Ægir Brewery and Flåmsbrygga Hotel, Flåm, Norway
Boks 44, Flåm
If you’re looking for an untraditional European beer trip, sojourn north almost to the Arctic Circle. Far from cosmopolitan Oslo, tucked into the Sognefjord, Norway’s largest fjord, visitors to Flåm are greeted with snowy mountains, majestic waterfalls and craggy valleys to explore by foot or boat. A highlight is taking a fast-boat into the Nærøyfjord, the narrowest fjord in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage site. With tourism on the rise, Norwegian Aud Melås and Yankee Evan Lewis, who got married after meeting in one of the first American brewpubs, helped build one of Norway’s first brewpubs in 2007. A year after Ægir launched, the Flåmsbrygga Hotel opened as well, where rooms begin at roughly $175 per night.
Norway is rapidly becoming northern Europe’s craft-brewing hotspot thanks to the likes of Nøgne Ø and Ægir’s new production facility near the pub went online this April. Visiting other Norwegian breweries would take a bit of driving, says Lewis. So tours of Ægir are readily arranged and the design of the pub, based on the union of Old Norse and local tradition with lots of wood paneling, is visually striking, beginning with the massive fireplace serving as an inviting centerpiece.
Becauset Lewis learned to brew in America, don’t look for anything like a traditional Norwegian Farmhouse ale. The beers—served in tuliped German wheat glasses—range from Harvest Ale, akin to an American Pale Ale to Tors Hammer barleywine. Visit during the winter and you can compare and contrast two different Christmas beers. Lewis says that one is a mild, 4.7 percent alcohol while the other, at 7 percent, is a big pungent Belgian-inspired brew that sells at the state-monopoly liquor stores. “In Norway, nothing over 4.7 percent can be sold in a grocery store,” he says. The kitchen staff marinates the shrimp in the Harvest Ale, braises the lamb shank in the porter, and Lewis pairs blue cheese with local honey and the barleywine, a personal favorite.