Denmark – all about the øl

Beer, Denmark, EU

Name of beers: Sur Amarillo; Dangerously Close to Stupid; Black Maria; Insane in the Grain

Beer descriptions: 7.5% Imperial Pale Ale; 9.3% Double IPA; 8.1% Black Ale; 7.5% IPA

Danish word for beer: øl

Date joined the EU: 1973

Have I visited? Yes

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The country

So the first wave of EU enlargement is upon us. The six became nine on 1 January 1973. One of the three newbies was Denmark, the first Scandinavian nation to join the EU.

Denmark is very close to my heart. It is the home country of one of my closest friends and hence I am a regular visitor to Copenhagen, a city that really nails the concept of quality of life. I feel it is the capital city I know best after the two I’ve lived in, London and Brussels.

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Apart from Copenhagen, I’ve not visited a great deal of Denmark. I did see a lot of the country during a wonderful train journey on the night train from Cologne to Copenhagen, a route that sadly no longer exists. The train crossed the border into Denmark at Padborg, weaving up the peninsula of Jutland before crossing the Little Belt Bridge onto the island of Funen and finally travelling across the Great Belt Bridge to Zealand. This is Denmark’s largest island where Copenhagen can be found. A really memorable journey and a great introduction to the country.

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The wonderful route of the night train to Copenhagen. Sadly no more!

The Parliament

Put simply, I love the Danish Parliament. I am a Borgen super-fan, but this aside, I was always going to be an enthusiast of any Parliament whose name literally means “the people’s thing”. The Folketinget is a unicameral Parliament with 179 Members – 175 from Denmark, 2 from Greenland and 2 from the Faroe Islands.

To my great excitement, I got to visit the Folketinget earlier this year on a work trip. I was practically beside myself when my lovely Danish Parliament colleague offered to give me an impromptu tour of the chamber. The tour ended with me sitting in the Prime Minister’s chair for a snap (see below). I couldn’t decide whether I was pretending to be Birgitte Nyborg or Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the then-Prime Minister. Let’s be honest, it was almost certainly the former.

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The beer

Confession: this was the first beer tasting where we got really quite drunk. Gareth and I had the bright idea of trying all four of my Danish beer gifts at once, perhaps not fully taking into account the strengths of said beers. I blame the Danish Parliament.

All the beers came from To Øl, a craft brewery founded in 2010 by two students of the successful Mikkeller brewery. Their philosophy is “to make potent beers, packed with flavour and character”. Based on the four we tasted, they’ve definitely succeeded on this front. Particularly on the old potency.

The first we tried was the Sur Amarillo 7.5% pale ale. Cloudy orange in colour with a pale head, this beer smelt ridiculously floral. The taste was quite a surprise to both of us – mega sour, almost like a gueze. I wasn’t the hugest fan as sour beers aren’t my favourite, so I left this one for Gareth to drink and moved onto the stronger stuff.

We perhaps should have realised the force of the second beer from the name, if not the ABV. Dangerously Close to Stupid is a 9.3% Double IPA. And it turns out I am dangerously keen on it. This beer is literally packed with hops. Both the smell and the taste are pure hoppy delight. It was sweet and slightly fruity on the tongue, but also with a bitter edge due to the high alcohol content. The alcohol did cut through the flavour a little, but it didn’t have that unpleasant burn sensation that some very strong beers have.

A change of scene with the third beer. Black Maria is a black ale with a mere 8.1% ABV. True to its name, it is pitch black in colour, with a creamy, sticky head. Gareth described the appearance as “gorgeous and velvety” (he gets effusive after a few, it seems). A very pleasant toasty smell was followed by an exquisitely smooth taste of malty grains with a sweet and citrusy background. We both enjoyed this one immensely.

Last but by no means least, our final Danish delight was Insane in the Grain, a 7.5% IPA. This was a pretty classic IPA, with a dark orange colour, a dry hoppy smell and a crisp rye flavour. Gareth declared that it was a ‘Ronseal beer’ – it does exactly what it says on the tin.

Four beers on, we were very content and suitably quenched. And pretty sloshed, quite frankly. Well done, Denmark. You took us to a whole new level of beer tasting that none of the founding members managed to. If that’s not an argument in favour of EU enlargement, I don’t know what is. Skål!

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