Back To Norway For Another Fine Ale: Haandbryggeriet Nissefar
Two-thousand-seventeen marks a time to expand your international-ale knowledge, and Norwegian brew is certainly some suds to consider. Straight from Flåm, Norway, Aegir Bryggeri’s Julebrygg and Grimstad’s Nogne Ø brewery’s Winter Ale are just a couple of craft beers worthy of your internal tap works. Add some Norwegian knowledge of Drammen’s Haandbryggeriet, and you’ll be known as the class act of artisan ales.
Both Nogne Ø and Aegir Bryggeri could be considered trail-blazing breweries of their country, but Haandbryggeriet is the one to make it all a triple threat, as it’s expediting the Norwegian-ale world.
Like many craft-beer crews, the “Hand” Brewery (HOND-brig-gair-EE-eh) was founded by a group of friends. Their inception was 2005 in Drammen—a destination that’s also the domain for Aass brewery (one of Norway’s oldest brewers).
Haandbryggeriet’s well known for their extreme experimentation while keeping to the old-school crafts of smoking malt over beechwood fires and spicing their suds with juniper berries. Their workings are so wild they’ve expanded three times.
When sucking down this craft nectar, note the Nissefar seems to be named after Father Christmas—at least the label suggests as such. Pair this pour with De Ranke Père Nöel, as both bottle stickers have white-bearded characters on them. However, the Nissefar label’s looks more like a Christmas gnome—read the legend on the back:
“The ‘nisse’ is a traditional figure in Norwegian lore—a barn gnome who was never seen but was known to get quite ticked off and play nasty tricks when a farmer forgot to leave a bowl of beer out for him at Christmas. In the old days, farmers were required to be brewers, and they would all compete to brew the best Christmas beer in the region.”
It’s safe to say this hearty full-bodied foam is one of Norway’s finest. It’s also somewhat mysterious how Norwegians jam all this elegance into seven-percent ABV brews. Like the Julebrygg, the Nissefar has a heady nose and a powerful palate of flavors. Notice the color is a dark-cola brown with a correlating, tan head.
And if the beer’s given a bit to breathe—even let it warm—you’ll taste a tinge of all the dark fruits in this foam (plums, raisins and dates). There’s also a thread of molasses in this mash, a lick of licorice and some alcoholic heat. While it’s unclear on whether or not Nissefar’s actually seasoned, the palate is sweet and spicy. Notes of chocolate and cinnamon sing in the swishing of this suds. This mouth-watering musical opens creamy with a dry denouement.
Take your time with this one, as the 16.9 oz. experience will avail even more when it really warms up—smokiness to the nose and a little peaty on the palate. It’s truly an evolutionary ale. At first look, the label might misgive mischief, but the brewery ethos would expect a rustic approach. Overall, it’s an elegant encounter, which would work in a barn but bode well at an evening ball too.
Brewer: Haandbryggeriet, Drammen, Norway
Style: “Norwegian Holiday Ale”
Availability: seasonally. Imported by Shelton Brothers Inc., which distributes to 27 states and Washington D.C. Check their “Locate Our Products” list to see if the beer might be near you.