Traditionally Norway is a country of regional brewers. Farmers brewed their own beer, and there were also commercial brewers. Each city had its own brewery, and thirty years ago you would normally only find the local beer in bars and shops. For instance: Oslo had Ringnes and Frydenlund, Stavanger had Tou, Kristiansand had CB, Trondheim had E. C. Dahl, Bergen had Hansa, Sarpsborg had Borg, Bodø had Nordlandspilsen and Tromsø had Mack.
After brewery mergers, brewery buy-outs and new distribution systems, these days it is common to find beers from other parts of Norway in the local shops. Foreign beers are also common - both imported and made on licence in Norway. Two brewers share most of the market between them. They are Ringnes (owned by Carlsberg) and Hansa-Borg.
Beers of the light lager style are most popular in Norway. For instance Ringnes sells various beers of this style. It is possible to find both Ringnes Pilsener, Ringnes Fatøl and Ringnes Classic in most shops.
By law beers with more than 4,75% alcohol is not to be sold in shops. These beers are sold in stately outlets called Vinmonopolet, which is the only source for wines and spirits in Norway. This means that if you want to buy classic Norwegian beers such as bokk and sterkøl, Vinmonopolet is the place for you. Juleøl (Christmas beer) is found in two strengths. A version under 4,75% alcohol to be sold in shops and a strong, traditional version sold at Vinmonopolet.
Craft brewers and brewpubs are also found in Norway. Nøgne Ø of Grimstad is perhaps the most known of these, and their beers are commonly found at Vinmonopolet.
Norway has strict laws and taxation on beers. In shops you can only buy beer on Mondays to Saturdays. On the weekdays beer sales start at 9AM and it stops at 8PM even if the shop is open for some more hours. On Saturdays it is not possible to buy beer in shops after 6PM. Prices are also high compared to other countries. At a bar it is not uncommon to pay 60 NOK for a half litre of beer. In shops you can expect to pay 20-25 NOK for a half litre can of Ringnes or Hansa pilsener. Imported beers and craft beers cost more. A bottle of a Nøgne Ø beer can cost about 60 NOK at Vinmonopolet.
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