NOGNEO WEB

Today’s entry is pretty much the trifecta of metal-head excitement. A pumpkin ale from Norway offers all the dramatic promise of epic Norse battles, Halloween, and, naturally, BEER! It’s also a bit of a cultural milestone to be proud of for those of us stateside. Long (and for the most part, rightfully) have we suffered the slurs of our European counterparts of weak beer. But the tides are turning as craft brewer’s are on the rise, and we have the distinction of now having a few European brewers taking notes on what we are brewing as well.

That’s not to take the wind out of the sails of a brewery like Nøgne-Ø however. Head Brewer Kjetil Jikiun would look familiar to anyone preaching the craft beer gospel: the bearded hearty figure that’s half Viking raider, half mad scientist. And we’re certain that his mission is more than sympathetic with our own. Sporting the subtitle of “The Uncompromising Brewery”, Nøgne-Ø is in a battle against a Norwegian market more than 98% dominated by light, filtered, pasteurized lagers. They are major leaders of the Real Ale revolution taking place, and are the largest supplier of bottled conditioned ale in Norway. Fortunately for us, a few bottle find themselves across the Atlantic, and if you’ve ever had their Imperial Stout, you’ll know why we are grateful. So keep an eye on your shelves for anything from this brewery, and in the meantime, let’s get to sizing up this seasonal offering.

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Name:  Nøgne-Ø Pumpkin Ale

Place of Origin / Brewer: Grimstad, Norway / Nøgne-Ø

Beer style / ABV%:  Pumpkin Ale / 6.5%

Specialty Prep / Individuality:  This live ale is brewed with dried pumpkin, wheat, oats, rye, and barley malt. It also features English ale yeast as well as Columbus and Summit hops. In our correspondence with Kjetil, he told us that this ale was unspiced, and that his vision was to was to generate the illusion of a spicy beer through his choice of hops, grains, and his brewing process.

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Packaging:

Nøgne-Ø beers all have that very stark minimalist design that Scandinavians have such a fondness for.  The trademark “Zero” allows for some pumpkins to peek through the darkness and hint at the contents within.  But, hands down the best part of the label is the Head Brewer using the side of the bottle to tell you what a pain in the ass it was to make this beer!  So…you better like it. – Tim

Slick and modern branding at its best here. Nøgne-Ø has created an iconic identity for their bottles featuring stark labels and their trademark “slashed O”. This variant features bright orange pumpkins peeking through the logo against a pitch black field, leaving an intrinsic feel of “Halloween at Ikea”. (Yes, I am aware they are Swedish and not Norwegian). Though it may be overtly subtle to some, I appreciate the simplicity and cleanliness of the look. And if you pass it over on the shelf, all the better for me. – Mike

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Color:  8

A limpid pool of burnt sienna – just astonishing clarity. Sparkling smatters of aurulent and sanguine hues bounce around the glass every which way the light pierces, and sumptuous filigree spider webs spin down the glass with every sip. This is truly the prettiest beer I have ever seen and a shining example of style. – Mike

Fairly dark with a medium to full bodied appearance, it sustains a deep magenta and crimson glow throughout. Little to almost no head there’s just a few bubbles floating atop a toasted burnt caramel body. – Rick

M- 10 / T- 7 / B- 8.5 / R- 6.5

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Aroma:  6.5

The floral hops are what hit my nose first, followed closely by an earthy vegetal pumpkin and finished with somewhat caramel malt smoothness with a punctuation of spicy rye and hay. – Brittney

Even though this beer is from Norway, it’s aroma is deceptively classic American ale. A nice bouquet of hops and a sweet malty backbone flesh out this brew. – Rick

M- 5.5 / T- 7 / B- 7 / R- 5.5

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Mouth feel:  7.5

Medium bodied and smooth, with a touch of carbonation on the center of the tongue, the ale has a lush and velvety character. – Tim

There is a nice bite here from the rye. The pumpkin smoothes out the body to medium-full, and the carbonation provides a noticeable bit more activity than first glance would suggest. – Brittney

M- 7.5 / T- 7 / B- 8 / R- 6.5

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Tasting notes:  7.5

Malty caramel notes join roasted squash and buttery brown sugar body, spicy bitter hops, and lots of bread crust. While this is clearly unspiced, it’s a very unique take on a seasonal ale. It’s crisp, very clean, and sessionable beyond belief. It you’re one of those guys who pooh-poohs pumpkin beer or hates spiced ales, give this one a go. If you don’t like it, then you just don’t like beer. – Mike

The more pumpkin ale I consume, the more I am struck by how few examples serve first and foremost as a well constructed ale.  Lesser pumpkin ales are often the definition of style over substance, manufactured because it’s what the masses expect, or rather accept.  This is the exception.  Bold and malty with dark roast notes and bitters. There are no spices added to the blend and thus nothing for the pumpkin to compete against.  It’s a true Pumpkin ale–sans the flash. – Tim

There is a great deal of bitterness and floral hops, light pumpkin and no spice. Earthy and vegetal with a touch of smooth caramel at the finish. This is a good beer, if slightly on the bitter end of the spectrum. I wish we could get just a touch more of the earthy pumpkin flavor forward. – Brittney

There is a nice natural pumpkin flavor present, but what really elevates this brew for me is the unique mélange of hops in play. Great floral qualities are brought to the forefront by the balance of multiple hops all without overly bittering the brew. – Rick

M- 7.5 / T- 8 / B- 7.5 / R- 7

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Finish:  7

There is a huuuuggggeeee bready finish on this otherwise earthy and crisply biting ale. A bit of grassy, spicy hop pungency sticks around in the mouth for, well, pretty much ever. – Mike

Tons of floral hoppiness on the long finish, bitter, but bright with a touch of lemon and more vegetal aspects of the gourd. – Tim

M- 8 / T- 6.5 / B- 7 / R- 6.5

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Flavor balance:  7

         Pumpkin to Spice balance: 5.5

Although there is no spicing, I think the pumpkin is still underplayed. There is a lot going on with the hop and malt combinations, which makes this a great homage to American ales, but somewhat buries the pumpkin aspects. – Rick

There is no traditional pumpkin spice, but the pumpkin is slightly overshadowed by the host of other things going on with this beer. – Brittney

M- 6.5 / T- 6 / B- 6 / R- 3.5

         Sweet / Dry balance: 7

There is a touch of sweetness in the body, but ultimately this is an ale with a dry and hoppy profile that finishes long and floral. It works for the style but may be off-putting for fans of more dessert-esque pumpkin products. – Tim

This is a nice dry amber ale pushing into that hoppy red territory. Hops and rye bit abound, keeping this primarily dry with touches of caramel sweetness along for the ride. – Brittney

M- 7.5 / T- 6 / B- 7 / R- 8

         Multiple Drinkability?  8

It’s a nice take on the pumpkin ale, and I’m very impressed with the handling and balance of hops and malt. It’s very impressive and just the right brew for those looking for light pumpkin flavor on the build of great American styled ale. – Rick

You can session this all day. It’s crispy, fairly light, and still screams fall. I imagine this is what pumpkin ale started out as with our forefathers, before it became the spiced libation we are so familiar with today. It’s exceptionally crafted, never cloying, and just generally gorgeous. Will it baffle a lot of folks seeking spiced ales? Yep. But I hope they stick around to appreciate just how well this little slice of America is made, even if you have to go to Norway to discover it. – Mike

M- 9 / T- 7 / B- 8 / R- 8

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Overall:  7.25

M- 7.67 / T- 7.00 / B- 7.50 / R- 6.42

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