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Drink: the best non-alcoholic alternative to wine that tastes like a Norwegian forest; Villbrygg

I reside on the edge of the forest. From my breakfast table, I gaze upon the treetops and behold a hillside adorned with trees of various kinds—birches, firs, and poplars. Each season, I find myself marveling at the inherent beauty of this place. Whether it's the yellow, orange, and red hues of autumn, the snow-covered conifers and muted winter light, or the budding light green of early spring, it never ceases to captivate me.

I frequently embark on long walks through the woods, sometimes with a specific goal—perhaps to find berries, mushrooms, or edible plants. But often, I venture into the forest to unwind, reducing the sensory input to a pleasant minimum. The remaining stimuli become more intense—the sounds of birds and other creatures moving unseen through the woods, the scent of the forest floor, pine needles, and other plants. And there's something else that I can't quite articulate—call it a kind of energy. I'll leave that undefined for now.

Speaking of sensory experiences and the forest, I come to a discovery I made recently and it concerns a drink which to me is the best alternative to wine: Villbrygg (wild-brew) particularly my personal favourite, Skog (forest). If the forest, as I just described it, had a taste, it would be the taste of Skog. The ingedrients leave most to the imagination; spruce shoots, lemongrass, yarrow, and birch leaves. Describing the complexity and nuances of the flavor is challenging. It's lightly acidic, slightly bitter, yet with a fresh kind of sweetness hinting at fermentation. I immediately thought of the light green tips of spruce that you can pluck and eat in spring—somewhat sour but sweet enough to make them enjoyable. When pickled, they serve as excellent supplements in various dishes.

Norway Forest

I'm incredibly excited about what Villbrygg is doing. Especially with the recent pandemic still somewhat fresh in my memory, during which people had to be restrained and contained because they would otherwise go amok, alcohol was not served in restaurants as some symbolic measure. I recall sitting at Geita in the midst of the pandemic, and an alcohol-free drinks menu was presented (which, by the way, was excellent). Villbrygg would have fit right in. That's because the flavours possess a certain complexity that you would normally expect from wine. You get my point by now. I am thrilled about how Villbrygg captures the flavours of the northern flora in delightful, refined, and complex beverages. It fits perfectly within the (hopefully enduring) trend of The New Nordic Food Manifesto as published in 2004, where overlooked locally produced- and available foods have received a complete and well deserved reevaluation.

Oddly enough, the first sip of Villbrygg immediately reminded me of the restaurant 'The Little Pickle' in Oslo. This is a restaurant I wholeheartedly recommend. They have elevated the pickling of vegetables, in particular, to an absolute art. The dishes they serve are of an unpretentious simplicity but with incredible flavours. For example, I had never tasted pickled carrot before. And at 'The Little Pickle,' that carrot tastes like CARROT(!!!). Truly amazing. Well, at 'The Little Pickle,' I could easily imagine myself leaving a glass of wine for what it is, and order a glass of ‘Skog’ instead.

If you're now incredibly eager to taste what I'm tasting as I write this article, you're likely out of luck. Because Villbrygg is only available in Norway. Hopefully, this piece serves as yet another incentive for you to consider paying this wonderful country a visit.


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