Beer in Norway
Beer in Norway has a long history, going back at least 1000 years. Until around 200 years ago no farm was complete without a brewhouse. From the early 20th century brewing was industrialized and home brewing outlawed. Significant consolidation in the brewing sector has reduced the number of major breweries to just a handful. With the exception of the malty juleøl (Christmas beer), most beer styles brewed in Norway trace their ancestry to central Europe.
The Norwegian beer market is dominated by two large brewers: The giant Carlsberg-Ringnes based in Oslo and Copenhagen, Denmark, and the smaller Hansa-Borg, based in Bergen and Sarpsborg. Each produce beer branded in a variety of traditional Norwegian beer brands, as well as foreign brands bottled on licence. This system is a result of the large-scale consolidation of Norwegian breweries that has taken place over the last 50 years.
Craft brewing has a long history in Norway, harking back to the days when no farm was complete without a brewhouse. Many structures found at old properties include a designated "bryggehus": a separate building where beer was produced. Home brewing in Norway is common, albeit understated (due to its association with home distilling, which is illegal) pastime. Examples can be found in Oslo at Oslo Mikrobryggeri, Scandinavia's first microbrewery and brewpub, Molo Brew in Ålesund, and Lervig in Stavanger.
As with most countries in Europe and America, the most popular style of beer in Norway is pilsner-style pale lager. According to the Norwegian brewers' association, most beer brewed in Norway is pale lager. Until recently, this was the only style of beer to be had, except at Christmas time, when Christmas beers become available. These are dark malt beers traditionally brewed for the holiday season. Today, the craft beer market has continued to develop in Norway offering a number of different styles; including the redevelopment of Kveik yeast for ancient and historical beers.
Due to government restrictions, beers above 4.75% abv are only available from licensed premises or from the state-run Vinmonopolet ("wine monopoly") liquor stores. This has resulted in some foreign breweries decreasing the alcohol content in their beer in order to make them legal for supermarket retail.
Norway has limited availability of beers on tap in pubs and nightclubs. This is due to the custom of each pub signing a contract with one brewery, limiting them to providing draught beer from that brewery. In exchange, the brewery will provide the bar with all the systems required for pulling beer, including tanks, taps, and glasses. In place of the tap selection, bars often carry a number of bottled beers. However, these usually carry a much higher price tag.
Styles of beer that are typical of Norwegian brewing traditions are:
Pilsner - the pale lager style which originated in the Czech city of Plzeň. This is the dominant beer type with almost 92% of the market share. The weaker (below 4.75% abv.) types are the most common, but most breweries also brew stronger varieties (similar to the Bavarian Spezial beer style) for sale through the Vinmonopol.
Bayer - a dark lager with roots in Bavaria (Bayern). The Norwegian version is often slightly sweeter than German dark lagers. Once rivaling pilsner in popularity, its market share has dropped from 20% in 1950 to 0.2% in 2004. It was the most popular industrial-brewed beer before the Second World War, but it lost its popularity due to the German occupation.
Juleøl - a dark, malted beer exclusively available at Christmas time. Traditionally this was a strong ale which was brewed at home. In modern times each brewery produces their own variety of Christmas beer, mostly a lager. Most breweries brew both weaker varieties (for sale in supermarkets) and more traditional, stronger varieties.
In Norway, beer is classified into four categories by ABV (alcohol by volume), labeled from A to D. The class both determine the tax level, age restrictions, where, and when it can be sold.
- Class A beer has an ABV of less than 0.7%, and is for all intents and purposes alcohol-free beer. It is not taxed more than general foodstuffs, and can be sold anywhere, any time, and be bought by anyone.
- Class B beer has an ABV between 0.7% and 2.75%, and is considered "lettøl" (light beer). It is lightly taxed, and can be sold anywhere, anytime, with an age limit of 18 years.
- Class C beer has an ABV between 2.75% and 3.75%. This category is not in common use.
- Class D beer has an ABV between 3.75% and 4.75%, and is considered standard strength. Taxation is significant, age limit is 18 years, and sales are subject to local regulation. In most parts of Norway, class D beer can be purchased from common supermarkets, but only before 20:00 on weekdays and 18:00 on Saturdays. In some parts of Norway it can only be purchased through licensed beer stores.
- Beer over 4,75% is considered sterkøl (strong beer) and is only sold through the government-controlled liquor store chain Vinmonopolet. It is taxed according to ABV level as with wines and spirits, and carries an 18-year age limit.
- Ringnes is originally from Oslo, and is brewed by Ringnes Bryggeri in Oslo. It is Norway's most sold beer brand. It is owned by the Danish brewery Carlsberg.
- Hansa is originally from Bergen, and is brewed by Hansa Brewery in Bergen, owned by Hansa Borg Bryggerier It is Norway's second largest beer brand.
- Aass is originally from Drammen, and is brewed by Aass Bryggeri in Drammen.
- Arendals is originally from Arendal. It is brewed by Arendals Bryggeri in Arendal.
- Borg is originally from Sarpsborg, and is brewed by Borg Bryggerier, that belongs to Hansa-Borg Bryggerier in Sarpsborg.
- CB is originally from Kristiansand, and is brewed by Christianssands Bryggeri (CB) in Kristiansand. CB is owned by Hansa-Borg Bryggerier.
- E. C. Dahls is originally from Trondheim, and is brewed by Ringnes E. C. Dahls Bryggeri in Trondheim. E. C. Dahls is owned by Ringnes Bryggeri.
- Frydenlund is originally from Oslo. It is brewed by Ringnes Bryggeri in Oslo.
- Grans is originally from Sandefjord. It is brewed by Grans Bryggeri in Sandefjord.
- Lundetangen is originally from Skien. It is brewed by Aass Bryggeri in Drammen.
- Mack is originally from Tromsø, and is brewed by Macks Ølbryggeri in Nordkjosbotn. Macks Ølbryggeri was for long the world's northernmost brewery until they moved their production facilities.
- Tou was originally from Stavanger. It is brewed by Ringnes Bryggeri in Oslo.
- Nøgne Ø is originally from Grimstad, and is brewed by Nøgne Ø Brewery in Grimstad, and Christianssands Bryggeri in Kristiansand, owned by Hansa Borg Bryggerier.
- Austmann is origianally from Trondheim, and is brewed by Austmann Bryggeri in Trondheim.
- Haandbryggeriet is originally from Drammen, and is brewed by Haandbryggeriet Brewery in Drammen.
- Kinn is originally from Florø, and is brewed by Kinn Bryggeri in Florø.
- Lervig is origianally from Stavanger, and is brewed by Lervig Aktiebryggeri in Stavanger.
- MoloBrew is originally from Ålesund, and brewed by MoloBrewAS in Ålesund.
- Sagene is originally from Sagene in Oslo, and is brewed by Sagene Bryggeri in Oslo.
- Svalbard is the northernmost brewery in the world, originally from Longyearbyen at Svalbard, and is brewed by Svalbard Bryggeri in Longyearbyen.
- Ægir is originally from Flåm, and is brewed by Ægir Bryggeri in Flåm.
Microbreweries and brew pubs
Norwegian craft beers are based on local, experimental, traditional and imported recipes. Although the volume of craft beer is significantly lower than beer from the larger other parts of the brewery industry, about 25% of the employees of the Norwegian brewery industry works with craft beer brewing.
An example of the revival of old brewing is that many current Norwegian brewers brew ancient beer types, using the unique fermentation kveik.
- Mortensen, Hylje and Johnsen, Vidar: Norsk øl. Tun forlag 2009. (in Norwegian) ISBN 978-82-529-3286-7
- Jørgensen, Gustav: Skummende lidenskap - fem stabeiser og deres øl. Bibere forlag 2013 (in Norwegian) ISBN 9788299942201
- Almås Kvig, Jørn Idar: Ølboka. Front Forlag 2014 (in Norwegian) ISBN 978-82-826-0329-4
- Smith-Gahrsen, Gahr; Hatland, Hugo Ivan and Ekeland, Skjalg: Den norske ølrevolusjonen. Kagge Forlag 2014 (in Norwegian) ISBN 9788248915249
- Solem, Knut Albert: Norsk øl- og bryggeriguide. Vega Forlag, Oslo, 2016 (in Norwegian) ISBN 978-82-8211-459-2
- Almås Kvig, Jørn Idar: Den norske ølboka - en guide til norske øl og bryggerier. Goliat Forlag AS, 2016 (in Norwegian) ISBN 9788293430155
- Almås Kvig, Jørn Idar: Sommerøl - en guide til sommerens øl. Goliat Forlag AS, 2016 (in Norwegian) ISBN 9788293430025
- Almås Kvig, Jørn Idar: Den store ølboka - en guide til skandinavisk øl og bryggerier, Goliat Forlag AS, 2017 (in Norwegian) ISBN 9788293430544
- When the craft beer revolution finally hit Norway, it hit with a vengeance www.visitnorway.com (in English)
- NORØL (Norske Ølvenners Landsforbund - Federation of Norwegian Beer Consumers) is a consumer organisation which campaigns to support traditional styles such as Bokkøl and Bayerøl. (in Norwegian)
- Norwegian Breweries (in English)
- Norske bryggerier Bryggeri- og drikkevareforeningen (incl. an updated list of breweries) (in Norwegian)
- Norwegian craft beer visitnorway.com (in English)
- Norway Breweries ratebeer.com (in English)
-  lervig.no (in English)