No Corporate Beer: Nøgne Ø Barleywine

Beer: #100
Brewery: Nøgne Ø (Grimstad, Norway)
Style: Barleywine
10% ABV / 80 IBU

Nine years ago, I met up with Dave Witte to interview him in Oslo – the day before a highly memorable Municipal Waste performance where the band torched a cardboard replica of a Norwegian church onstage. In classic form, Witte researched where he could get his hands on this Norwegian brewery’s beers and picked that bar as an interview spot. The tapes are lost to the ages, but I have fond memories of getting pleasantly wrecked with him over half a dozen Nøgne Ø bottles. Phil “Landphil” Hall commented that he’d never seen his bandmate that stinking drunk, but that was nine years and nine years of opportunities ago, you know?

Anyway, I learned three important lessons from Herr Witte that day:

  1. If you’re serious about craft beer, you should make an effort to seek out the local offerings when you travel. Globalization has increased access to all kinds of niche brews, but you will still be able to try things overseas that you would never be able to experience in your home country;
  2. Don’t get hammered. But if you’re going to get hammered, do it with good beer; and
  3. If you see anything from Nøgne Ø, get it immediately. There are no bad Nøgne Ø beers, and most of them are fantastic, and, moreover, a fantastic value for the price.

Nøgne Ø has been brewing #100 consistently since 2004. What was initially developed in-house as a brewer experiment was prepped for commercial release shortly thereafter and has stayed in production ever since. #100 was Nøgne Ø’s 100th release, in only its 2nd year of existence; the brewery has created about 50 beers per year, every year, since its inception. Beg, borrow, or steal to get your hands on their wares, but if you can choose (or afford) only one, #100 is the exemplar of Nøgne Ø’s modest, but pitch-perfect approach.

#100 is a hopped American-style barleywine, which is marketed as an Imperial IPA outside of the U.S. Functionally the styles are the same – it boils down to the difference between french fries and “freedom fries,” and we can certainly understand why our European brethren would want to dissociate themselves right now. It pours with a beautiful opaque brown color and has a really nice malt taste. Also, I typically don’t give a shit at all about lacing, but when I poured this into a tall glass, the residue of the foam left on the side looked exactly like the Darkthrone logo. This from a brewery that named themselves after a Henrik Ibsen poem. Like, could it get any more Norwegian than that?