin (Orange soft drink).   It has a malty taste with hint of orange.   This blend is very popular around Christmas and Easter in Iceland.

Víking Ölgerð is a sub brand to Víking.   Our brewery has a long tradition with its roots back to 1939 when the brewery was established in Siglufjordur in the Northern part of Iceland.   Later on it was moved to Akureyri where it is currently located.  Víking Ölgerð focuses on brewing speciality beers, more off the beaten track.   Víking Ölgerð is the only brewery in Iceland certified to brew organic beers.

Our Stout was first produced in 2008 and was the first Icelandic Stout.   Dark, roasted aroma, espresso beans, dark chocolate and cocoa are words that can be used to describe our Stout.   It is intense in texture and character, yet relatively easy drinking and balanced.

Pils Organic is a South-German Bavarian style beer. Golden pils beer with a slight mist to it with rich head.   Flowers, grass, hint of dough and spices.   A beer with distinctive floral hoppyness, medium bitterness and good balance. The production of Pils Organic is certified organic.


beers (Photo credit: uberculture)

Flanders red ale is a style of sour ale usually brewed in Belgium. Although sharing a common ancestor with English porters of the 17th century, the Flanders red ale has evolved along a different track: the beer is often fermented with organisms other than Saccharomyces cerevisiae, especially Lactobacillus, which produces a sour character attributable to lactic acid. Long periods of aging are employed, a year or more, often in oaken barrels, to impart an acetic acid character to the beer. Special red malt is used to give the beer its unique color and often the matured beer is blended with a younger batch before bottling to balance and round the character.

Flanders reds have a strong fruit flavor similar to the aroma, but more intense. Plum, prune, raisin and raspberry are the most common flavors, followed by orange and some spiciness. All Flanders red ales have an obvious sour or acidic taste, but this characteristic can range from moderate to strong. There is no hop bitterness, but tannins are common. Consequently, Flanders red ales are often described as the most “wine-like” of all beers.

Notable examples include Duchesse de Bourgogne and Rodenbach.


Jever (Photo credit: freethehops)

Jever is a German beer brand, named after the town of Jever where it is brewed. It has been brewed by the “Friesisches Brauhaus zu Jever” (the Jever Frisian Brewery) since 1848.

When the “Friesische Brauhaus zu Jever” was founded by Diedrich König in 1848, it was only one of several breweries in the region. König, however, was convinced from the beginning that his beer was something special. After his death in 1867, his son sold the brewery. Theodor Fetköter took over the brewery. He began by developing the small family business into a large brewery operation, started to advertise and developed special bottles. In 1848, he played an important part in installing the first water supply system in Jever.

The First World War was a difficult time for the brewery. Theodor Fetköter’s son, who had taken over the business, was killed at the front. The brewery was sold once again, in 1922, to the Bavaria – St. Pauli Brewery brewery, based in Hamburg. Today the Bavaria – St. Pauli Brewery is owned by the Danish Carlsberg Group. By then, beer from Jever had become known outside the region where it was produced. Since 1934, it has been sold under the name “Jever Pilsener”.

After World War II, the brewery once again found itself experiencing difficult times. Due to a fuel shortage, beer could only be sold from the brewery gates directly to customers. It was also necessary to scour the region’s farms for malt.

After the post-war period, the situation in Jever improved once again. The top-selling beer was “Jever Export”, which was brewed until 1990. During the 1960s, Pilsener beer became more and more popular and sales figures for Jever Pilsener increased. During this period the brewery was expanded.

Since 1994, the brewery has belonged to the Dortmunder Brau & Brunnen Group, which itself has been part of the Oetker Group since the beginning of 2005.

Westvleteren 8

Westvleteren 8 (Photo credit: Bernt Rostad)

The Westvleteren Brewery (Brouwerij Westvleteren) is a Belgian brewery founded in 1838 inside the Trappist Abbey of Saint Sixtus of Westvleteren in the Belgian municipality of Vleteren, not far from the hops-producing town of Poperinge and the medieval city of Ypres. The brewery and its beers are usually referred to as Westvleteren. The brewery’s three beers have acquired an international reputation for taste and quality, as well as the limited availability of the beers which are not brewed to normal commercial demands.

Trappist monks from the Catsberg monastery, located in France, founded the St Sixtus monastery in 1831. In 1838, the brewing at Westvleteren commenced. In 1850, some of the monks founded the Notre-Dame de Scourmont monastery, which also brews a Trappist beer. During World Wars I and II, the Westvleteren brewery continued to operate, albeit at a lower capacity. The brewery was the only Trappist one to retain the copper vessels throughout the wars—the other breweries had the copper salvaged by the Germans for their war efforts. In WWI this was primarily due to the abbey not being occupied by the Germans, but instead was caring for wounded allied troops. In 1931, the abbey began selling beer to the general public, having only served beer to guests and visitors up until that time.In 1946, the St. Bernardus brewery in nearby Watou was granted a licence to brew beer under the St Sixtus name. This agreement ended in 1992; St. Bernardus still brews beers of similar styles, but under their own name. That same year, the abbey opened its new brewery to replace the older equipment.

The brewery currently employs three secular workers for various manual labour tasks, however the primary brewing is done by the monks only. It is the only Trappist brewery where the monks still do all of the brewing. Of the 26 Cistercians who reside at the abbey, five monks run the brewery, with an additional five who assist during bottling.

As with all other Trappist breweries, the beer is only sold in order to financially support the monastery and other philanthropic causes. Whilst the brewery is a business by definition (its purpose is to make money), it does not exist for pure profit motives, and they do no advertising except for a small sign outside the abbey which indicates the daily availability of each beer. The monks have repeatedly stated that they only brew enough beer to run the monastery, and will make no more than they need to sell, regardless of demand. During World War II, the brewery stopped supplying wholesalers and since then they only sell to individual buyers in person at the brewery or the visitor’s centre opposite. These methods all go against modern business methods, however as stated by the Father Abbott on the opening of the new brewery, “We are not brewers. We are monks. We brew beer to be able to afford being monks.”.

The brewery currently brews three beers:

Westvleteren Blonde (green cap), 5.8% ABV, introduced on 10 June 1999.
Westvleteren 8 (blue cap) (formerly Extra), 8% ABV.
Westvleteren 12 (yellow cap) (formerly Abt), a 10.2% ABV, introduced in 1940.

Until 1999, the brewery also produced a 6.2% ABV dark beer and a lighter 4° which served as the monks’ table beer, but these were replaced by the Blonde. The 8 and 12 are bottle conditioned and are considered to have a long shelf life, with some drinkers preferring the taste when the beers have been stored for several years. The ingredients are yeast, hops, malt, sugar, caramel and water.

The bottles have been sold without labels since 1945. All of the legally required information is printed on the crown tops. Because of this lack of space, Westvleteren beers are the only Trappist beers that do not have the official Trappist logo displayed on the bottle. The logo is only printed on the distinctive wooden crates. Any bottles that are labelled have had them added unofficially by others. For example, some importers into the United States label the bottles in order to comply with local regulations.

Currently, the beer is priced at €30.00 (Blonde), €34.00 (8°) and €39.00 (12°) per 24-bottle crate (excluding bottle/crate deposit). Deposit for empty bottles and crate: 12 EUR (9.60 EUR for the crate plus 0.10 EUR per bottle). Glasses specifically designed to drink the beer can be purchased at the abbey in packs of 6 for 17 euro.

Buyers were originally limited to ten 24-bottle crates of the beer per car, but as the beer increased in popularity, this was first reduced to five, then to three and now to two or one crates. For the Westvleteren 12 in 2009, it was limited to one case. When making an order now, the type and quantity of beer available for sale are revealed. Sales are limited to one order every 60 days per person per license plate and phone number. Also, the beer must be reserved on their “beerphone” beforehand. The monks do not sell beer to individuals who drive up to the abbey hoping to purchase beer. The reason for this is to eliminate commercial reselling, and hence give all visitors a chance to purchase the product.

The current production is 4750 hl (60,000 cases) per year, and has remained the same since 1946.

Aside from the brewery itself, the only other official sale point for the beer is the abbey-owned In de Vrede, a cafe and visitor’s centre opposite the abbey. All beers can be bought there for immediate consumption or take-away, depending on availability (however, prices are higher than at the abbey). Often there is no beer available at the shop. The shop also sells cheeses made at the abbey, yeast tabs (not yeast to make beer but dead yeast for health) and other Trappist products.

Buyers of the beer receive a receipt with Niet verder verkopen (“Do not resell”) printed on it. The abbey is very much against resale of their beer, and it is their wish that the beer is only commercially available at the two official sale points. To this end, any Westvleteren beer which is sold anywhere else in the world is grey market beer, as no wholesalers or pubs are supplied with the beer. The abbey is actively working to eliminate the illicit sales, and generally only agrees to media interviews to spread their message against drinking illicitly sold Westvleteren beer.

In October, 2010 there were speculations that the beer would be sold in supermarkets, which have not yet come to pass.

The brewery and the Belgian retailer Colruyt are bringing a gift pack (6 bottles Westvleteren 12, 2 glasses) for sale, only against exchange of promotional coupons printed in selected media. Goal of the sales is to increase income to provide funds for urgent and immediate renovations at the monastery. Available from November 2, 2011, sales will be limited to 93.000 packs. One pack per coupon at 25,00 Euro/pack. All earnings of the sale will go to the renovation project. This is a first in the history of the brewery. (source: Het Nieuwsblad, October 14, 2011)

On November 4, 2011, it was announced that US importer Shelton Brothers would be importing 7760 gift packs consisting of 6 bottles Westvleteren 12 and 2 glasses starting in April 2012. Also mentioned was that Manneken-Brusel Imports out of Austin, TX would also be importing an undisclosed amount of the beer into the U.S market. Pricing is to be determined.
International reputation

Many beer drinkers rank Westvleteren 12 among their favourite beers. The 8 and the Blonde also rank highly on beer-rating websites.

In June 2005, when Westvleteren 12 was again highlighted as “Best Beer in the World”, news organizations followed this up and articles appeared in the international press, highlighting the beer ranking and the unusual business policies.

Following these events, interest in Westvleteren’s output increased and stories appeared of the abbey’s stock being low, forcing the monks to reduce the amount of beer sold to each customer. In an interview, monk Mark Bode explained that the abbey had no intention of increasing its production, despite demand: “We make the beer to live but we do not live for beer.”

Despite the popularity, the monks of St Sixtus have continued to decline almost all interview and visit requests, and have not enjoyed all of the attention they have received. Non-monastic visitors to the abbey are usually turned away, instead being directed to the visitor’s centre opposite where there is information about the abbey and brewery. They have stated their desire to only produce as much beer as needed to finance the community.

A bottle of Paulaner Hell

A bottle of Paulaner Hell (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Paulaner is a German brewery, established in the early 17th century in Munich by the Minim friars of the Neudeck ob der Au cloister. The mendicant order and the brewery are named after Francis of Paola, the founder of the order.

Paulaner ranks number 8 among Germany’s best selling breweries.

The name of the Paulaner brewery refers to the order of friars that resided in Neuhauser Straße in Munich who were part of the order of Saint Francis of Paola. The monks had brewed beer for their own use since 1634. The beer that was permitted to be sold on holidays was a Bock style which gained local fame. After the abolition of the Neudeck Cloister in 1799, the building was converted into a penitentiary. Franz Xaver Zacherl, the brewer, purchased the former cloister brewery and continued the “Starkbier” tradition with the product Salvator, which is Latin for “Saviour”. In 1861 the “Salvatorkeller” (Salvator cellar) was opened upon Nockherberg. In 1928 the brewery merged with the Gebrüder Thomas brewery creating Paulaner Salvator Thomas Bräu. 1994 saw the acquisition into the Kulmbacher brewery group with the affiliated producers Plauen and Chemnitz. A daughter company is the Auer Bräu AG Rosenheim. Paulaner belongs to the BHI (Brau Holding International AG), a joint venture between Schörghuber Ventures (50.1%) and with the Netherlands’ Heineken N.V. (49.9%).

Greene King Brewery

Greene King Brewery (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Belhaven brewery is a brewery near Dunbar in Scotland owned by Greene King.

Belhaven claims to have begun brewing in 1719. In that year the burgh of Dunbar levied a local tax on brewers to fund civic improvements. Since Belhaven’s site is immediately outside the limits controlled by the then Dunbar Council, and hence would be free of the ‘impost’ or tax, it is possible that the 1719 date records the relocation of an existing business. In the first half of the 18th century Belhaven had more than 24 small and large competitors nearby in Dunbar, Belhaven and West Barns. Only three, the Dunbar, Belhaven (then called Johnstone’s and later Dudgeon’s) and West Barns breweries survived until the middle of the 19th century and only Belhaven lasted through the 20th, in part due to its small scale of production and its much larger malting capacity.

The manager’s house (which sits to the west side of the approach lane) was built c.1790 but extended several times. It has been detached from the brewery for at least 50 years and is currently under private ownership. Its grounds include a small pedimented folly screening the brewery from the house. Its entrance gates were previously the jaw-bones of a whale (as also found on nearby North Berwick Law) but these have eroded to stumps.

By 2005 Belhaven had become the largest and oldest surviving independent brewery in Scotland. In August 2005, the Suffolk based brewery Greene King announced a £187 million takeover bid for Belhaven. This offer was accepted and completed by November 2005. Greene King has stated that Belhaven will retain its brands and brewery following the takeover.

Domestically, in 2006 Belhaven distributed only four brands of beer: Best, Best Extra Cold, St.Andrew’s Ale, and 80 Shilling. In the past there were many others: regulars like stouts, porters, brown ales, 20/- to 110/- ales (rising at 10/- increments) and even lagers as well as periodic specials celebrating anniversaries and royal events. Even further back harvest ales and 2d ales were the brewery’s standby. Now Best Extra Cold is claimed to be the United Kingdom’s first non-stout extra cold dark beer. St.Andrew’s Ale and Scottish Ale are exported, primarily to the United States. As well as its own brands, Belhaven also bottles and distributes beers from other breweries, including Tennents and Stella Artois.

Belhaven sponsored Dundee United for six seasons between 1987 and 1993.

Westmalle trappist beer (Belgium). Nederlands:...

Westmalle trappist beer (Belgium). Nederlands: Flesje Westmalle tripel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Beer in Belgium varies from pale lager to lambic beer and Flemish red. There are approximately 178 breweries in the country, ranging from international giants to microbreweries.

Beer in Belgium, dates back to the age of the first crusades, long before Belgium became an independent country. Under Catholic church permission, local French and Flemish abbeys brewed and distributed beer as a fund raising method. The relatively low-alcohol beer of that time was preferred as a sanitary option to available drinking water. What are now traditional, artesinal brewing methods evolved, under abbey supervision, during the next seven centuries. The Trappist monasteries that now brew beer in Belgium were occupied in the late 18th century primarily by monks fleeing the French Revolution. However, the first Trappist brewery in Belgium (Westmalle) did not start operation until 10 December 1836, almost 50 years after the Revolution. That beer was exclusively for the monks and is described as “dark and sweet.” The first recorded sale of beer (a brown beer) was on 1 June 1861.

Roald Smeets