Brütal Brëws: Schous Kjelleren, Oslo’s Underground Brewery
I recently had the incredible fortune to find myself in Norway, home to roughly 90% of black metal bands on the planet. It’s a well-known fact that 10 out of every 10 Norwegians are members of at least 6 different metal bands and can trace their family history back thousands of years to the days when mead was quaffed from freshly-cloven skulls amidst the flickering light of a roaring bonfire that consumed their enemies’ battlements and illuminated pale curtains of fog drifting over the vast fjords.
In all seriousness though, Norway is a staggeringly beautiful, bro-free country populated with friendly people and a thriving craft brewing scene that boasts several excellent microbreweries. One of these is Oslo’s Schous Brygerri, located a short walk from the downtown area, whose premises include an Italian restaurant that’ll serve you a giant plate of grilled octopus, a cocktail bar where you can gawk at how much better
Osloans Osloites Oslans Oslo citizens are dressed than you, and an underground taproom that feels like it’s been retrofitted from a medieval wine cellar… or torture chamber.
An Oslo bus transports several black metal bands to their rehearsal space.
Walk behind the restaurant and you’ll find a small building with a staircase leading down to a cellar taproom. It’s dark. Very dark. Only some ancient-looking light fixtures provide dim, warm illumination, just enough to see the pristine copper tanks shining from behind the bar, matching the earthen brown and crimson of the arched brick ceiling.
A member of 8 different metal bands chooses his next pint.
It’s quiet, too. No music. The only thing you’ll hear down here is the clanking of glasses and the conversations of other patrons seeking good beer, which makes it feel even more clandestine and hidden, like you’ve stumbled onto a secret society for people who like to drink beer in subterranean locations (and no, drinking warm Lone Stars in your parent’s basement doesn’t count).
Some brewery patrons discuss their latest avant-garde metal project.
We sat near the taps beneath a pale stained glass window and a bust bearing the words BRACIEMUS ET BIBAMUS IN AETERNUM, which, if my Latin training serves me correctly (and it always does), translates to “pants and drinks forever.” Words to live by, brothers and sisters ov the bowl, words to live by. It did not elaborate on the relationship of said pants to said drinks, i.e., whether removing the former is an obstacle to enjoying the latter, but I digress.
The bust was once a touring member of Satyricon.
The Schous Kjelleren offered about a dozen of their own beers beers on the day we showed up, including a pale, IPA (pronounced out there as “eepah”), stout, porter and more. Here’s four we tried and what we thought.
First To Die Loses | Labeled as an IPA, tastes more like a well-rounded pale to American tastebuds. Hoppy enough to appeal to pale fans, but not so hoppy as to drive non-fans away. Easy to drink with just enough malt flavor to keep things interesting. A party-starter; like the album that kicks off the Friday night of a three day weekend. Song equivalent.
Harry S. Porter | An opaque black porter (duh) brewed with roasted coffee, so there’s strong coffee and dark chocolate flavors, with an aroma like chocolate-covered raisins. Fucking delicious. Has a light head with a very drinkable viscosity; not too thick, just intimidatingly dark. This could easily replace your morning coffee; it’s like a morning commute playlist that gears you up for another day of soul-crushing work. Song equivalent.
Reinheitsgebot | A surprisingly light, smooth and easy-drinking hefeweizen that isn’t loaded with sugar and doesn’t punch you in the mouth with banana/melon flavors meant to appeal to the fair-weather craft beer drinker. The anti-Blue Moon. Has a pale (non-hoppy) sweetness with a faint, inviting fruit aroma; like the “lighter” metal tracks you play around your girlfriend or parents so they don’t freak out. Song equivalent.
Udodelige Ursula | Very unique beer that drinks like a Belgian with some extra brewmaster know-how going on behind the scenes. Similar to the Reinheitsgebot in that it’s a lighter beer but with more of a passion fruit flavor that sweetens it up a bit, but also some fennel flavor to balance the sweetness out. Cloudy in appearance with minimal head. Feels like it needs to be served en masse at an outdoor festival. Song equivalent.
Also, since selling or advertising alcoholic products is illegal in Norway (i.e., no brewery merch, no beer signs, etc.), our cool-as-fuck bartender gave us a free shirt! Hellz yeah! In gratitude, I’ve created a new national slogan: “Norway: Better Than Wherever You Are Now (Probably… But Seriously, It Rules Here)”
PANTS AND DRINKS FOREVER!