Lava Smoked Imperial Stout
Ölvisholt Brugghús is surely one of the most beautiful breweries in the world. Located in the south of Iceland in a region lush with agriculture, Ölvisholt Brugghús was originally a small dairy farm before Jon Gunnlaugsson transformed his parents’ property in 2007. The brewery still maintains all of the farm’s rustic charm with its complex of red-roofed barns, white houses and muddy pathways perched on the top of a hill surrounded by rolling, green pastures. Like all of the world’s best beers, the offerings from Ölvisholt evoke the region, the cuisine, and the people who gave them birth. These particular beers just happen to be born in a seemingly magical land whose imposing mountains, expansive glaciers and enchanting hot springs serve as the backdrop for tales of Viking heroes, Norse gods, terrifying trolls and mischievous elves. Ölvisholt’s brews are just as epic. One of Ölvisholt’s most beloved beers, the Lava Smoked Imperial Stout, was inspired by the active volcano Hekla whose occasional eruptions can be seen from the brewhouse door. The first time I ordered this beer, the bartender presented me with a goblet of the pitch black ale and excitedly proclaimed, “It tastes just like lava!” I didn’t quite know what she meant, but it sure sounded hardcore. I decided that this beer must be what the gods of Icelandic heavy metal drink from silver chalices. The aroma was smoky, with fresh charcoal, scorched earth and the surprise of roasted coffee. The image of a forest blackened by the fire of a steel-plated dragon flashed in my mind. The taste was even better than I expected. It was smokey, yes, but there was also dark chocolate, rich caramel, bitter coffee and toasted biscuit. It also had a hint of sweet chestnut, vanilla oak, black licorice and dark fruit. With such subtle complexity complemented by a smooth, velvety mouthfeel and a warming alcohol finish, this is a beer you could sip for hours.
Lava is a quintessential winter ale. It’s as though Ölvisholt managed to distill the experience of sitting snuggly beside a crackling fire while heavy snow envelopes the bleak, blustery world outside. As such, Lava pairs beautifully with roasted meats, smoked fish, cured sausages, hearty stews and crusty, dark bread. Matched with a blue cheese, this stout becomes a meal of prime rib in a wild mushroom sauce, but I also like Lava’s smokiness with the salty, tangy, buttery flavors of a Tomme, Taleggio or Challerhocker. If you aren’t afraid to risk becoming completely overwhelmed by decadence, pair Lava with a chocolate dessert or just a square of high-cacao dark chocolate. Heaven! And don’t worry about drinking Lava out of season. It can be great company at even a summer cook-out, making fine friends with beef brisket, pork barbecue and those brats you just took off the grill.
Of course, Lava stands perfectly well on its own too! This is a not-to-be-missed beer that will hold your interest with its intricacies and demand that you give your attention to daydreaming about its homeland and her stories. Cheers!