Alkohol & Norway Posted by kari on Mar 8, 2009 in Culture
In all Scandinavian countries except for Denmark, alcohol monopolies control the sale and consumption of alcohol. Sweden was the first of these countries to institute governmental control of alcohol in 1850, followed by Norway in 1922. Norway’s alcohol monopoly is called Vinmonopolet or Polet for short (literally “wine monolpoly,” which can be misleading because it carries hard liquor and strong beer as well). One can purchase weaker beer at supermarkets. Any alcohol with a higher alochol content than 4.7% must be purchased at Vinmonopolet. Until 1999, alcohol purchases at Polet were required to be over the counter purchases, meaning that you had to tell the salesperon what you wanted and they would retrieve it for you. Since 1999, customers can physically choose what they want to purchase and bring it up to the counter.
There are very specific hours of business for Vinmonopolet and for beer purchases at supermarkets as well. They open mid-morning and close at 6 pm on the weekdays and 3 pm on Saturdays, with no service on Sundays. If you have read one of my earlier posts, you will recall that business in the whole country basically shuts down on Sundays. The hours for buying beer in supermarkets follow the hours of sale of harder booze at Vinmonopolet.
One must be 18 years or older to purchase beer, but cannot purchase any alcohol with more than 22 % alcohol content until they are 20 or older. As in the U.S., some bars are stricter than others and everyone always knows someone that is of age, so of course teenagers often engage in alcohol consumption as well. In the mid and northfern parts of the country, hjemmebrent or heimebrent (moonshine, the illegal product of distilling one’s own liquor) alcohol is popular. A very popular drink is called karsk, which consists of strong coffee, home-made liquor (usually vodka) and a spoonfull of sugar. It really tastes strange, but it can be enjoyable from time to time. When I was up in northern Norway I had this a couple times and it was something fun and different to drink. Sometimes people mix vodka with flavored hot tea, which I must say did not taste very good.
While hard liquor is very heavily consumed in Norway, beer is the drink of choice for most people. Wine is becoming more and more popular, but since the Norwegian climate does not accomodate vineyards, the sales have typically been lower than beer. There are 18 breweries in Norway and the most popular kind of beer consumed in Norway is pilsner (probably because the alcohol content is lower and thus more available at supermarkets); the majority of beer produced in Norway is pilsner. Norwegians do not drink a lot of imported beer. It was interesting to me to see Norwegians get really excited about Budweiser. It’s a classic American beer and that’s why they like it.
I cannot forget the most well-known Norwegian liquor akevitt (aquavit) which I have mentioned several times now in previous posts. I do not enjoy most hard liquors, but I do enjoy akevitt. If you are of legal age and haven’t tried akevitt, I suggest you do. It has a very unique flavor. Tell me what you think! Do not drink it on an empty stomach. It is most enjoyable in small quanitites after a large meal (such as Christmas). I just got my hands on some venison steaks, so I plan to follow a Norwegian recipe that calls for akevitt, geitost, lingonberries and juniper berries (Scandinavian berries) in the sauce. I’ll let you know how it turns out!
Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.