It has certainly not been the most productive of years at the blog. The beer scene is more vibrant than ever, it’s really me being busy elsewhere. But I thought it appropriate to share a few world, as we seem to have survived yet another solstice.
The number of breweries in Norway is almost at the same level as it was in the last golden age a century ago – except this time around they don’t all go for the same German lager styles. As I have started to document in my series of presentations of Norwegian micros, there is a diversity out there that makes it even more fun to observe.
The question is, of course, is this sustainable? Denmark is a few years ahead of us, and they have seen some bankruptcies in the sector. Can we expect the same?
There are some major differences between us, making me a cautious optimist. Many of the new breweries are brewpubs, supplying one or a very few pubs and restaurants. This means no bottling plant, no capital tied up in bottled beers in shops up and down the land, the opportunity of tweaking and adjusting the recipes to get the right beer. This also means that brewing is often a part-time activity, you don’t have to find room for a full salary. On the other hand, the driving force here is often pure enthusiasm, and this may wear thin over time.
Others bottle their beers, aiming for local or national distribution. This may work out well for a year or two. The supermarkets in Norway are concentrated in four groups, and as long as beer is trendy, there are opportunities. But this depends on sales, if they do not live up to expectations, the shelf space will be given back to Carlsberg and Corona. It is partly a question of price, there are limits to what people are willing to pay for a beer at 4.7%ABV.
The Vinmonopolet stores have a huge increase in beer sales, and some of them now have a very good range. The seasonal Christmas beers were sold out in record time this year. There are a number of importers trying to cash in on the opportunity, but I don’t think all of them will be successful. There are splendid beers to be had – but there are also far too many overpriced Italian clones of standard beer styles not worth a premium price.
The new brewpubs in Oslo are to be applauded for not sticking to their own beer, but also offering the best domestic and import beers they can lay their hands on. I travel far less than I used to – but I can get some of the best beers on the planet close to home.
I have stocked up a few bottles for the holidays, and will be taking a long break in the Norwegian mountains with my family. Skiing, cooking, reading, playing cards. Merry Christmas to all of you!