Nøgne Ø, Belgian Wit
The Belgian Spiced Wit is one of the brewery’s oldest recipes and has a bit more punch than your average wheat beer.
Most Norwegians had no idea what an IPA, Porter or Amber was when Nøgne Ø (pronounced Nurg-neh Uh) was launched by two homebrewers, Gunnar Wiig and Kjetil Jikiun, back in 2002.
Before starting the brewery Kjetil was working as an airline pilot. It was on frequent trips to the States he found a taste for some very different beer to the type he was drinking at home. His attempts to re-create those beers as a homebrewer were so successful that his friends and family urged him to follow his dream of brewing professionally.
Some of Kjetil’s neighbours were a little suspicious. Others grabbed their pitchforks. When a local priest took brewing lessons with Kjetil, parishioners were up in arms, claiming the priest was ‘fraternizing with the devil’. Kjetil couldn’t help but find that funny, but as a devout Orthodox Christian, he also took umbrage at the suggestion that brewing is the devil’s work.
Nøgne Ø translates as "naked island" and is named after a 19th-century poetic term used by Henrik Ibsen to describe the countless stark, barren outcroppings that are visible in the rough sea off Norway's southern coast. Kjetil and his partners also gave the brewery a subtitle: Det Kompromissløse Bryggeri, or “The Uncompromising Brewery,” a plain statement of their mission — to make beers of strong personality and individuality, even if they would be challenging to the tastes of the general public.
Despite Kjetil leaving the business in 2015, Nøgne Ø has seemingly stayed true to those values with a core range and countless specials that have consistently been voted as the best beers in Norway on Ratebeer.com.
The Belgian Spiced Wit is one of the brewery’s oldest recipes and has a bit more punch than your average wheat beer. It pours a very pale straw with the typically beefy head you get from this style of beer. They are generous with all their ingredients resulting in a spicy smack in the face with cloves, orange peel and coriander all in abundance.
This beer, as well as the rest in Nøgne Ø’s core range, is brewed in an old power plant built in 1914 on the banks of the Nivelda river in the small town of Grimstad, southern Norway. Nøgne Ø has grown from a 300 hl production in 2003 to an estimated 17000 hl production in 2017. They make more than 30 different styles of beer and export to more than 30 markets, making them the largest supplier of craft beer in Norway, employing 30 people.
In the last couple of years, they’ve diversified and are now Europe’s first Sake brewery. It seems an odd thing for a Norwegian brewery to be doing and no doubt the locals are sceptical. But, as you can probably tell by now, that’s not going to stop the good folks of Nøgne Ø giving it a good go.