As you have seen in my other post on Greek Beers, whenever I travel, checking out the local food and beer is all part of experiencing the culture. Our visit to Norway was no direct and neither was the Icelandic trip too. Below is a short history of Norwegian beer, culture, rules and beers you should try when you are exploring the many cities in Norway.
- 1 What To Know About Norwegian Beers
- 2 Norwegian Beer Brands To Note
- 3 Beer-Related Events In Norway To Bookmark For Your Trip
What To Know About Norwegian Beers
About a decade ago, it was a rather complicated life for beer lovers in Norway. The only type of beer on tap was lager. Didn’t like it? Too bad. So, most Norwegians drank whatever lager was on tap. But the times have changed. Now, hundreds of new breweries have popped up, gaining attention for their delicious craft beers. You can experience many of these Norwegian beers on many of the beer tours offered in Oslo, Bergen and other cites across Norway.
In ten years, the market share for craft brewers has grown from zero to four percent. There are breweries in all 20 counties plus the Arctic settlement of Spitsbergen. Craft brewers now employ 25 percent of the workforce in Norwegian breweries.
Big or small, all Norwegian microbreweries share a common passion to brew “real beer,” unfiltered, unpasteurized and made from the world’s finest malts and hops, then “bottle-conditioned” or left to ferment naturally in the bottle. It is fair to say that for many Norwegian producers, quality comes first.
Take a sip of these brews and you’ll be hooked by a complexity, smoothness and aroma usually associated with fine wine. Though borrowing from the brewing traditions of Germany, Belgium, England and the U.S., Norwegian microbrewers also share a love of experimentation.
Beer History In Norway
Beer has been brewed in Norway since before the age of the Vikings. In fact, sources indicate that brewing was carried out as early as 330BC. They have been perfecting the craft for over two thousand years!
As you can imagine, Norwegian beer went through many different stages throughout its long history, with many ups and downs. Always changing, always developing into something new and creative. There were also times when the future of beer in Norway seemed rather bleak. During the Second World War, the resources were scarce and so beer was barely even brewed, and when it was, it generally became weaker and thinner. The situation began improving in 1956, when Christmas beer was brewed again.
The beer renaissance started later in Norway than elsewhere, but beer is an important part of Norwegian cuisine and was brewed by almost every farmer in the past. In fact, they were at risk of even losing their farm and be kicked out of the country for not brewing, as it was a rule that you had to comply with. Nowadays, the rule has been reversed, because beer taxes are now very high and advertising is prohibited. Such high taxation that is the government’s attempt to curb alcoholism is a serious threat to the growth of beer industry in Norway. Whether the plan works or not, is debatable.
Drinking culture In Norway
Generally labeled as being slightly reserved and cautious, many Norwegians tend to turn that around when drinking. It often appears to be without limits, sometimes leading to excess and culminates into situations often associated with binge-drinking. Of course, this is not only a Norwegian problem but an apparent global one. In Norway, however, the high alcohol prices force young adults to get wasted with cheap alcohol during the vorspiel, or pre-party, and eventually end up turning into jumping jolly bouncing balls on Oslo’s dance floors on the weekends.
Long tradition of brewing Christmas beer
A tradition that originated during pre-Christian times survives to this day and is an important part of Norwegian culture. Brewing winter and Christmas beer is one of the oldest Norwegian traditions, Pottøl (“pot beer”) and søttøl (sweet beer) were the two main kinds of Christmas beer invented towards the end of the 1800s. Their noticeably sweet, rich flavour was designed to pair well with most Christmas foods. Nowadays, thanks to Norway’s recent microbrewery revolution, Christmas beers are some of the most important drinks a Norwegian brewery can produce. One such beer is known as juleøl, a strong, dark, malty ale exclusively available during Christmas.
The typical Christmas beer is darker, fuller and with a higher alcohol percentage than that consumed during the preceding months. In the past, all Norwegians, rich and poor, were required by law to brew their own beer, and gathering to indulge in this beverage was considered sacred.
Along with the intensely flavourful beer, Norwegians also drink aquavit, a typical liqueur from the Nordic countries made with potatoes and spices. Aquavit, which in Norway is matured in oak barrels, helps digest the typical empachos which is a common Christmas dish.
- Pineapple Oceans IPA (6.6%) – from the brewery in Oslo, Norway with their fantastic artwork, always accompanied by and epic brew within! Appearance: Hazy, golden orange with a minimal head. Aroma: Sweet and quite malty with a cracking mix of pineapple, toffee apple and honey.
- Sippin’ Into Darkness Bourbon Barrel Aged (12.0%) – barrel aged version of Sippin’ Into Darkness, a new dimension of great beer! A sweet imperial stout straight from the creative minds of 2 of the world’s best head brewers right now. They’ve taken a rich malty imperial stout and added in Candi syrup, Lactose, Cocoa nibs and vanilla to give this quite dry stout a fresh lick of paint in a sweet facelift. The cocoa added to the roasted dark chocolate flavours and comes out on the body whilst the candi sugar and vanilla dominate the finish of this excellent beer
- There’s A Beer In My Fridge, And I Need A Drink IPA (7.2%) – a collab between Norwegian Lervig, and one of the most sought after breweries in Europe Mancs Cloudwater. Lervig introduced rye to the IPA mix, with its spicy, smooth character complemented by Golden Promise Pale malt and hazy-making effects. They juiced it twice with hops though their new HopGun, and tripled-down on dankness with Chinook, Mosaic and Simcoe, finishing with Citra blast.
- Eternal Rest 2017 (14.0%) – carefully selected barrels of stout from Nøgne ø’s cellar, blended together to capture a singular moment in time. Eternal Rest is a combination of Russian Imperial Stout aged for 19 months in Armagnac Barrels and Imperial Stout aged 25 months in Bourbon Barrels. The blend was then conditioned on top of fresh vanilla beans and toasted coconut.
In Norway, you cannot buy beer after 8pm Monday to Friday, or after 6pm Saturdays. Not at all on Sundays, any public holidays, and limited hours only on Christmas Eve, Pentecost Eve and New Year’s Eve. Basically, you should learn to be very organized with your alcohol shopping in Norway – but at 7.57 pm on a Wednesday, just before that Champions League match starts, you’re likely to find several stressed out people queuing in your local shop to get that 6-pack scanned before 8.
Drinking in public is illegal in Norway and subject to fines. In many cities, the police will primarily react if the use of alcohol is causing trouble and drinking in parks is quite common. Most officers will ask the drinker to empty the bottle without further reactions.
Norwegian Beer Brands To Note
Beer-Related Events In Norway To Bookmark For Your Trip
Bergen Craft Beer Fest
Taking place on March 28th, 2020, Norway’s largest international beer festival will present a line-up of 20 exciting breweries from around the world, including from Finland, England, Iceland and Serbia. This year will be the 4th year of the event. The beer will flow at Grand Bergen in the city centre and visitors can choose between the Blue Session from 12 noon to 4pm or the Magenta Session from 6pm to 10pm. Alternatively, there will be ALL DAY passes available. For detailed check out their official website for the Bergen Beer Festival. For tips on things to do in Bergen check out my post.
Top rated beers, top rated breweries, a bunch of lovely people, what else could one wish for??
Below are just a few of the many Norwegian breweries in Norway. Many of which you can also find featuring at the beer festivals in Norway, like that held in Bergen.
- Geiranger Brewery
- Hand Brewery
- Hansa Borg Breweries
- Hammerhead Brewing Company
- Ego Brewery
- EC Dahl’s Brewery
- The Twenty Microbrewery
- Central City Brewery
- Qvart Beer Company
- Egg Brewery
- Voss Brewery
- Reins Kloster
Heading to Norway? Also Read:
- What To Know Before Hiking Trolltunga
- The Best Day Trips From Bergen
- Top Things To Do In Odda
- How To Get To Trolltunga
- The Best Fjord Tours From Bergen
- Getting The Best Views From Mount Ulriken
- Useful Norwegian Phrases For Tourists
- Norway Travel Tips And Vacation Ideas
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