Beer classification in Sweden and Finland

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The beer classification in Sweden and Finland sorts beers into classes based on their alcohol content. The classes vary slightly between the two countries.


While previously enforced by law, the beer class legislation was repealed in 1995 with the accession of Finland into the European Union and the consequent harmonization of tax law, and is now merely kept as a convention.[1] However, drinks containing under 2.8% alcohol (Class I) are still favorably taxed, and the retail sale of any drinks containing more than 4.7% alcohol (Class IV) is still limited to state retailer Alko.

alcohol content (abv) available in pubs available in supermarkets notes
Class I 0.0% - 2.8% yes yes no alcohol retail license necessary
Class II 2.8% – 3.7% yes yes never used in practice
Class III 3.7% - 4.7% yes yes the most popular beer type
Class IVA 4.8% - 5.2% yes no prohibitively taxed before 1995 and largely limited to export sales
Class IVB 5.2% - 8.0% yes no prohibitively taxed before 1995


Only classes I and II can be purchased in supermarkets, while class III can only be purchased in restaurants licensed to do so, and the state shops Systembolaget. Class II beer is loosely divided into two sub-groups, light "Folköl" ("People's Beer") with a maximum ABV of 2.8% and normal "Folköl", with a maximum ABV of 3.5%. An alcohol content of 2.8% and below is not subject to specific, higher, alcohol taxes, but only to VAT (12%) as any other food or non-alcoholic drink. Class III beer is also, unofficially, divided into two sub-groups, "Mellanöl" ("in-between beer"), with ABV between 3.6% and 4.5%, and normal "strong beer" with ABV above 4.5%. There is no real maximum amount of how much alcohol Class III beer may contain, and amounts of 10%+ are common. Mellanöl used to be available in supermarkets between October 1, 1965 and July 1, 1977, but was removed from the supermarkets due to heavy consumption by Swedish teenagers. Today "Mellanöl" does not exist as a class of its own, but "Mellanöl style beer" is available at Systembolaget. Before 1997, alcohol by weight was used, and then the limit for shops was 2.8 %, same as 3.5 % alcohol by volume, which was a source of confusion.

alcohol content (ABV) available in restaurants available in supermarkets taxed
Class I (Lättöl) 0.0% - 2.25% yes yes no
Class II (Lätt Folköl) 2.8% yes yes no
Class II (Folköl) 3.5% yes yes yes
Class III (Mellanöl) 3.6% - 4.5% yes no yes
Class III (Starköl) 4.6% + yes no yes


  1. ^ Viisi Tähteä - Oluiden luokittelu ja oluttyypit Archived May 31, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.

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