Origin: Tornio, Lappi, Finland
Date: 8 September 2000
Another review from the archive written for the pioneering Oxford Bottled Beer Database (OBBD). I’ve left it uncorrected — so please read it in that historical spirit. I’m certainly no longer the same beer drinker I was when I wrote the opening sentence below.
The brewery was founded simply as the Torneå Bryggeri in 1873 and taken over by Finnish national brewer Hartwall in 1980. The recipe was changed in 2007 and the ABV reduced to 4.5%. Though promotion for the beer still makes much of its Lapp roots, the brewery itself was closed in 2010 with production moved much further south, to Lahti. There have been several claimants to the title of the world’s northernmost brewery since: currently it’s the Svalbard Bryggeri in Norway.
I confess I’m not the greatest fan of pale lagers but I’m always prepared to give the better reputed ones a chance. This, the flagship beer of Finnish national Hartwall’s outpost in Tornio, Lapland, comes highly recommended in several beer guides so when I spotted it at specialist beer shop Bottles it seemed an obvious purchase.
It’s golden-yellow in colour and pours with a decent but not overly long-lived head; the initial aroma is intensely herbal and hoppy (Saaz and Hersbrucker) but this gives way to more restrained hops and a little toasty malt. In the mouth it has a clean but very malty palate at first, with a gentle but nonetheless clear note of hops present from the start, and a pleasantly full mouthfeel with a good mousse without being over-gassy.
Some complexity then develops, perhaps attributable to the unmalted grains that make up some of the grist, with fruity notes like sour apple and melon and even an alcoholic hint of whisky despite the moderate gravity. In the finish, the hops become more pronounced but never over-bitter, and the beer leaves you with a tangy aftertaste and a hint of grapefruit.
The brewery is the most northerly in the world and apparently takes its liquor from a fjord, which led me to expect something bracingly refreshing, but actually this sweetish, malty beer is more on the warming and comforting side – which, when you think about it, is a rather more desirable quality in such a cold and inhospitable part of the world.