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Christmas beer - RKV Brewing Company

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There is not much to say about RKV Brewing Company. They have been around since 2018, are based in Reykjavik (bar included) and are founded by some banker, who left the financial market to brew beer. They have 4 Christmas beers, and one of them, to my horror is a sour. I always thought IPAs were the worst beer and I could not wait for them to go out of fashion (there was a time 90% of beer you could get here were IPA or way to hoppy lagers) and for the next trend to start. Then the next trend were sours, the beer for people who hate beer. Seriously, the only person I know who likes sours does not like beer. Things I do for science.

RKVBrewing_ChristmasBeer

The four Christmas beers they have are:
Frostrósir, a traditional white ale and my favourite. I noticed during the weeks of beer tasting that I prefer the beers with no or few added ingredients. This beer manages to be light and fruity and still feel like a winter beer. It tastes like a crisp winter morning. There, this is my poetic line of the day.
Eftir Sex a wild amber. Brewed with wild yeast and slightly sour as these kind of beers are (not a sour though!) this is not as much to my taste as Frostrósir, but it feels like the pinot noir of beer, complicated and maybe not for every day, but if you are in the mood for it amazing.
Eitthvað Fallegt? a season IPA with mandarins and Christmas tree(?????). The sweet mandarins balance out the bitter IPA taste nicely, I do not know how Christmas tree tastes (it is pine they added) and I did not taste it. I guess considering some tendencies of Icelandic brewers (looking at you Steðji) I should be thankful for any beer ingredients, which do not include bones or testicles. Throw a tree into your beer, why not?
Jóla Magnús frúktus we ave arrived at the sour. This one is using skyr (an Icelandic yogurt, which is actually cheese, full of protein, so quite healthy and usually yummy) for the milk acid part of the beer. The fruit parts of the beer (billberries and cherries) do not even out the extreme sourness of this beer. It tastes like fruit skyr that has gone sour.

Sours are an abomination.


REM Christmas singles

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I never was part of the REM fan club. It must have been cool being part of it though, they put a lot of work into their official fan club, sending news letters (per post! after all they are a 80s / 90s band) and releasing a free Christmas single for fan club members since 1988 (with 2 - 4 songs on it each year). As these singles were only released to fan club members, each were only about 6000 copies each. Thanks to the internet though, nothing is ever truly lost, so after some hunting I found all 23 of them (my Christmas present to myself). I feel kind of bad talking about them after listening to them, there are a lot of delightful and silly surprises in there, which I will spoil.

Some of the singles were just recordings of live performances, some were covers, some were instrumentals (left over song ideas from recordings), there are two original songs: Live for Today (1997) and Magnetic North (2007) and of course Christmas covers. Most of all they are a lot of fun, they mostly used the opportunity to be silly.

There is not a lot to say about the live performances, at some point Radiohead show up. Some were released as videos (in 1998 they send a VHS tape as the Christmas single to their fans via post...) I actually removed the 20 live performances from my playlist, leaving me with 30 song: two original songs, fun covers and silly Christmas antics.

Of the two original songs, Magnetic North is the more complete one. It sounds more like something from New Adventures in HiFi than from the Around the Sun era (thank god): Maybe it's the organ.

The covers are two kinds, either songs from small unknown bands they met during the years or off beat covers of famous songs, clearly recorded as a joke live or in the studio. I really enjoyed getting to know some of the unknown songs, highlights include See No Evil, Academy Fight Song, Where is Captain Kirk (a punk song) and Crazy Like a Fox, which sounds like it is from the 60s, but was written in the 80s. I remember hearing this version of I Will Survive before, it is also really close to the Cake version, popular in 1996. You can hear Stipe giggle during his performance.

The instrumentals are relaxing breaks between the songs, though they are clearly unfinished ideas for songs, I really like IHT->U->EDIYTW a dubmix instrumental.

But let's get to the meat, the actual Christmas songs. I don't think they took the Christmas part very serious, it took them until 2002 to record a a Christmas song, which was not a joke of some kind.
Of course the fanclub singles had to be recorded and produced long before Christmas, but the drunken Christmas party vibe is strong with a lot of them. We have drunken playing (Parade of Wooden Soldiers), drunken singing (Good King Wenclas) and drunken everything (Christmas Time Is Here Again, where they have to restart as no one is in the same tempo or key). Christmas Griping is just them complaining about Christmas over playing Christmas songs badly (and teaching me the phrase "frosts my _ off", REM, still teaching me English through their songs 27 years later).
Sometimes they got lazy. Ghost Reindeer in the Sky is just Ghost Riders in the Sky with added reindeer. Christmas in Tunesia is a left over instrumental, which just got a christmassy name.
Even some of the the not drunkenly recorded Christmas songs are hilarious. Toyland could be a song for a Christmas themed horror movie and Silver Bells has Mills singing in what I think is supposed to be a Texan accent (I asked a friend from the South and they were not sure what that was supposed to be, but it was not a Georgian accent). He even does the little cowboy yodel. Santa Baby on the other hand, is super funny because Mills sings it straightforward, as it is a very silly song by itself. Sometimes when men sing it they change the lyrics, not here, Mills is sincerely telling Santa Baby that he was a very good girl and deserves the diamond ring he wants for Christmas. I think I ship them now.
Speaking of Mills, he really shines on this play list. He sings a lot of the cover songs and all the properly sung Christmas songs (except Toyland). He has such a warm and happy voice, which sounds very 60s, which is perfect for a Christmas album. Merry Xmas Everybody and Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) are the two best Christmas songs on this album and both sung by him.

Shout outs:
  • Java is quite a known instrumental, it was familiar to me through cultural osmosis. Stipe is improvising some spoken lyrics over it, which are super weird. I think he is reading some coffee advertisement?

  • Crazy Like A Fox and Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) makes me wish Mills had released a solo album with covers of classic songs. They are just so ... happy.




  • Christmas beer - Steðji

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    Steðji is one of the older micro-breweries in Iceland, based near Borgarfjörður in the South West and one of the places we had planned to visit several times during trips around Reykjavik, but never managed to. They featured on both the previous Christmas beer sagas on this blog, one time with a licorice beer I really liked and the other time one I really hated. This is an apt representation of the roller coaster of emotions that their beer can be, they make good beer with a lot of craft and natural spring water, but beware, sometimes they use milled whale bones or smoked sheep testicles as ingredients. Taking "made with Icelandic ingredients" to the extreme.

    Stedji_ChristmasBeers

    The Christmas beer I really liked is now part of their general line up (and called Northern Lights). The one I did not like, Almáttugur, a porter with licorice, is still one of their two Christmas beers and I decided I do not need to do that to myself again. The other Christmas beer is Halelúja a German Schwarzbier. It really shows their craft. Using only malted barley, hops and water (as it should be!) it has coffee and chocolate notes, while being light and perfectly balanced. One of my favourite of the ones I tried this year.


    Christmas beer - The Brothers' Brewery

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    Here we have another micro-brewery in a remote small town ruled by the fishing industry and with a strong regional identity. The Brothers' Brewery was formed 2012 on the Vestmann Islands, off the south coast of Iceland by two friends, who then involved their brothers (hence the name). Just like Dokkan they also have a tap room in the middle of town. Their website is here.

    TheBrothersBrewery_ChristmasBeer

    They have two Christmas beers this year: Leiðindaskjóða, a hoppy red ale and Leppur, a milk stout. They added oats to both beers, which finally motivated me to look up oats in beer brewing and why someone would do such a thing. Turns out, oats are used to build "the body" of the beer, meaning it helps all the other flavours develop, while not adding any flavours to the beer itself (unless malted). Still against the Reinheitsgebot, though.

    That out of the way, how do they taste like? Leiðindaskjóða, the hoppy red ale does have a lot of flavour, underneath all the hops is a very rounded beer, with the right balance of slight sweetness from the malted barley and bitterness. It is also very carbonated, which I liked. If they ever make a red ale without the emphasis on hops, I would try that.
    I also liked the stout Leppur, additionally to the oats a lot was added to it (coconut, vanilla and lactose again), but it harmonized really well and while it was creamy and sweet, not too much though. Now the real challenge is, could you guys achieve a good beer following the Reinheitsgebot :Þ?


    Christmas beer - Dokkan

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    In the old part of Ísafjörður, founded in 2017, the first brewery in the Westfjörds. Proudly made in and by the people of Ísafjörður, the water used to brew the beer is spring water from the mountains around Ísafjörður. Water quality is actually very important in beer making. Unsurprising considering it is the main ingredient. One of the reasons small breweries make better beer than industrial ones is because they often use spring water, something that cannot be replicated ones production moves world wide.

    Dokkan_ChristmasBeer

    They have two Christmas beers, Jóla Drangi, an amber ale and Hátíðar Púki, a sweet stout. I got a bit of an identity crisis with this beer, I always considered myself a stout person, and yet again, I preferred the ale over the stout, just as with Álfur and Ölvisholt. Maybe it was because Púki is brewed with added lactose and I found the additional sweetness strange tasting. Jóla Drangi achieves it's amber colour with the malted barley, which also gives it it's smooth and slightly sweeter taste. Púki is surprisingly sweet and not very bitter for a stout (this is where the lactose comes in), but it feels a bit flat. Maybe the amber ale is simply better, because it is a variation of one of their flag ship beers (Drangi). They generally brew pale ales and lager style beers, all which you can taste in their tap room in their brewery in Ísafjörður. With a view of the mountains where the water for the beer comes from.



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