Fascinated by all things Swedish? An avid beer drinker? Or just keen to know how to order your favourite brew in Sweden? Our guide to Swedish beer covers it all.
A Brief History of Swedish Beer
Through old writings such as Hávamál, it’s clear that the Norse people brewed ale (öl) and mead (mjöd). Up until the 1800s, beer was brewed for household consumption and was not very strong. For celebrations and feasts, stronger beer and mead was brewed. As cities multiplied during the period of industrialization, the Swedish beer industry expanded.
In the mid-1800s, a number of small breweries existed in the larger cities in Sweden and each town had at least one brewery. By 1980, three large brewery conglomerates were formed: Falcon, Pripps and Spendrups, which led to the demise of the smaller breweries and uninspiring beer lacking taste and flavour. In the 1990s, a new generation of breweries fronted by Stockholm’s Nils Oscar Brewery came into being, offering more choice and as the beer industry has proliferated, many beers offered in Sweden today are of the highest international quality.
What Are the Most Popular Swedish Beers?
Närke Kaggen Stormaktsporter, an Imperial Stout, was first brewed in 2005. This Swedish beer is made with heather honey and aged in oak barrels for 2 ½ months. Sahtipaja MeadMe Batch #2 is a Bourbon Vanilla brew made using sweet mead, red and black currants, green gooseberries, sweet cherries, bourbon and vanilla beans.
Omnipollo is a microbrewery in Sweden founded in 2010 by Henok Fentie and the artist Karl Granding who wanted to change the perception of beer. One of their offerings, the Noa Pecan Mud Cake Four Roses is a barrel-aged (in Four Roses bourbon barrels), coconut Imperial Stout. The bourbon barrels yield a taste of sweet vanilla and long-boiled marmalade to produce the richness of Noa Pecan Mud Cake base beer.
Another popular beer, made by the Apex Brewing Company is Abbath TIPA which they’ll inform you is also called ‘diabolus in cervisia, the devil’s lubricant’ or, if you prefer, ‘the morning star of hazy imperial India pale ales’. They also refer to it as a ‘beerhemoth’ suggesting that it is a potent drink, not meant for the faint-hearted.
What Are the Other Major Beer Brands in Sweden?
Other Swedish beer brands include:
- Brekeriet, from Malmö in Southern Sweden
- Pang! Pang! is a tiny brewery out of Stockholm and their beers are based on American brews.
- Carnegie Stark Porter is a beer that is enjoyed by many.
How Much is Beer in Sweden?
Although beer is the most common alcoholic drink in Sweden, it can be expensive. Whether you buy beer in a café, restaurant or bar it will cost approximately 55–75kr for half a litre of lager-type brew.
What Is Swedish Shower Beer?
It’s one thing to have an icy drink at the end of a long and tiring day but there is another relaxing drinking tradition you can indulge in: the shower beer. Drinking an icy beer in a warm shower is guaranteed to give you just the lift you need to enjoy your evening. According to Dr. Christopher Hollingsworth, of NYC Surgical Associates, showers are a fantastic way to release dopamine (the feel-good hormone) and adding one drink to that can “assist your creative juices due to your relaxed mindset…and reduce stress a lot.”
The Swedish craft brewery PangPang and creative agency Snask, have produced a product which bears the catchy title ‘Shower Beer’ which is half the liquid amount of an average beer bottle or can but contains a high level of alcohol – 10% ABV – so you can enjoy half the amount of beer (hopefully, the time it takes you to shower!) with double the alcohol content!.
What Are The Different Styles Of Swedish Beer?
There are two broad definitions of Swedish beer styles delineated by Swedish law:
- Lättöl is considered to be a light beverage ‘lättdryck’ (2.25% by volume) which can be sold anywhere to people of any ages.
- Starköl is above the upper threshold, (3.5% by volume) and can only be sold in Systembolaget (governmental) stores to people over 20 years old or in pubs to people over 18.
- Folköl beer (medium strong) straddles these two categories and can be found in all grocery stores. In Sweden, Systembolaget is a government-owned chain of liquor stores and the only stores that are allowed to sell alcohol of more than 3.5% alcohol by volume.
What Are the Best Microbrew or Craft Beers in Sweden?
The Beerbliotek in Gothenburg is a kind of beer ‘library’ as the name suggests, which produces new craft beers at speed. It has over 200 varieties and you can book tasting sessions for private groups or for corporate events. Their beers have delightful, playful names such as Am I not Bitter Enough and Forward with the Goat and GLOW-Along.
Poppels Bryggeri, in Jonsered, makes craft beer that is very popular but despite its success, it continues in the artisan tradition, taking its name from an excellent 17th-century brewer Johan Casparsson Poppelman. In Gothenburg, the Spike Brewery offers a guided tour and a modern range of unique-tasting beers including, Ion, Open to Suggestions, Fingerlickin’ and Spike Monopoly. Another great brewery in Gothenburg is Vega Bryggeri, where the approach to making craft beer is based on sustainability. You can purchase their Vega craft beer range which comes in a variety of flavours.
What are Swedish Beers that Pair Well with Swedish Food?
A popular dish in Sweden is köttbullar (meatballs) which is traditionally served with mash, lingonberry jam and a brown creamy sauce which would go very well with Swedish Blonde, a craft beer with grapefruit and orange flavours produced by Maxim Breweries.
The Omnipollo Mazarin makes a good beer pairing with fish and cheese. This beer has a fresh, light flavour with herbs, orange peel and lemon. It can be enjoyed with a räkmacka -a Swedish shrimp sandwich usually served on rye bread and topped with lettuce, mayonnaise, caviar, dill, egg and shrimp.
How to Order a Beer in Swedish
‘En öl, tack!’ translates to ‘A beer, please!’ and if you are really thirsty, you can ask for ‘en tor stark, tack!’ which means, ‘a big, strong, please!’. Tak tak means ‘thanks so much’ and ‘stort tack’ means ‘big thanks’. When you receive your drink, you say ‘Skål!’ (pronounced ‘skoal’) which means ‘Cheers!’.
The Good and the Bad Of Swedish Beer
If you prefer drinking in your lodgings, you are going to have to buy beer from a Systembolaget – a government alcohol store – but if you buy supermarket beer in Sweden, it has to be below 4% ABV.
While you may not be able to enjoy a strong beer in the comfort of your lodgings because of the monopoly of the Systembolaget stores and the price of beer could set you back more than in other European countries, one thing is guaranteed: you will be spoilt for choice when it comes to beer and craft beer in Sweden.