Move over Carlsberg, a new Scandinavian beer movement is coming through – and it is coming from Norway. Last month I travelled to Bergen, Norway, and before I could even say “hej hej” I was on my way to the Bergen Beer Festival. I mistakenly assumed we would be sipping Carlsberg in an Octoberfest-esque setting, but I had no idea how developed the Norwegian craft beer industry was. There were around 20 breweries showcasing their beers, which ranged from traditional pale lagers to wasabi beer to smoked beer. Beer has aways been a popular drink in Norway, but it wasn’t until around 2007 that the Norwegian craft beer industry had really taken off.
1. Aass is the oldest still-standing independent brewery in norway
Founded in 1834 in Drammen, Norway, Aass Brewery is the oldest independent brewery in the country. The brewery is reputed for its high quality beers, still brewing strictly according to German Purity Law. Aass produces a wide range of beers including seasonal brews, as well as mineral water and soft drinks. And no, the name is not pronounced the way we English-speakers would suspect.
2. The Vikings were the original master brewers
The Vikings enjoyed their beer – which is really just a nice way of saying that they were huge beer drinkers! They were Norway’s original beer brewers, rumoured to stop mid-battle to take a beer break. Beer was so important to Viking life that they often incorporated beer into otherwise ordinary festivals such as harvests and christenings- even funerals got their own special beer! It is no surprise then that the modern-day Norwegians
3. norway has over 40 microbreweries – and growing
Currently, there are over 40 microbreweries in Norway – and this number is growing. Many of the breweries are quite innovative, constantly experimenting with flavours in attempt to deviate from the traditional lager beers which dominated the market in the past. There are also estimated to be more than 10,000 home brewers around Norway; official stats are not available on people who brew privately at home.
4. Norway bottles Europe’s first sake
Beer wasn’t even enough for some of the breweries. Norway’s first microbrewery, Nøgne Ø (English: Naked Isle), is also the owner of Europe’s first and only sake brewery. The brewery currently makes a few varieties of sake, and has exported them to the other Scandinavian countries and many places in Europe where it has been received well. Two of Nøgne Ø’s sakes were commended at this year’s International Wine Challenge.
5. Breweries in Norway can be government-sponsored
I think we would all feel a little better about paying our taxes if we knew they were going towards delicious, innovative beers. Well, in Norway they do! The Norwegian government recognises the potential of the Norwegian craft beer industry has helped citizens found their own breweries – depending on where the brewery is located. The government will sponsor the opening of a brewery if the brewery would bring business and a spotlight to a rural area.
6. The most popular beer in Norway is a pale lager
About 92% of all beers in Norway are pale lagers, but this is quickly changing with the growth of the microbrew industry. Many of the beers are weak, due to Norway’s strict alcohol laws – but stronger beer is also brewed and sold in the Norwegian government-owned shops, Vinnmonopolet.
Craft beer has been gaining popularity around the world, but nowhere is this trend more obvious than in Norway. Approximately 50% of Norway’s craft beers are exported around the world. Despite having a flourishing craft beer industry of their own, the United States is one of the largest export markets for Norwegian craft beer. If anything, this is evidence of the high quality, innovative nature of Norway’s breweries, and I believe that we have only seen the beginning of what the Norwegian craft beer industry has to offer!
Like Pine Tribe on Facebook for more insights on life and culture in Scandinavia