Posts Tagged ‘Around Oslo in 18 Beers’

The other posts in this series have been about permanent shops and bars, today I want to draw attention to an event. Sure, it is linked to the Aku Aku Tiki Bar, but it’s also a sort of one day food and beer festival.

One sign that craft beer is coming of age here in Norway is when established restaurant moguls are getting involved. Jan Vardøen is running at least half a dozen shops, restaurants and bars in the rapidly gentrifying Grünerkøkka area of Oslo, and 12 September he is launching a book about sausages and beer. At the same time you can try Nøgne ø’s new Lemongrass Ale, only available on draft. I hope there will be more interesting beers as well – and I hope this means a stronger commitment to beer in Mr. Vardøen’s other establishments!

The programme promises oysters and stout, home made sausages, imported beers and micro brews. I think events like this makes more sense than large festivals here in Oslo.

Aku Aku flyer

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Mean machines

Mean machines

The most established music venue in Oslo is Rockefeller, an old public bath which has been staging concerts and other events for a few decades. It comfortably fits in about a thousand, and, if the guy next to you can keep his mouth shut, the sound and light is superb.

The question is always where to meet up for a beer before the concert. Sure, there are dozens of pubs and bars in the area, but the beer range has not been very impressive.

Problem solved. Just around the corner from the Rockefeller entrance, in what I’m told used to be the shower rooms of the bath, there is a new bar. It is so new they don’t have a sign outside, no web site, hardly a phone number.

In addition to the liquids on offer, they have a game arcade in one of their two rooms. Not fruit machines or other forms of gambling. No, about twenty classic pinball machines as well as a vintage jukebox. All of them were not operative when I popped in, there were a few mechanics still making the last of them ready, doing their magic to produce the classic sounds and colors.

But there is beer, too, lots of it. Draft beer from Haandbryggeriet and Danish micro Svaneke, as well as taps with Old Speckled Hen, Erdinger and Paulaner.

The bottled range has a mix of lagers from faraway places and really good stuff. Smoked beer from Bamberg, Anchor Stream, Duvel, BrewDog. More Danish micros, too. If they top up this with the best of the Norwegian micros, they will have at leas one loyal customer!

The guys behind the counter know their stuff  and have their background from Parkteatret and other places with serious beer selections.

A had a glass of Haandbryggeriets new Blondie, a Belgian style ale that is only available on draft in selected bars. Layers of fruit and malt, a hint of yeast. A bit short finish, perhaps, but compared to the industrial lagers that is standard fare in Norway this is great stuff!

Tilt 007

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Bilde 034When summer hits Oslo, we behave like lemmings, aggressively aiming for the waterfront. Most of us end up at places like Aker Brygge, an old shipyard turned into yuppieland in the Eighties. It is a mad fight for a table in the sun, the beer is Ringnes at outrageous prices.

The alternative is just across the inner harbour, where the sun is not blocked by high buildings. Among other vintage ships and boats, just beneath the old walls of Akserhus fortress, we find Tjeldsundfergen III, which used to do its duty as a ferry in Northern Norway.

The menu is simple – hot dogs or peel-your-own shrimps. They used to have interesting draught beers, but now it’s Ringnes pils and bayer on tap. But there is good stuff in the fridge.

A dozen German beers from small breweries. St. George, Krauss, Weltenburger. Even two smoked Bamberg beers from the Aecht Schlenkerla range.

No credit cards, a good symbol of the contrast to Aker Brygge. Reasonable prices. The clientele? Quite a few smokers. Adults, families, groups of friends. Some serious drinkers. Low life? No, but people who have lived their lives.

You can join the Friends of Tjeldsundfergen III for a small fee. You contribute to the upkeep of the ferry – and you get a litte discount on your beers…

Opening hours? Dependent on the weather.

Bilde 032

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Time to mention one of the shops selling premium beers as well. While there are a few supermarket chains now selling Haandbryggeriet and Nøgne ø bottles, it is much tougher for other micros to get on the shelves.

We are, however, lucky in Oslo. We have a food shop dedicated to the best Norwegian food available. This means game, cured meat, cheese, oils and vinegars, flatbread and sausages, butter and sour cream, it is a great place to stock up.

And there are some hand picked artisan beers, too. Breweries include Valdres, Ægir, Ølve and Inderøy Gårdsbryggeri.

The shop is Fenaknoken in Tordenskjolds gate, very close to the harbour and City Hall. Eirik Bræk is running the shop, and if he is not too busy, he enjoys a chat about beer and food. He does catering, too.

Bilde 029

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Parkteatret is located in a prime spot at Grünerløkka, an area of Oslo that has moved steadily upmarket for the last two decades or so. Young and quite affluent population, spending lots of their time hanging out with friends in bars and cafes.

Parkteatret was a movie theatre in a previous incarnation, now it houses a concert venue that is also used for the taping of some TV shows. The old lobby area is a bar open daily, and they have a decent range of Norwegian micros. They have the full list of Haandbryggeriet beers, including their Weizen on tap, and there are some Nøgne ø beers available, too. Decent prices for here, all beers well below the 100 kroner mark. No food, but there are good options nearby.



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Sake at Nodee

Sake at Nodee

What is a beer? Well, it’s fermented grain, isn’t it? Usually barley, usually hops, but if you’re not too obsessed with the Bavarian Reinheitsgebot, it’s the cereal that’s at the core. From grapes you get wine, from grain you get beer.

One avenue to explore is then to look at the varieties that don’t use malted barley as their starting point. Some go for historical recreations, studying Middle Age manuscripts or stone tablets in the Middle East. There are brews with millet, sorghum and all the old types of wheat you can imagine.

But then there is a major type of beverage that is, technically, a beer, even if you have to be a beer nerd to consider it.


To have a range of sake in Oslo, you’ll have to find one of the upmarket Japanese restaurants. Alex Sushi has lots of Chablis, but only two brands of sake.

I went with my family to Nodee recently. They have some special imports, covering a range of styles, flavours (and prices).

The food is divine, but if you order sushi a la carte, it is expensive. Try one of the pan-Asian set menus, starting off with sushi and sashimi. Splendid value.

I don’t have the knowledge to suggest any sake for you, but I am sure the polite and observant staff can help you out.

Table reservation recommended. And it’s right across the street from the Frognerbadet public pool if you want to work up an appetite.

Thats just for starters

That's just for starters

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Litteraturhuset – House of Literature– occupies a prime spot next door to the Royal Palace and its leafy park. Quite a few tables outside for sunny weather, cozy atmosphere inside, too.

The House of Literature opened its doors in Oslo’s former teacher training college in Wergelandsveien 29, in the autumn of 2007, and is a popular venue hosting a broad range of events. Readings, meet the author, seminars, stand up comedy. It seems to be fully booked most days.

Right inside the front door, Cafe Oslo has shared a room with a bookshop which was having a closing down sale when I last visited.

 I’ve heard mixed reports about the food, so you might wish to dine elsewhere. It is, however, a perfect place to stop for a glass of beer on your way into or out of town or just for an idle afternoon. Three bottled beers from Nøgne ø, 2 Westmalle beers and Staropramen are available. The Nøgne ø IPA was great.

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Oslo Mikrobryggeri is the only brew pub in town, so it is on every beer travellers list. It’s been around for a while, and I would think all investments are written off now – the place has not changed for decades. The guests seem to be locals, there aren’t that many pubs in the area, really.

What do you get? A range of house beers on keg, depending on the season. Usually there is a pils, a bitter, a stout, a steamer, a porter and an amber plus a seasonal, this summer a weissen.

The beers have been quite boring, but there is a new brewer, and on my last visit the beers were in top form. Sampler glasses available for tickers.

And there’s a tram stop just outside the door. Or you can walk down to our next destination.

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Sagene Lunsjbar is a relic from a lost age. I’m not sure what’s fact and what’s legend, but there has been an inn here since the 1850’s, providing food and drink to people passing by on what was a busy road in and out of Oslo.

I don’t think this was very pretentious to start with, but it slid steadily downhill over the decades, and it ended up being a refuge for serious daytime drinkers.

The area surrounding the old inn was sold for development a few years ago, and everyone expected that the old timbered house would be chopped up for firewood. No such thing. It was wrapped up in plastic for years, but then it suddenly reappeared, polished like an old gem.

I don’t think there is much daytime beer drinking there now, it appeals to a more varied clientele. A good range of low priced lunch and dinner dishes,  a coffee menu and table service seems to have hit the spot in this working class and not quite gentrified neighbourhood. A few tables outside on the back for warm days.

The beer of choice? They seem to be tied to Carlsberg/Ringnes. A bottle of Hoegaarden is the most interesting on the list.

A vintage watering hole

A vintage watering hole

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I’ve been planning to make a sort of beer guide to Oslo for some time. There are new places popping up, there are old pubs, restaurants and cafes that are starting to take beer seriously – and there are historical places with a beer connection.

To start off the series, I have picked a place that is a piece of beer history.

We had our share of prohibition in Norway as well, with strong alcohol being banned 1917-1927. Wine and beer was banned 1917-1923, but this had to be modified, particularly since Norwegian fish exports were partly linked to us buying French wine.

But even when things were slightly liberalised, there were strong voices for strict regulation of alcohol in all forms.

Grefsenkollen restaurant was built by Ringnes brewery in 1926 on a hill overlooking Oslo. At the time there were strict limitations on the sale of alcohol in central Oslo, and this was probably meant as an outlet and a promotional tool for the brewery. Grefsenkollen soon became a popular place for outdoor activities, and there was dancing in the evening.

Ringnes gave the establishment to the City of Oslo in the late thirties, with the condition that the only beer to be sold on the premises was to be – Ringnes.

The popularity has waxed and waned over the decades, but it is still occupying a magnificent spot. The restaurant recently opened after a major makeover. It is now open for lunch most days, while dinner is by appointment.

If you arrive by bike or on foot, the location at 367 meters above sea level means you have deserved a beer. You can drive up there, too, and there are buses on Sundays.

The lunch menu is upmarket – mussels, duck confit salad, seafood soup. The beer is Ringnes pils only, one could have wished for their traditional Bock and Bayer as well.

Alternative drinking with a view from the forest: Frognerseteren Restaurant (with Bayer and Bock on the menu) or  Holmenkollen Restaurant.  Bring your credit card.

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