Saturday, November 05, 2005


Christmas comes twice

Yesterday was the start of the two month Christmas season in Norway. Not only were the stronger Christmas beers released by my local Vinmonopolet store (the state liquor store selling alcoholic beverages stronger than 4.75% alcohol volume), it was also the day of the Norwegian Christmas Beer Festival.

Held in the dark basement of Chateau Neuf- party venue for the Oslo students- it was already quite lively when I arrived two and a half hours after the opening.

Not too many stands could be spotted; the two big brewery groups were there, the great little Nøgne Ø brewery faithfully turned up, as did two other microbreweries. A stand with imported beer completed the list.

The guests had to drink their beers from plastic glasses- on the podium sat the wise men, four of them for the occasion, sipping beers from tiny wine glasses- without uttering a word. Slightly bizarre, if you ask me.

Altogether no more than 23 brews were on offer, 8 of which were imported and 8 representing the big brewery groups. Not an amazing choice- I was a bit disappointed that so few microbreweries found it worth the effort of participating. But then again effort seems to be a scarce resource in this country.

Not wanting to appear like a grumpy old man let me add that the atmosphere was relaxed and friendly, and craft brews offered by the microbreweries were excellent.

For me it was a nice warming-up session before visiting maybe Europe's best Christmas beer festival in 6 weeks time, taking place in the little Flemish border town of Essen, a short train ride north of Antwerpen. There virtually all Belgian Christmas beers can be enjoyed. Needless to say there would be more than 23 beers to choose from! It is like Christmas coming twice.

One could hope for more micros, but I don't think there are any more Norwegian micros (with bottled beer) araount than the three present at the festival. Let us hope there are more in a year or two!

Knut Albert
I share your hopes, Knut Albert. However, I know of one Norwegian micro with Christmas beer on cask located just a few hundred meters away, yet still unavailable at the festival. The Norwegian craft beer scene is too small and the beer festivals too far between to allow for that kind of effortlessness, in my opininon!
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