Tasting the Ölvisholt Brugghus Skjalfti

An earthquake hits on Ontario as a volcano erupts in Iceland. Well, thats only partly true. The Eyjafjallajokull volcano has of course been erupting and Iceland, disrupting flights all across the worls, but Ontario has not been hit by an earthquake – hitting shelves at LCBO’s all across Ontario is Ölvisholt Brugghus Skjalfti (Skjalfti is Icelandic for Earthquake).

It is a bit of a miracle that the Skjalfti has made it to Ontario. It is brewed by Iceland’s number 1 craft brewery in terms of sales and exports; a company that is only 2 years old. But, from 1915 to 1989 beer was banned in Iceland! Ölvisholt Brugghus has defied all the odds by brining unique and flavorful craft beers to the Icelandic beer market which was previously dominated by the bland light lagers which plague much of the world. So well done Ölvisholt Brugghus! It is always a pleasure to see people around the world celebrating the real flavors that craft brewed beer has to offer.

Luckily for us now, the Ölvisholt Brugghus Skjalfti becomes the very first Icelandic beer to ever be sold in Ontario. It is available in 500ml bottles at 5% abv. It has been brewed with a 3 varieties of hops, 5 barley malts, and malted wheat giving it a surprisingly unique and complex flavor profile.

For 74 years beer remained an illegal beverage in Iceland, but now each year on March the 1st Iceland celebrates Beer Day – I think we should be doing the same. Helping ring in this holiday are beers like Skjalfti, a Premium Lager with huge complex flavors and massive quenching capabilities. It did really take me by surprise.

I opened the Skjalfti cold around 5C (40F) as is appropriate for a refreshing lager of this sort. Right from the get-go this beer impressed me. The pour was luscious and smooth building a golden and amber orange beer with lots of life, excitement and depth. The beer was transparent showing rich colors and glowing gold in the light. A softly dense and perfumey head built about two inches gently above the beer in a pillow of off-white delight.

Right away this is why I was surprised and impressed. I have had so many bland pale beers which claim to be a Premium Lager – the Skjalfti really proved to be crafted with passion and heart. It showed real golden copper colors and rich character erupting from the beer.

In I went for a nose, but not to much is there. Really though by definition a Premium Lager is not going to burst with aroma. But soft pale malts and earthy herbal hops played lightly in the air brining with them touches of apple, citrus, light caramel and biscuit.

Here came the real treat – the Skjalfti lets in a big wave of refreshing but creamy pale malts, wide and crisply bitter hops with delicate ripe fruit and floral flavors. The malts show great complexity and full body roundness with soft caramel, toffee, and hints of pepper. Hops play a balancing role here with fresh earth and light pine urging in great crisp bitter flavors and a supremely satisfying zest.

As the beer warms a touch it looses none of its quenching power but gains all of its flavor. Bread and biscuits begin to emerge along with a warmer caramel and big and juicy hops which once again balance the scale evenly. The overall production here is perfect – complex, malty and lightly sweet, with great big bitter hops that wrap around your palate with ease.

The mouthfeel was also perfect aiding the beer’s overall impression. It was smooth and lively showing precise carbonation without being aggressive or effervescent. It provided a medium soft body with dept and sophistication.

The finish was on the mark – quenching and crisp without snapping or biting you. It was lightly dry but long with sweet malts fading into your palate. A perfect match for the summer heat. This beer would be so perfect with so many dishes. Almost anything fish, weather it is strong or light will work perfectly with the pale malts and delicate floral flavors of the beer. Pasta, red meat, BBQ, pub fair, Indian, Thai, and on and on. Really because it is 5%, full bodied, perfectly balanced and amazingly refreshing, if will be genuinely delicious with about anything except deserts. Even at that, I bet its nice with cheesecake. I had it with sushi, and it was the perfect compliment and quencher.

Really I am very happy to have enjoyed this beer, and am happy that the Skjalfti will be available at the LCBO. It can be hard these days to find a good full flavored lager – the Ölvisholt Brugghus Skjalfti is a Premium Lager which honorably reflrects the style, and has provided me with the perfect solution!


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