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Sensational sour beers

Founded in 2002 by home-brewers Kjetil Jikiun and Gunnar Wiig in Grimstad, Norway, the Nøgne Ø brewery has established itself as a cornerstone of the craft beer movement, as Trygve Instefjord, an independent food writer based in Norway, explains.

Named after the old Norse term for “naked island” symbolising uncharted territory, Nøgne Ø embodies an adventurous spirit in brewing.

Known for their dedication to taste, quality, and innovation, the brewery has consistently ranked among the world’s top 100 breweries on, earning numerous prizes both domestically and internationally.

With a diverse range of beers, including a notable selection of sour brews, and an extensive barrel-aging program, Nøgne Ø continues to push the boundaries of traditional and experimental brewing techniques, solidifying their reputation as pioneers in the craft beer industry.

Their extensive barrel-aging program includes 240 oak barrels previously used for various wines and spirits, maturing beers from wild ales to Imperial Stouts for periods ranging from several months to years.

The sour beers produced by Nøgne Ø are a testament to their dedication to traditional brewing techniques combined with modern ingenuity.

They often begin with spontaneous fermentation, a process where the wort is exposed to the open air (coolships), allowing natural yeast and bacteria to initiate fermentation.

This imparts a unique character to each batch, as the local microflora play a significant role in developing the beer’s flavours. They use various yeast cultures, including brettanomyces, known for its ability to produce funky, earthy and fruity notes.

The process imparts a deep, fruity complexity balanced by a characteristic tartness; the beers are aged in different oak barrels and the choice of barrel significantly influences the final beer, as the wood imparts flavours from its previous contents.

Another critical step in producing wild ales at Nøgne Ø is blending beer of different ages from various barrels, to achieve a balanced and harmonious final product. These meticulous processes highlight Nøgne Ø’s commitment to producing authentic and innovative sour beers.

Tasting Notes: Wegelage and Mirage 4

Wegelage (Kriek reserve): Wegelage is brewed using local water, Norwegian barley, raw wheat and oat, sweet cherries from Fredriksdal (Denmark) and wild yeast. For two years it slowly fermented until they added cherries and continued the fermentation a further year. It presents a vibrant ruby-red hue with a pink, frothy head.

The aroma is an inviting mix of tart cherries, almond, and subtle oak notes. Upon tasting, the initial sourness is tempered by a juicy cherry sweetness, creating a balanced yet complex profile. The Brettanomyces yeast imparts a funky undertone, while the oak aging adds depth and a hint of vanilla.

The finish is dry and crisp, with lingering tart cherry flavors that invite another sip. Wegelage is a refreshing yet sophisticated beer, perfect for both sour beer enthusiasts and those new to the style. It’s a strong beer at 11,5 abv, which makes the beer heavier, and the cherries do hide the warmth quite nicely. The bitterness is low (15 ibu). You can nicely pair it with bold cheeses and various desserts, and it’s also perfect on its own.

Mirage 4 (ale reserve): Mirage 4 is brewed using local water, wild yeast, Norwegian barley malt, raw wheat and oat. It’s a blend that showcases the art of Lambic brewing. Pouring a hazy golden color with a lively carbonation, it exudes aromas of fruites, citrus, and earthy barnyard funk.

The first sip reveals a bright acidity and a complex taste, bursting of cloudberries, citrus, sour apricot, grapes, grass, umami and balsamico. It’s all balanced by a subtle sweetness and a complex, musty depth from the wild fermentation.

The oak barrel aging imparts a soft, woody character and a smooth mouthfeel. The finish is dry and tart, with a delicate, lingering bitterness that leaves the palate refreshed.

Mirage 4 is a masterful example of the Lambic-Gueuze style, offering a harmonious blend of flavors that evolve with each sip. At 9% ABV this beer is heavier and bolder; the Ibu is 15 and therefore there’s not much hoppiness, except for a slight bitterness in the back providing balance. Pair this with bold cheeses, venison and fish.

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