Norway’s National Drink

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Norway’s National Drink

Norwegian cider has been said to be made by the Vikings in Norway, and Norway’s national drink is more popular than ever.

The Norwegian cider traditions have deep roots in the country’s culture, and the fermented apple juice is today suitable with many types of food. Cider brewing dates at least all the way back to the 13th century and now the drink is experiencing a surge in popularity.

The first recorded production of cider dates back to the Roman Empire, when it was made from native European crab apples, which grew wild throughout the continent. The definitive origin of this fizzy alcoholic drink is disputed, however. Some claim the Celtic Britons invented the drink after the Romans introduced the cultivation of crab apples around 50 CE, but others believe that some apple-based drinks were made long before that.

Norway’s National Drink
The only regulation for what cider you can and should produce in Norway is the one that was given to Hardanger cider in 2009. Photo: Visit Bergen

Global recognition

There is a wide variety of cider styles in the world. There are also international competitions, such as the World Cider Awards, in which participants compete in 11 different taste categories, where many of the categories also have their own subcategories. In Norway, the only regulation for what cider you can and should produce is the one that was given to Hardanger cider in 2009.

Norway’s cider isn’t just popular with locals and tourists. It’s also received global recognition from a number of different groups. Most recently, Norwegian cider received acclaim at the Sagardo Forum, a cider competition hosted in Spain. Ulvik Frukt & Cideri won best in category for modern cider. And, Aakre Gard won best in category for premium carbonated cider.

The Hardanger region is home to stunning apple orchards. The plants thrive in the region due to the proximity of the Fjords, which reflect light onto the steep slopes, allowing the apple orchards to flourish. In addition, the gulf stream prevents the area from getting too cold during the winter months which also helps the plants thrive. The result is an incredible fruit that makes delicious, unique cider.

Norway’s National Drink
The Cider House in Sognefjord. Photo: Fjord Norway

Introduced by Cisterican monks

It was Cistercian monks who immigrated from England who planted and introduced the cultivation of apples in the Hardangerfjord region. They taught fjord farmers how to grow and maintain the orchards, kick-starting a passion for apple products, and among them was the celebrated cider. Little did they know that they had unintentionally chosen one of the best spots in the country for this task.

The cider style from Hardanger is generally made from table apples. These are apple varieties such as Aroma, Discovery and Gravenstein. These varieties contain a lot of freshness and acidity, but relatively low tannin levels. The counterpart to these apple types are specific cider apples, which are found mostly in Britain and France, but also in smaller quantities in Hardanger and Sogn.

The Champagne of apple cider

The apples in Hardanger are known to be so good that the award-winning cider made from this region is considered to be the “Champagne of apple cider“, and was granted Protected Geographical Indication status in 2009, a European food and drink quality label that protects a product of heritage from being copied outside of its production geography.

The most common cider from Hardanger contains around 20 grams of sugar per liter (gr./l.) with an alcohol content of approx. 6.5% and is acidic and fresh with low bitterness. It is usually very aromatic and can be enjoyed with many different foods.

Norway’s National Drink
ACider Tours in the Hardanger should be on your bucket list. Photo: Fjord Tours.

Cider Tours in Hardanger

If you’re a fan of cider beverages and you’re planning your trip to Norway, visiting the Hardanger region should be at the top of your list. The Cider Tours in the Hardangerfjord is a great way to explore the region and taste some amazing Cider! During the tour, you learn about the production and manufacturing of the drink first-hand. You will be able to sample the incredible array of ciders and learn about what creates the unique flavors in each type of cider.

Just as there are natural wines, today there are several Norwegian producers who make what is labelled natural cider, for lack of a more precise term. “Natural” as a description is at least as imprecise for cider as it is for wine. For example, is there such a thing as unnatural cider?

Symbol for life, fertility and knowledge

Although the idea of Vikings making cider is only a probability, there’s proof that cider was produced and sold as early as the 13th Century in Norway.

In popular Norse mythology, the Goddess Idunn supplied apples to the Gods to preserve their youth and immortality. Without Idunn and her apples, the Gods of Åsgård would face threats of aging and death. As a symbol for life, fertility, and knowledge, it is no wonder that this humble fruit had such a place in history.

Norwegian cider continues to gain status, with gold and silver wins at various international cider awards, the most recent being the Nordic International Cider Awards held in Bergen in 2022. It’s proof that the heritage of working with apples, even if it cannot be credited entirely to Norway’s Viking roots, has been awakened.

You may also be interested in reading:

Everything Smells of Apples in Hardanger

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Norway’s National Drink
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A Taste of France in Hardanger, Norway

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Norway’s National Drink
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Norway’s National Drink, written by Tor Kjolberg

Feature image (on top): © Eiane Gard, Ryfylke foto/Pål Christensen

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