haand norwegian wood

Scandinavian Beer: Unique and Brutal, Served In a Bottle

Let's get down to it. I always compare new beer to my all-time favourite: Trappistes Rochefort 10  from Belgium. Well after a year of travel in 2011 and having since moved to Norway, I've finally found one that holds up to this standard. Let me introduce the Nøgne Ø #100! Quoting from the bottle, it's "a big, dark and hoppy ale that commands your attention." I couldn't describe it in any other way. It's 10% and smells beautiful while the taste leaves you wanting more. Truly outstanding and worth being in Norway just to be in its presence alone.

nogneø ø 100

My top three Norwegian breweries are Nøgne Ø, HaandBryggeriet and Ægir Bryggeri. The range of beers they produce are amazing, with Nøgne Ø being my favourite. Haand's Norwegian Wood is a 6.5% smoked ale with juniper berries. The bottle tells a story that I like to believe is true: "Once every farm in Norway was required by law to brew its own ale. All of that ale had a natural smoky taste and most of it was spiced with juniper." It's certainly a different style and by your third sip, you'll be hooked. Haand also have the Dark Force, a 9% double extreme imperial wheat stout - it's a mouthful in name and taste.

haand norwegian wood

I've tried many Ægir beers on tap and in the bottle, but the Tors Hammer Barleywine left it's mark on me. Anybody who's ever had barleywine knows that this style of beer is to be 'experienced' rather than just drunk. At 13.2%, prepare yourself for a wild ride. Stavanger's local brewery is Lervig and their beer is nothing to sniff at either. Regular beers, Lucky Jack, Betty Brown, White Dog and recent arrival, Hoppy Joe (all 4.7%) can be found in the supermarket and are all very good. However, the one that knocked my socks off was their Konrad's Stout - a 10.4% Russian Imperial Stout, brewed with oatmeal. Just try it...please.

konrad's stout

The final Norwegian brew I'll mention is a tasty bock by the Aass Bryggeri. Don't be put off by the funny name, it tastes like anything but ass. Bock beer is one of my favourite types and this doesn't disappoint at 6.5%. Where's the other Scandinavian beer, I hear you ask! Well I can only go by what I've found in the Vinmonopolet alcohol stores, but here goes:

aas bock

Denmark - Midtfyns Bryghus has a 9.2% Double India Pale Ale that appears to have braille on the label. That is pure genius and a powerful drop to boot.

Sweden - Sigtuna has a 5.4% South Pacific Pale Ale that mentions New Zealand (the beer down there is pretty good too) on the label. Andrea had dibs on this one, but I stole a sip or two and it was awesome!

south pacific pale ale

Iceland - Viking Ölgerd has a 5.8% Black Death Beer with the motto "Drink in Peace." It's dark and chocolatey and a good reason to visit there one day.

black death beer

Obviously, there are many more to try in this region of the world. I've tried to stick with Norwegian varieties, because the supermarkets and stores have a lot to choose from. The best way to experience local (and international) beer in Stavanger is to visit Cardinal Bar (Skagen 21) in the town centre. The decor inside is stunning and the beer menu is extensive, whether you want tap or bottle.

What's your favourite Scandinavian beer?


  1. Andy 28 November, 2012 at 19:43 Reply

    Nice list – if you guys are ever in Trondheim check out Den Gode Nabo pub. It has the atmosphere of an English pub but hundreds of types of beer and expert advice. Also they sell one of the local craft beers from Inderøy Gårdsbryggeri – a great range. A friend of ours lives in Hell and on their land they have a well built in WWII by the Germans. He brews beer using the water and has a plan to launch ‘Nazi beer from Hell’. Not sure if it will catch on… :-)

  2. John 6 September, 2012 at 12:13 Reply

    Hope I didn’t build it up too much, because it’s different BUT the qualities that make TR 10 brilliant are all there…and the taste is unbelievable, which is the main thing!!

  3. Krista 6 September, 2012 at 11:17 Reply

    I am thrilled to hear about your discover, since MY favorite beer is the Trappistes Rochefort 10, and I have never, ever found one to measure up. I can’t wait to try this one. :-)

    • John 6 September, 2012 at 12:09

      Lervig’s pretty awesome. The Lucky Jack is one of the best American pale ales I’ve had, but I’m with you – the Betty Brown all the way!

    • Jay 6 September, 2012 at 13:17

      Have you been to their brewery, John? We came across it while driving and were wondering if anyone has done a tour or tasting there?

    • inspiringtravellers 9 September, 2012 at 11:24

      Not yet – we’ve been meaning to go but not sure if they do tours. But an afternoon trying their beers sounds like a good plan!

  4. robin 5 September, 2012 at 15:59 Reply

    Great. Now I have to go down to the shop and get some beer. No interesting craft beers though :(
    From your descriptions above I think the Sigtuna would be for me. I tend not to like the very strong beers, usually find them a bit cloying.

    • John 6 September, 2012 at 12:07

      Sigtuna was indeed a fantastic drop. What I really love about the strong beers is you can have a glass for dessert after a great meal – you can’t go wrong!

  5. Wandering Justin 5 September, 2012 at 06:40 Reply

    You mention some great beers here (love Haandbryggeriet’s stuff). But with the exception of Aegir, I have an easier time finding them at my local brew stores in Arizona than I did in Norway. Aegir didn’t have barley wine when I was there in July – but the IPA and porter were spot-on.

    • John 6 September, 2012 at 12:02

      Thanks Justin! Haand sure do produce some interesting stuff. Maybe the craft beer industry has picked up in the last year, but there’s always plenty to choose from since we’ve been here.

    • John 6 September, 2012 at 11:59

      That’s fine, Daniel. German beer is still my second favourite after Belgium. But I like all beer anytime any place, but the dark ones are definitely special!

  6. Megan 4 September, 2012 at 09:34 Reply

    this post just made me super happy. i am such a beer lover and cant wait to try them. ive lived here for over a year and honestly, have had nothing but hansa and rignes. actually ive also had aass. the reason? i can’t afford to drink here. but when i get a job and can…its on. i miss a good beer and am sick of traveling solely to drink some!

    hope you and andrea are enjoying finland/estonia :)

  7. David in Norway 4 September, 2012 at 09:49 Reply

    Great post and well researched!! I love the Ægir beers. Their brewpub in Flåm is a fantastic experience, especially their beer tapas menu, which lets you try five of their beers accompanied by suitable foods, for example chocolate cake with the darkest. Yum :)

    If you’re passing through Oslo, Cafe Fiasco by the bus station is a great place to try a whole bunch of Norwegian brews, including from Ægir and Nogne Ø!

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