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Porter on prescription: that's what I call a real national health service

A beery cure-all for nursing mothers and Royal toothache

More from Gotland: Porridge, cabers and stout... in Sweden

Scotland has long trading links with its Scandinavian and Baltic neighbours. In the world of beer, these are especially well illustrated by the story of sea captain's son David Carnegie, born in Scotland in 1813 and educated at Eton until the age of 14.

Carnegie's uncle ran a trading company in Gothenburg and the youngster decided to live there.

In 1836, he bought a combined sugar refinery and porter brewery which was in money trouble.

David Carnegie moved back to Scotland in 1841, but continued to own the business, which became one of the city's most important enterprises, reaching a peak of porter production in 1875 (42,000 hectolitres).

Carnegie died in 1880, but members of the family are still among the stockholders in the refinery. The brewery was sold in 1907 and bought in 1928 by Pripps, now Sweden's largest brewer.

Between the 1920s and mid-50s, strong brews like the porter were available only on a doctor's prescription.


The porter, enriched with an egg yolk, was often prescribed for nursing mothers, and this is said still to happen today on occasion.


The porter, enriched with an egg yolk, was often prescribed for nursing mothers, and this is said still to happen today on occasion.

Gothenburg ceased production in 1980, and until 1987 the porter was made at Pripps' brewery in the northerly town of Sundsvall. When that closed, production was switched to the company's main brewery, a modern plant at Bromma, just outside Stockholm.

Under Sweden's alcohol bands, Carnegie Porter appears in both Class II and III versions at a modest 3.5 per cent alcohol by volume and a heftier 5.5. In Britain we could consider the stronger interpretation stout.

Whether at that strength it could be deemed an Imperial Stout is open to question, but its history suggests that designation.

At Pripps in Bromma, I was recently given a remarkable tasting of Class III Carnegie vintages.

The beer is not bottle-conditioned, but is perhaps sufficiently strong and dark to look after itself as its flavours meld in the bottle.


The one I liked best was the 1987, with more attack, a bitter chocolate flavour, and a much drier, peppery, finish.


A 1996 edition was rich and creamy, with soft, liquorice, flavours and a long dryness. A 1990 was still smooth and creamy but fruitier and winier. The one I liked best was the 1987, with more attack, a bitter chocolate flavour, and a much drier, peppery, finish.

"This one is still evolving, and improving," said my host, brewer Hans Nordloev.

His unusual assignment at Pripps is to look after questions of "beer culture". The company is to be congratulated on having such post.

A 1986 Carnegie Porter, said to have been quite acidic when young, still had some yoghurty tartness, along with a buttery, Madeira-like character. A 1985 was earthy, oily, and soft, with some toffee and Madeira flavours.

There was a period during the early 1980s and late 1970s when the beer was not made, but a bottling of an undated vintage before that time had been rescued from the garage of a former Pripps' brewmaster (still working, in Tonga).


This brew, labelled both Export Porter and Imperial Stout, was paler than the rest, more of a Burgundy colour, smooth and creamy, gently fruity, with a light acidity.


It was believed to have been produced between 1976 and 1971. This brew, labelled both Export Porter and Imperial Stout, was paler than the rest, more of a Burgundy colour, smooth and creamy, gently fruity, with a light acidity.

I found it surprisingly light and very drinkable.

None of these beers tasted stale, flabby, or excessively Madeira-like.

It was interesting that the 1987 stood out so.

This was the last made at the Sundsvall brewery, which had open fermenters. The brew is still made with an ale yeast at Bromma, but in cylindroconical fermenters.

It was also the case in 1987 that the brewer had the freedom to make each batch with his own personal touch. Since then, the new brews have been more uniform.

While we were tasting vintages, Hans Nordloev also offered me a 1996 Pripps Juloel (Christmas beer), at 5.6 per cent. This had a Burgundy colour, with flavours of malted milk and toffee-chocolate dryness.

Even more distinctive was a brew called Pryssing ("Prussian"), taking its name from the days when Sweden ruled parts of Germany.

It had an oily, brown colour, a very syrupy consistency, a slightly medicinal finish, and an alcohol content of 20 per cent. I believe this potency was achieved by fortification, though Hans would not confirm that.

The product, available only to guests at the brewery, was an attempt to re-create a beer allegedly served by teaspoon to King Gustav Vasa, in the 1520s to cure his toothache.


Published Online: APR 17, 2000
Published in Print: JAN 1, 1997
In: What's Brewing

Brewery Review - Beer Review

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