Though Jørn Utzon isn’t exactly a household name outside of Denmark, you are almost certainly familiar with his work. He is the architect behind one of the twentieth century’s most iconic buildings, the Sydney Opera House.
The late Utzon was born in Copenhagen, but he spent most of his childhood in Ålborg, which is now home to the Utzon Center, a museum of modern architecture and art designed by the man himself, in cooperation with Finnish architect Alvar Aalto. Ålborg is also home to the ambitious Søgaards Brewery, whose range encompasses a variety of international styles and includes some unusual experiments. The Søgaards brewmasters have taken inspiration from the places that inspired Utzon’s architecture to brew two beers for the Utzon Center: Blond and Dark. The label on Utzon Blond explains:
This beer follows Utzon’s footsteps from Australia, where we have gathered the herb lemon myrtle; across Asia for the refreshing character of kaffir lime leaves and ginger; to Spain, where we have selected an orange flower honey to round off the beer and add a light floral flavor. The noble conclusion comes from the Middle East’s delicate and luxurious spice saffron.
Pretty neat. These ingredients may sound weird, but remember that before hops came into favor around the turn of the fifteenth century, bouquets of herbs and flowers called gruits were used to add flavor and bitterness to beer. Dandelion, heather, ginger, burdock, nutmeg, juniper and spruce were common. So while this beer is cosmopolitan and contemporary in its selection of international ingredients, this method of flavoring also recalls ancient brewing traditions. Especially interesting is the inclusion of honey, since the vikings were fond of a sort of mead-beer hybrid that was also flavored with odd spices and herbs.
Utzon Blond is an amber-gold ale with a pillowy white head, and it actually does hit all the notes described on the label: Australian lemon myrtle and kaffir lime leaf provide a pleasantly soapy, citric top note, while the honey gives the beer a sweet foundation. Floral, savory saffron floats by in the background. All around it is very fruity, slightly tangy and rather robust – probably not as arresting as Utzon’s designs, but just as intriguing and unique!