Norwegian Beer – Then and Now


Scandinavia is one of the most popular, but also pricey spots for tourists to visit in the world. Nevertheless, there is an interesting food (or, in this case, drink) culture that takes place in a part of Scandinavia – Norway.

Norway is most popular for its beer brewing, a cultural way of life that has lasted for at least 1,000 years. But what makes Norwegian beer brewing unique? In order to understand this phenomenon, one must take a look back at the mythology, history, along with the careful ways that beer is handled and respected in Norway.

Norwegian Beer – Then and Now
Ægir cans

Beer-drinking is no stranger to myth. According to Norse mythology, the supposed beer-god Ægir was known to host extravagant parties for the other gods. But the most energized part that happens in these parties was the alcohol. The beer-god was generous with his brew, serving the gods unlimited amounts of beer. Sounds like something from modern times, right?

An overly-generous benevolent host aside, how can the myth equate to part of history? And is the lore a symbol to today in Norway?

Related: Norse Beer- Viking Style

Norwegian Beer – Then and Now
Norwegian grain beer festival in Hornindal

Farms were built to have their own brewing sites during the late Middle Ages, especially in Denmark, the neighboring country of Norway. These designated brewing stations were known as “bryggehus,” or “brewing house”; and the production of beer took place inside these establishments.

Norway immediately took note of this phenomenon. By 1857, Norway was home to 353 breweries. In fact, beer brewing was so popular, that it became law. The Norwegian government mandated the brewing of beer; and the failure to do so would result in punishment.

Norwegian Beer – Then and Now
Beer display in a Norwegian Kiwi outlet

“However, these laws were tested, once the growth of industrialization kicked off. Therefore, industrializing brew was the accepted norm; and home-brewing became illegal. Even advertising about alcohol in the 1970s was illegal,” says Julia Thomson, a writer at NextCoursework and Britstudent.

Despite beer-brewing being regulated, the craft of brewing didn’t completely die out. The Norwegian Brewery and Beverage Association has reported that the number of breweries to this day is around 80  – still less breweries than in the 1850s, but still a significant amount.

Related: Drinking in Scandinavia

Norwegian Beer – Then and Now
Stone Viking beer

Drinking Culture
Scandinavia is a costly vacation spot, Norway is no exception, especially with the cost of alcohol. A regular 400ml or 500ml glass of pilsner, from most Norwegian bars, ranges from 65 to 95 kr; but expect to pay more in places such as restaurants and airports. Also, ales and craft beers tend to be more expensive, ranging from 85 to 125kr.

The reason why alcohol prices are super high in Norway, is because the Norwegian government imposes taxes on alcohol, the highest in Europe. Any beer subject to tax is anything over 0.7% ABV, but this ultimately depends on the strength of the brew. Basically, the stronger the brew, the higher the tax.

Norwegian Beer – Then and Now
Norway has always been abundant with its beer brewing

In addition, not only will alcohol take a huge chunk out of your wallet, but it’s also imperative to show the shopping schedules for alcohol. In Norway, the cut-off for beer sales Monday through Friday is after 8pm; but the cut-off on Saturdays is after 6pm. Limited hours may be assessed on Christmas Eve, Pentecost Eve, and New Year’s Eve. However, buying beer is forbidden on Sundays, and any public holidays. Yes, the shopping schedule can be so grueling that don’t be surprised to see several stressed-out people waiting in line to buy their beer before the cut-off time. But for the lucky shopper, they can enjoy their drinking “sessions,” which are usually reserved for special occasions, such as birthdays and cabin trips.

“But the great thing about beer in Norway is that the NBBA has made it to where brewing festivals are allowed, for the sake of tourism. Now more than ever, it has become easy and fun to try out new beers from breweries that have been recognized by the NBBA. Beer connoisseurs everywhere are even encouraged to recommend the best places for people to enjoy a beer,” explains Valerie Hilton, a travel blogger at Write My X and 1 Day 2 Write.

Related: The Scandinavian Demon Drink

Norwegian Beer – Then and Now: Conclusion
Norway has always been abundant with its beer brewing, despite its strict limitations and regulations. To this day, Norway is still considered a popular tourist spot for beer-lovers and curious foodies. Reverting to the Norse myth of the beer god, that would be the best representation of the beer culture in Norway today – Happy drinking! (But also, drink responsibly.)

Norwegian Beer – Then and Now
Michael Dehoyos

Norwegian Beer – Then and Now, written for Daily Scandinavian by Michael Dehoyos. Michael is a marketing expert who imparts his expertise as a content marketer and editor at Phdkingdom and Academicbrits while contributing writing to numerous sites and publications including Essay Help Service. Additionally, he offers marketing consultancy to companies in need of strategy.

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Journalist, PR and marketing consultant Tor Kjolberg has several degrees in marketing management. He started out as a marketing manager in Scandinavian companies and his last engagement before going solo was as director in one of Norway’s largest corporations. Tor realized early on that writing engaging stories was more efficient and far cheaper than paying for ads. He wrote hundreds of articles on products and services offered by the companies he worked for. Thus, he was attuned to the fact that storytelling was his passion.