...because you thought Sweden was Switzerland!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Food journal number 52: Carnegie porter

It's been too long without a blog post and my fingers are itching to type something else aside from school papers. It was a very busy May. On the bright side, there was a lot of traveling and free hotel breakfasts in lieu with a course I took while I was out-of-(blogging)-office. My sister Lea was also on a 5-day visit here, but I'll write about that later when she finally sends me the pictures.

Lea? Lea? Are you reading this? Send the pictures!

As usual, there's no better way to break blog silence but to write about food. Or drink. It seems to us that vacationing in Prague and drinking beer to every meal there creates an addiction – or shall we say, appreciation – for beer. A new world of beer opened up for us, where we suddenly weren't limited to drinking Spendrups light beer (light beer being the only beer you can drink and drive with in Sweden, and the only socially acceptable beer to drink in the middle of a workday). This new world of beers also introduced us to a new vocabulary: beers weren't just called pilsners or lagers, but ales, stouts and porters. There were clear beers and murky beers, dark beers and light beers, sweet beers and bitter beers, beers that were spontaneously yeasted, beers that have wheat as part of the ingredient list, beers that almost taste like coffee and go well with chocolate.

... Beers that go well with chocolate? In fact, the label recommends chocolate cake. And the beer would be Carnegie porter, a Swedish-brewed beer with a history.

Hey porter, hey porter! Not with chocolate cake, but with a slice
each of dobos torte (a.k.a. Budapest bakelse)

The history of Carnegie poter begins, according to this beer blog and this Swedish drink consultant, in the 1700s when Scotland was fighting England for freedom. A man called George Carnegie decides to flee to Gothenburg in Sweden, where he set up a trade business. In 1836, his son David inherits a part of the company, buys a beer brewery out of bankrupcy, and cooperated with a friend to create a new brew. It was a hit – probably not least because it could be prescribed by doctors for its "strengthening effects" at a time when all strong beer was banned in Sweden. Coffee was also a rare commodity at the time, and Carnegie porter was said to be a common sight to see in Swedish cafés. It was such a hit that it was even shipped to as far as to Brazil and Cuba. And according to the label – which also hasn't changed since the founding date and is thus Sweden's oldest trademark – they've been using the same recipe from the day they churned the first bottle from the brewery. They have a good reason not to change it, too: in 1992, the 3.5% Carnegie porter was voted the best ale in its class. The 5.5%, which we intend to try next time for comparison, is reported to taste even better – especially with time. The connoisseurs recommend keeping the beer for 10 whole years more to appreciate it at its very best, and the brewers stamp the date on the bottle for the benefit of serious collectors.

If you think keeping beer in cellars is bordering on wine-culture, wait 'til you hear how connoisseurs describe the drink. The website of Systembolaget, the government monopoly on alcohol, describes the smell of the 5.5% Carnegie to be "nuanced, spicy, fruity, with a strong roasted smell with hints of dark chocolate, syrup and coffee". The taste is described to be "harmonic, full of taste, fruity with a definitive roasted flavor and bitterness, with elements of burnt sugar, coffee, and chocolate". Other sites even include descriptions of the beer's color, how to pour to beer to capture the aromas and get a nice foam, and describe aftertastes. Like wine, the descriptions vary slightly from year to year, and depending on how long the reviewers have been keeping the bottles. If you think a career as a wine-taster is too snobby, remember: the beer-taster occupation is still open for you.

Because I'm not such a connoisseur myself, the only thing I can say is: Google for a beer near you that goes well with chocolate cake. It's a whole new beer experience. It's drunk in room temperature, by the way. And it tastes even more refreshing than coffee with cake on a hot day. Since it's dark, foamy, and almost smells like coffee and chocolate, you can even pretend that it's a frapuccino! But really, with a beer that's good with cake, who needs Starbuck's?


Anonymous cheap sweets said...

hi! very well said!

12:30 PM


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