Bergen Whisky & Beer 2017 - The Tasting Room
The Tasting Room (Photo: Whisky Saga)

I recently attended the Bergen Whisky & Beer Festival 2017; Feb 9-11. This was the third year for the festival, which is hosted by the enthusiastic Frode Harring from The Tasting Room. The venue was the same as the previous two years, the Scandic Bergen City hotel.

The first year was charming, and sort of a first date. Even though Frode had been in charge of the Whisky Meet Festival for several years before this, the Bergen Whisky & Beer Festival was his own thing. So the first year was great fun, but the festival hadn’t really found its form. It was a bit odd, being the first big whisky AND beer festival in Norway.

The second year was still great for visitors, but for the exhibitors – in particular the ones serving whisky – I suspect it was a bit of a let down. There was not really any cross-over between whisky and beer. This was, in part, compounded by the fact that you had to pay extra to have both a whisky sampling glass and a beer sampling glass, and you had to buy two separate types of tokens for whisky and beer.

This year Frode had to turn it around and prove that there can be happy cross-over and co-existence between whisky and beer. He fixed the two major problems; everyone got both glasses upon entry and the same tokens could be used for both whisky and beer. And it worked! I know, because I was working a whisky stand for one of the importers most of the festival. We experienced a lot of beer enthusiasts coming over, being curious about whisky and actually taking a chance. Many were positively surprised and a new path of wondrous discovery was possibly opened up for them. Happy times!

Bergen Whisky & Beer 2017 - Hanyu 15 YO
Magic in a glass – the latest and last Hanyu (Photo: Whisky Saga)

I also hosted a masterclass at this festival, a Scotch Malt Whisky Society tasting. I am happy to report it was sold out and 34 eager attendees dived deep into five very potent drams from the SMWS. I was having such fun myself hosting this masterclass that I completely forgot to take any pictures – at all. Not a single bottle picture even. So if you were there, and have pictures, please share 🙂

In between the work I got a chance to sample a few select drams myself. Most notably the Amrut 12 YO Greedy Angels (see review). Another amazing discovery was the Hanyu 15 YO Ichiro’s Malt – The Final Vintage of Hanyu (review coming shortly).

There was also beer, wonderful beer. I have a new brewery on my favourites list; Italian brewery Birra Toccalmatto S.r,l. Wow! Amazing brews! The single best beer I had, though, was a beer from Nøgne Ø – Nødingen! Still not released, but it is just around the corner. Watch out for it.

Bergen Whisky & Beer 2017 - Nødingen
My favourite beer of the festival – Nødingen from Nøgne Ø (Photo: Whisky Saga)

After the festival I asked Frode for quick summary, and here’s what he had to say:

About 4000 attendees over two days is something we are very happy with. The only area where we somehow missed was with the masterclasses. We will cut down on the number of masterclasses next year, and rather focus more on interesting themes and presenters.

In fact, your SMWS tasting and the Cadenhead tasting I hosted myself were the only two that sold out. I would like to bring those two themes back next year. next year we may go for just the kick-off tasting and then three masterclasses on Friday and three on Saturday. This year we had 16 masterclasses plus the kick-off, and it was just too much, I think.

The mix of exhibitors and how we mixed whisky and beer seemed to work well this year. The atmosphere was good, and people seemed to enjoy themselves. The ones I spoke to were very happy.

To me it is important that the exhibitors are happy. When they feel good, the audience will feel good as well. This year we managed in that respect, I feel.

A positive twist this time was the mini tastings that they had at the Prizelius stand. This seemed to be popular and work well.

There were a few new exhibitors this year, and perhaps the most interesting to me was the new Norwegian Distillery OSS. I will of course have to visit them soon, an provide a full report to you all. Stay tuned for that!

Bergen Whisky & Beer - OSS Distillery
The OSS Distillery stand (Photo: Whisky Saga)

Other new exhibitors were En Liten Øl, Aberfeldy (Bacardi Norge), Birra Toccalmatto, Grim & Gryt, the Federation of Norwegian Whisky Societies and Bergenhus Bryggeri.

And here are the winners of the festival prizes. First the beers:

  • 7 Fjell – best IPA
  • 7 Fjell – best weiss/witt
  • Kinn – best beer in festival
  • Toccalmatto – best sour
  • Brooklyn – best porter/stout
  • Gotland Bryggeri – best Scandinavian beer
  • ELØ (En Liten Øl) – best Norwegian beer

Then the drams:

  • Lagavulin 8 YO – best Scotch 12 YO or younger (see review)
  • Aberfeldy 16 YO – best Scotch over 12 YO
  • Nikka From the Barrel – best non-Scotch (see review)
  • Laphroaig Lore – best NAS (see review)
  • Glengoyne 25 YO – best whisky in festival (see review)

Last but not least, it was great to see so many friends and friendly faces. And there were wonderful after parties, but you won’t get any details from them…

See ya next year, Bergen!

Sláinte!
– Thomas

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