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Archive for November, 2011

Vinoble store front

The border trade in Scandinavia has changed a lot over the last decade. Huge shopping malls are being built along the Swedish side of the border with Norway, giving the consumers easy access to the European Union price level for food. Oslo is just ninety minutes away from the border, so this is ideal for an afternoon of shopping.

There is not as convenient for beer drinkers, as the legal quotas are low, and the beers available in Swedish supermarkets are of the severely diluted category.

There used to be a similar thriving market in the ferry ports of Jutland, Denmark, but the Swedes can do their shopping cheaper in Germany while the Norwegians find Sweden more convenient. The ferries do, however, still shuttle back and forth between Oslo and Frederikshavn, and last weekend I took the 24 hour return trip.

The ferry does not have any beer worth mentioning, and I frankly did not expect much when I went ashore on Sunday morning, either. The two supermarkets closest to the port are both boarded up, and I was heading for a discount store in the centre of town.

But there was a pleasant surprise on the way. The Vinoble wine store, which used to be a fairly small shop and with limited opening hours, has adjusted to the new times. They have expanded the shop, meaning there is a lot more room both for wine and for other goods.

The beer shelves are fairly well stocked. Belgian beers, including trappists, English brews from the more standard offerings to Fuller’s Vintage 2011. A lot of Danish micro beers, too, though it seems many of them come from the same company, Klosterbryggeriet, which uses a number of labels and beer series, contract brewing them in various parts of the country.

As usual, I filled my bag with more than I had planned to buy. Friendly and personal service, too, wrapping each bottle in paper for me.

I hope this shop doesn’t go the same way as the supermarkets. Maybe they have a combination of locals and day trippers that makes it worth while to stay in business. And don’t get me wrong, this is not a ghost town. People go about their business, this is a fair sized Danish town with shops and services, beaches and pubs. And they probably don’t miss all the drunken Swedes.

Vinoble beer shelves

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One phenomenon has caught my eye recently, and that is the increased availability of Norwegian beer in various European markets. And by this I mean Norwegian craft beer from small breweries – the major players seem very content with getting their slice of the pale lager market, possibly with some alcopops thrown in.

Brasserie 4:20 in Rome had a Halloween beer festival with more beers from Nøgne Ø and Haandbryggeriet on tap than we have ever seen in Norway. The Nøgne Ø beers are readily available in the best beer bars in London. Haandbryggeriet is cooperating with De Molen, Nøgne Ø brews for Mikkeller. I even got a report from my friend Max in Prague that there are Nøgne Ø beers on tap at the Zubatý Pes pub in the Czech capital.

Add to this a sizeable export to the US, and we are talking serious money. Enough to make it possible for the breweries to slowly expand and pay their taxes and salaries.

I’m not very nationalistic, and I enjoy beers from around the globe. But the “local lads make success” factor has a value, and the fact that there is great beer brewed on our door step means that the threshold for Norwegian restaurants and bars to offer them is getting lower. Journalists and food writers find it more interesting to focus on national craft beers, too.

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Back shortly

I’ve not been ill, just a new day job and other commitments keeping me busy. I’ll try to blog more regularly, but in the short run I think it will be a bit irregular.

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