Einstök Ölgerð - Icelandic Pale Ale
- ABV: 5.6%
- Serving Temperature: 45-50° F
- Suggested Glassware: Pint Glass or Mug
Amber-copper on the pour, this “Icelandic” pale ale is brewed with a combination of Cascade, perhaps the most quintessentially American hop, and Northern Brewer and Hallertau, which add a more English and Central European vibe. It’s an interesting mix that’s not trying to be an American-style pale ale, nor an English-style pale ale, nor a European-style pale ale or lager, but something reminiscent of them all yet unique unto itself. On the nose, look for softly floral and citric notes joined by an earthy, minerally edge and underpinned with lightly caramelized malts. In the flavor department, pale and light caramel malts form the core, while hops contribute a profile well-balanced among those floral & citric Cascade notes and earthy, woody, and herbal tones mildly reminiscent of mint. Some of us picked up wisps of apple, as well. It’s a food friendly beer, and Einstök recommends pairing with everything from burgers and steaks to pasta, pizza, chili, and hearty vegetable dishes. Skál!
Winemakers often speak about terroir, the characteristics of a vineyard's microclimate, soil characteristics, etc. which contribute qualities to the finished wine reflecting the region from which it is produced. There are parallels in the world of beer, perhaps most famously with the wild yeasts of Belgium which produce spontaneously fermented lambics which are unlike anything produced elsewhere. And, certain noble landrace hop varietals can find their archetypical flavors altered or muted when grown outside the region from which they arose. But, one often overlooked, yet critical, component of beer is in some ways more reflective of terroir than any other ingredient—water. The mineral-richness of Burton-on-Trent's hard water makes an indelible mark on many a famous British ale, while the softness of the waters of central Europe, notably those near Pilsen in the Czech Republic, has led to the distinctly different styles of beer that hail from that region. Water is, after all, the main component of beer, and it is with water that the story of Einstök begins.
The town of Akureyri lies at the innermost reach of Iceland's longest fjord, Eyjafjörður, which cuts south from the Greenland Sea 37 miles into the mountainous northern region of the island. Just 60 miles south of the Arctic Circle and covered by clouds almost constantly, this important fishing port boasts a population of fewer than 18,000, yet it forms the sparsely populated country's second largest urban zone. Rain from ocean storms, melting snow, and glacial runoff tumbles down Hliðarfjall and the surrounding mountains and across ancient lava beds that naturally filter and purify the water, which is unquestionably among the most naturally clean in the world.
In 2006, three entrepreneurs, Bernard LaBorie, David Altshuler, and Jack Sichterman were planning a brand of high-end bottled water, and after an exhaustive search for the world's best source, they had Iceland at the top of their list. But then a funny thing happened. While visiting Akureyri, they stumbled upon the Viking Brewery, where they make expert use of the incredibly pure but mineral-rich water that blesses the area. Plans quickly changed to partnering with the brewery and helping them build a new craft beer brand, Einstök, which came to life in 2011. What better way to share Iceland's amazing water with the world?
At the helm of Einstök (which translates as "unique") is brewmaster Baldur Karason. Born in a small town called Siglufjörður, Baldur left for Scotland in 1993 to enroll in the famous brewing school at Edinburgh's Heriot Watt University. Upon completion, he returned to Iceland, where he became brewmaster at Akureyri's Viking Brewery, a rather high-tech facility that now serves as the home for the Einstök brand. When one considers that beer was banned in Iceland from 1915-1989, it's remarkable how far both Baldur (who came into the world during this very dark and seriously un-Viking-like time in Icelandic history) and the nation itself have come. With a Belgian-inspired white ale, a porter, a doppelbock, and a pale ale, Einstök is blazing a trail in their native country, representing the front line of craft beer culture in Iceland, while offering thirsty beer-lovers here in America and several European countries some very well-crafted, tasty beers. Here's to their continued success advancing the cause of better beer both at home and abroad. We look forward to seeing what they do next. For more info, check out their website at www.einstokbeer.com. Skál!
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