In June 2017 I visited smoky malthouses and breweries of Stjørdal in Norway to experience stjørdalsøl, the traditional farmhouse ale of the region. This is the sequel to article Traditional Farmhouse Malting in Stjørdal that explained homemalting and homebrewing traditions. This story concentrates on commercial malthouses and breweries, Granås Gård and Klostergården, that cherish the tradition.
Stjørdal is a fairly small municipality in the proximity of Trondheim in Norway. Yet, it is a major Nordic farmhouse brewing hub with around fifty traditional malthouses and hundreds of traditional homebrewers. Traditionally made malt dried with alderwood smoke is an essential ingredient of the local farmhouse ale, stjørdalsøl.
This is a tradition of homebrewing, but few maltsters and brewers have made Stjørdal style malts and ales commercially available. Unfortunately, the brews are often produced in small quantities and difficult to obtain outside of Stjørdal or Trondheim. While you might not be able to enjoy these ales, I think you’ll enjoy the photo tour below. If you are travelling in the Nordic or Baltic countries, please check my article Where to Find Commercial Nordic and Baltic Farmhouse Ales?
Morten Granås has made Stjørdal style malt and ale for decades and he began to serve his ale for brewery visitors as soon as law permitted him doing so in 2004. In 2014 the started sell bottled Granås Gård Hegra maltøl from the brewery shop, again after a law alleviation.
Morten has two Stjørdal style malt houses, or såinnhuses, as they are called in Stjørdal. The older and smaller with capacity of 150 kg supplies Morten’s own brewery producing Hegra maltøl for sale. The newer såinnhus with batch size of 500 kg produces malt for sale.
The old såinnhus and brewery of Granås Gård is essentially a typical Stjørdal style home operation, except that happens to sell ale. Morten makes his maltøl in 150 L batches with a wood-fire heated cauldron and plastic barrels for mashing and lautering. He boils the wort for one hour. Morten told that in the early 2000 he used to brew 2000 L per year as there were more visitors, but now he brews annually only around 400 L.
The newer and bigger såinnhus produces Stjørdal style malt for sale. Morten has supplied this malt for example to special seasonal ales of commercial Norwegian breweries.
In the new såinnhus grains laid are dried on a very shallow layer that shortens the drying time to ten hours. Shorter drying makes the malt less smoky and lighter in color, but only by Stjørdal’s standards. I brewed stjørdalsøl with this malt in my homebrewery and the ale came out very smoky, though in Stjørdal I tasted even smokier ales. With 100 % of this malt my ale was pale amber color, as opposed to dark amber to reddish brown typical for stjørdalsøl.
Granås Gård Hegra maltøl is 4.7 % ABV because in Norway only Vinmonopolet (state-owned liquor store chain) can retail beers above 4.75 ABV. Despite the fairly low alcohol content, this ale is not lacking in character or body. The taste is extremely rich with pungent yet oddly balanced flavor of alderwood smoke. A fine example of traditional stjørdalsøl.
Visitors to Granås Gård are advised to call ahead to make sure that the beer is available.
Klostegården resides in a small island of Tautra, 80 km by car from Trondheim and 50 km from the center of Stjørdal. Klostergården combines an inn, restaurant, and brewpub. What is more, the brewery has its own traditional malthouse, såinnhus.
Klostegården Håndbryggeri is craft brewery that produces both modern and traditional ales. The brewmaster Jørn Anderssen wasn’t born into the tradition of stjørdalsøl, but his friend Roar Sandodden has helped him to brew stjørdalsøl and built a magnificent såinnhus (Roar’s såinnhus is described Traditional Farmhouse Malting in Stjørdal).
While I was visiting the brewpub, there were five house ales on tap and several on bottles. Two beers, Alstadberger and Såinn, were brewed in the traditional Stjørdal style.
Klostergården Alstadberger (6.5 % ABV) is a dark reddish brown ale brewed with 52 % of Stjørdal’s malt. It is based on Roar’s Christmas ale recipe and the name refers to Roar’s såinnhus Alstadberg which has been providing the smoked malt so far. The flavour is centered around oily alderwood smoke and firm maltiness with a background note of caramel. This is slightly less smoky than stjørdalsøls on average and there’s no juniper, but still this is a fine showcase of Stjørdal’s malt. Alstadberger is sold in some Vinmonopolet stores and bars in Norway, and it has been distributed by B United to the USA. In 2018 has been on the shelves of selected Systembolaget stores in Sweden.
Klostergården Såinn (8.5 % ABV) is made from 100 % from Klostergården’s own malt, juniper branches, hops and fermented with Norwegian farmhouse yeast, kveik. This was the first batch of this ale made from the first batch Klostergården’s own malt. Jørn and Roar brewed this with the traditional farmhouse technique, drawing wort from the lauter tun, heating it up, and pouring it back to the mash. Jørn said that the brew day was extremely long and laborious. It sounded like Jørn will not be able to brew this delicacy often.
Såinn is supercharged flavor bomb with intense taste of alderwood smoke and juniper needles. The smoke hits the nose before you even reach the glass and lingers long after the last sip. Yet the ale smooth and drinkable.
From modern ales Pors spiced with bog myrtle was especially memorable and easily the best commercial bog myrtle beer I have ever tasted.