Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Perfect Pair: Nøgne Ø Beer

By Hannah Mellman

I recently had the luck to attend a beer tasting and food pairing at the home of the Norwegian Ambassador to the United States.  Although I initially thought beer and Norway to be an odd couple, this event certainly changed my mind. 

Arriving at the Embassy, I was pleasantly greeted by Ambassador Wegger Chr. Strommen and his wife, Cecile Strommen.  They welcomed me into a lavish room with tables that were covered with perfectly aligned rows of gorgeous amuse bouche made by Embassy Chef Sondre Bruvik Ellingstad.  They were literally too pretty to eat.  Guests gawked at the little plates for a good 10 minutes before precariously starting to sample and sip. 

There were 5 dishes in all, and each was paired with one of the featured Nøgne Ø beers.  Highlights for me included a slice of beet that was topped with a chevre cream and chives, paired with the Tiger Tripel, a Belgian-style tripel ale that is slightly sweet to balance the cheese and not to hoppy.   

A slice of beef tenderloin with a sweet carrot puree that was served in one leaf of a brussel sprout was also delicious.  It was paired with the Nøgne Pale Ale, one of my favorite beers of the evening.  This is a great go-to beer that isn’t too heavy but still full of flavor.   

Finally, and because I’m a dessert person, I loved the bite-sized panna cotta that was served with a strawberry gelée and the hearty Porter.  I was not expecting to like this combination, but it surprised me.  The Porter is dark and has a rich, coffee flavor; a nice balance to the light and sweet panna cotta. 
Nøgne Ø was co-founded by head brewer Kjetil Jikiun, a former airline pilot who fell in love with American craft beer and craft beer culture during his layovers in the States.  He said he was never without a six-pack from his last destination.  After that, Jikiun began to brew his own beer back in Norway and, slowly, Nøgne Ø was born.  A departure from the standard Norwegian lagers, it took awhile for the Norwegians to accept his unconventional and innovative beers.  But eventually, they caught on.  Nøgne Ø is now Norway's leading and largest supplier of bottled beer, and the company is gaining notoriety for its impressive products all around the world.

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