Beer Wednesday: Norwegian Wood by Haandbryggeriet and Morke Pumpernickel Porter by Beer Here

Scandinavian beer reviewin' time! The inimitable Wally's Wine (& beer) in West LA stocked these beers recently, so I had the chance to try them. Norweigan Wood is by Haandbryggeriet (Hand Brewery, I'm told) in Norway, and the Morke Pumpernickel Porter is by Beer Here located in Copenhagen, Denmark (or maybe in Norway... different sites have conflicting info). I've never had a Scandinavian beer before that I can remember, but these two are a great place to start. First up - Norwegian Wood. And yes, I chuckle every time I say the name.

Norwegian Wood is billed as a smoked ale brewed in the traditional Norwegian style. It is also brewed with juniper twigs and berries apparently. It was much lighter than I expected in color, body, and flavor. The Norwegian Wood has a ton of complexity however, with a subtle (not at all heavy) and really pleasant smoked flavor acting as a backbone for delicious spice flavors and a slight berry taste. I don't know what juniper berries taste like, but this is like a fresh-tasting blackberry jam that very quietly sneaks up on the palate.

I think this is a fantastic and complex beer. The reviews at Beer Advocate aren't as positive as me; the reviews at ratebeer, Michigan Beer Buzz, and For the Love of Beer are. Norwegian Wood by Haandbryggeriet is 6.5% ABV and cost $9.29 for a 500mL bottle. I highly recommend it to everyone who likes beer.

The Morke Pumpernickel Porter also rocks some nuanced flavors, though not quite as complex or unique as the Norwegian wood. It's a dark, heavy-looking beer that is basically pitch black. However, its body is not super heavy; it's more like a medium-to-heavy bodied porter. Morke has a straightforward caramel component that gets layered with the expected pumpernickel flavor. It transitions into really nice cinnamon and spice flavors as you finish.

Morke is velvety smooth on the palate, and I really dig the overall flavors. It's not groundbreaking but it's delicious. It is very well reviewed at both Beer Advocate and ratebeer, as well as by Mark at Must Love Beer and Craig at beers beers beers. Morke Pumpernickel Porter by Beer Here is 7.5% ABV and it cost $9.29 for a 500mL bottle. I recommend it to all beer aficionados.

After this sampling of Scandinavian beers, I am pumped to try some more from the region. I also see that Rogue Ales does a John John Juniper Ale, so I'll have to try that and compare it to the juniper notes in Norwegian Wood.


  1. By the way, I also recommend anyone who's interested in brewing read the brewery's explanation of how they brew the beer. They make it according to a traditional Norwegian beer style and brewing process apparently.

  2. You lost me nine words into the title...

  3. And I'm back...Royce how would you compare the Morke Pumpernickel Porter to Guinness? I guess I'm curious how different European beers compare to our tastes (and yes, I understand Guinness is European). How does the Pumpernickel Porter compare to Stella Artois vs. a Bud Light or something?

  4. That is a fantastic question. Tough to answer though. You can taste the extra alcohol, with 6.5% for Morke and 5% for Guinness in the US (and like 4.2% in Europe I think?). But after that, Morke has a similar body weight as Guinness... it's really dark but not overly heavy. There is also a similar smoothness to the two beers which I really enjoy. Morke is slightly syrupy and sweet, much more so than a Guinness. You also taste the warm, spicy, cinnamon flavors which come through in the Morke; those flavors and the slight sweetness set it apart more than anything.

    As far as a Stella or a Bud Light, I assume you mean in terms of American palates vs. European palates? Because it's so dark and smooth and flavorful that there is no comparison to a Stella or Bud Light in terms of its taste profile.

    To answer the question I think you're asking - there is more subtlety to the style and flavor of the Morke, and I think most European beers in general. Where as American beers are stereotypically bold and big and not-so-subtle. The Morke is subtle and nuanced but more flavorful and unique than a Guinness; it is nowhere near as crazy and over-the-top with its flavors as the Avery Seventeen or the Ballast Point Victory at Sea, for example.

  5. I feel like I'm over-hyping the Morke a little bit. It is not a face-melting (as Gary V would say), life-changing beer by any means. But it's very unique and I thought it was interesting, and therefore I recommend it.

    I think the Norwegian Wood was borderline face-melting.

  6. These look really interesting. Wish they were available here in Houston!

  7. Hey Chris! Yeah I hope you are able to find and try them, they're good. Especially the Norwegian Wood, it's fascinating.

    It's tough with foreign beers because who knows how importers negotiate their buys. I got mine from the aforementioned Wally's, and that's a very small boutique specialty wine/beer shop. Maybe a similar high-end shop near you can keep an eye for Hand Brewing and Beer Here over in Scandinavia?

  8. How funny, I was just talking to someone who was absolutely shocked that I had never tried a Scandinavian beer. I was just at Wally's this week, begging for more El Camino (un)Real, so I wish I had read this first!

  9. I'm gonna get another bottle so when you're around next we can crack it open.