Norwegian Language Blog

Norwegian beer Posted by on May 21, 2010 in Culture

big beer small beer

I really like øl (beer) and unfortunately when I lived in Norway, I lived on a very tight budget and therefore rarely splurged on øl of any higher kvalitet (quality) than the billigste (cheapest).  Nevertheless, I enjoyed my øl consumption during my time in Norway, especially since I could drink lovlig (legally) before my 21st bursdag

I drank a lot of pilsners of the pale lager type, which definitely seems to be the most prevalent øl in Norway, as in the rest of the western world.  There are certainly darker lagers and ales, wheat beers, and bock beers, but by far the majority of øl in Norway are pilsners, or bottom-fermenting.  If you like øl and you are learning norsk, you are maybe interested in learning some terms related to øl på norsk.  The following is a list of bottom-fermenting øl på norsk:

lettøl: low-alcohol pale lager

pils: over 90% of øl brewed in Norway, the standard pale and lightly hoppy

bayerøl: the first øl brewed in Norway, which has died out significantly, is a semi- dark, lightly hoppy lager

bokkøl: bittersweet, dark, strong lager

lyst sterkøl: full-body, heavy hopped pale lager

juleøl: dark, amber lager brewed specially for jul (Christmas)

märzen: amber lager

vørterøl: ”wart” beer, non-alcoholic

fatøl: pale lager

Of the above-named øl, Juleøl, lyst sterkøl, and bokkøl contain the most alcohol.

Norsk øl produksjon (Norwegian beer production) is a long-standing tradition dating back over 1000 years when almost every farm had a bryggehus (brew house) to brew tasty, hjemmelaget øl (homemade beer).  Since this is an ulovlig (illegal) practice, it is of course unknown how many people still do this.  It is known, however, that more people distill their own spirits than their own øl.

You can find øl at most matbutikker (grocery stores), but if you want øl that has a higher alcohol content than 4.7%, you have to go to a state-run vinmonopol (literally ”wine monopoly”) for your purchase since the sale highly alcoholic beverages is more regualted.

There are about 20 bryggerier (breweries) in Norway today, a siginifcantly lower number than decades ago.  Bigger companies buy smaller companies out, you know the story.  The two largest bryggerier are Carlsberg-Ringnes and Hansa-Borg and they control over 85% of the øl market in Norway.  Ringnes is originally from Oslo (and is still brewed there), but is now owned by the Danish company Carlsberg Hansa is brewed in Bergen.  Aas is a bryggeri in Drammen, not too far outside of Oslo.  Mack is a kind of øl brewed in Tromsø and is in fact the northernmost bryggeri in the whole world.  Frydenlund is another big name, another øl brewed in Oslo.  I know I tried øl from all of these bryggerier, except maybe Mack from Tromsø, so that’s something to look forward to!

Chances are I’ll write about øl in Norway again, but for now, this should wet your palette and make you tørst (thirsty) for some norsk brew!

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About the Author: kari

I attended St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, where I majored in Norwegian and History. During college, I spent almost a year living in Oslo, Norway, where I attended the University of Oslo and completed an internship at the United States Embassy. I have worked for Concordia Language Villages as a pre-K Norwegian teacher and have taught an adult Norwegian language class. Right now, I keep up by writing this Norwegian blog for Transparent Language. Please read and share your thoughts! I will be continuing this blog from my future residence in the Norwegian arctic!


  1. Lasse:

    I’m a great fan of English, but had never seen the expression “wet your palette” before… I guess it means to moisten your colour selection before painting. The question I have is, did you actually mean to say “whet your palate” or was it deliberate? For some reason, I found this quite amusing/interesting.

    Originally being from the great city of Drammen and a massive fan of beer, I am delighted to read that you tried the beers from Aass brewery. I am definitely very tørst just now, but have to make do with some German beers, since I currently reside in that country. Not a bad substitute for Norwegian beers, mind…

  2. kari:

    Lasse-yes, “wet your palette” is a funny expression, isn’t it? it can literally mean to get a painter’s palette ready, but most people use it to mean to get your tastebuds ready, or get a first taste of something. odd, I’ve never really thought about that phrase before, but must be one of those that non-native speakers are initally unsure about.
    Yes, I liked Aass beer very much!

  3. Phil:

    One of the best beers in the world is a porter made by Nøgne Ø – which I am told means “naked island” but I was told by my relatives in Bergen that “søy” meant island. But having a very limited knowledge of Norwegian, what do I know? But I do know beer – try this porter if you find it. I can but it in New Jersey.

  4. BM:


    There are lots of islands around Bergen that end in -søy. That actually means ” ‘s island”, or “island of …”. Ø is a particularly old-fashioned way of writing øy. So old fashioned, that it’s probably considered Danish, just like Nøgne. In fact, when my gf bought me that very beer, she was quite surprised to find out that it had anything to do with Norway at all!