Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Beer in Sweden

For a Swede beers are more or less pale lagers. More than 90% of all beers sold in Sweden er pale lagers, and usually the beer is sold in cans. In Sweden beer is sold in three alcohol classes. Class 1 is called lättöl and is beer with less than 2.25% alcohol. Folköl (class 2) is beer with an alcohol content between 2.25% and 3.5%. All beers with more than 3.5% alcohol are in Class 3, starköl. Only lättöl and folköl is sold in shops and grocery stores. Starköl can only be found at the stately outlets called Systembolaget. This monopoly system makes it a must for visitors to Sweden to visit Systembolaget if they want to buy beers they are used to drinking in their home country. Bars and restaurants normally offer draughted starköl to their customers, but here and there folköl and bottled international beers are available.

International brands in special 3.5% alcohol versions as sold in Sweden.

Systembolaget stores can be found all over Sweden, but in some parts of the country there is a long distance to the nearest outlet. In addition to this the Systembolaget outlets have shorter opening hours than ordinary shops. Therefore folköl is a very common beer type to be bought in Sweden, and breweries both inside and outside Sweden produce 3.5% beers especially for Sweden. A lot of international brands available in Sweden can be found in such a 3.5% variant. It is also common to sell beers in a 2.8% version due to taxation rules, which make these beers extra cheap compared to other beers in Sweden.

Bishops Fingers and Hobgoblin are among British ales
sold in Sweden in a version with 3.5% alcohol.

Swedish lagers are mostly of the eurolager type. They are thinbodied, fizzy pale lagers with little aroma and taste. Most 3.5% lagers sold in Sweden are like this, while the stronger lagers (starköl) are of more variety. The typical Swedish produced pale lager in Class 3 has an alcohol content around 5.3%. These are more tasteful beers than their 3.5% equivalent, but most of them have a sweeter edge and a pronounced alcoholic taste that some times make me think somebody has added a little vodka to the beer. A typical example of this is Pripps starköl.

One of the better Swedish starköl lagers is Norrlands Guld. This is a pale lager with a little head and some carbonation. In the nose there is a fresh aroma of grains and a hint of mint. In the mouth this is a more fullbodied beer than many Swedish lagers. It has some sweetness and some malts before a finish I would love to have somewhat hoppy and bitter. Norrlands Guld is not the first beer I would order at a bar, but it is a better example of the Swedish starköl lagers I have tried.


  1. I think most of the big breweries brew a fairly strong beer and then water it down. So the Norrlands Guld, Pripps Blå etc which can be found in four or five strengths are just the same beer with various amounts of water.

  2. I believe you are correct about the Swedish beers. But what about the international brands? Are the 3.5% beers from for instance Shepherd Neame or Pilsner Urquell also watered down or brewed at a lower plato?