Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Hansa Bayer

Breweries are spread all over Norway, but most of them are controlled by two large companies: Ringnes and Hansa-Borg. Hansa-Borg is the second largest brewer in Norway, and is a result of a merger between Hansa brewery of Bergen and Borg brewery of Sarpsborg. Hansa and the soccer team Brann are the prides of Norway's second largest town, Bergen. Bergen is famous for its patriotism, and people living there are known to say that they are not Norwegians, but Bergeners.

Bergen harbour. On the left is Bergenhus fortress. In medieval times this was the home of the king of Norway.

The Hansa brewery was established in 1891. For many years it was based at Kalfaret - just outside Bergen's old town gate. These days Hansa has a modern brewery based in a southern suburb close to the airport. On the old site there is a micro brewery and a little restaurant. While attending college I used to live near the old brewery, and the smell of malts in the area is a fond memory. It is just like the weeks I spent in the German village of Böklund some years ago. The smell from the sausage factory there used to water my mouth.

Bergen seen from Mount Fløyen - one of the city's seven surrounding mountains.

When Hansa started up their first beer was Bayer - a darker beer in the Bavarian style. Bayer is still brewed today, and Hansa sells it in cans. Bayers used to be popular in Norway, but today it is a marginal product. In the 1950s 20 percent of Norwegian beers were Bayers. In 2004 Bayers had a Norwegian market share of 0.2 percent.

I feel that it fits that the first beer tested out in this blog is a Norwegian Bayer beer. Hansa Bayer pours nicely into the glass, and there is a good head that disappears rather fast. There is some carbonation, and the colour is amber. I can taste notes of fruitiness, but still there is some bitterness in it. A nice beer - but it leaves a watery aftertaste. Hansa Bayer is enjoyable, and in my opinion one of the better offers from the Hansa label.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Beer in Norway

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.

Normally the beer sold in shops are available in cans.

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.

Beers from many countries at a Vinmonopolet outlet.

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.

Friday, December 26, 2008


Welcome to Beer Sagas! This is my subjective blog about beers, travels and whatever strikes me at the moment.

I am based on the west coast of Norway, and naturally Norwegian beers will be an important part of this blog. I will also write about my travels and give my views on everything from beers to food and politics.