Think Norwegian imported beers are expensive? Try buying them there. Norwegians enjoy a tremendous standard of living with the third highest GDP per capita. There are few places you might expect to spend more on vacation. I found my way to the Grünerløkka neighborhood, far from where most of the tourists are corralled but the best place in Oslo to drink and eat like/with the locals. Meaning, the prices are comparatively reasonable. I must’ve had an $11 half-litre too many at Grünerløkka Brygghus (not an actual brewpub, at least not yet!) because when my gaze turned toward their bottle selection, I spied a pair of lovelies from Nøgne Ø (where I finally heard Norwegians pronounce it and my best approximation of the phonetic is: Nugneh Eu.) One was the Imperial Stout, obtainable at better American bottle shops, but aged in cognac. The other was Sunturnbrew, an amazing smoked barleywine also available stateside, but finished on bourbon. What was awesome is that they were both in 250 ml (8.5 oz) bottles, and I love nips! So should you. So you’re probably thinking I ordered both. Not at 155 krone (about US$25.75)!! That’s over a dollar a centiliter! Or, using Bill Night’s handy-dandy Six Pack Equivalent Calculator, tantamount to a $220 six-pack.
I splurged on the bourbon Sunturnbrew and shared a sip with Isak, the gent who perched on the barstool next to mine who turned out to be the pub’s chef. Isak is Swedish meaning two things: I could barely understand his accent and I was drinking with the Swedish Chef. I dug the eclectic staff. One bartender, who’s set to become their brewer, is an American from Jersey who’s wife is Norwegian. I took one of the other bartenders as a Yank because of his non-accent; he swore he speaks that way from watching Baywatch.
From there, Isak led us a few blocks away to Schouskjelleren Mikrobryggeri, a cavernous microbrewery the likes of which I wish more domestic taprooms could pull off. Equal parts medieval lair and residential speakeasy, with five house brews on tap concocted on the brew system behind the deep wooden bar. I enjoyed my half-litres of The God Particle pale ale but I gotta hand it to Isak, his choice of The Female of the Species, another pale ale, rocked with grapefruity goodness I didn’t know I’d find this far beyond the Pacific.
As a post script to our jaunt through Norway, I doubt I’ll find myself in a brewpub more remote than Ægir Bryggeri, attached to the Flåmsbrygga Hotel. Located at the end of the Sognefjord, the world’s deepest fjord, there’s nothing as disconcerting as stepping off a train you’ve just ridden through mountains (and stunning glacial runoff waterfalls) and seeing mountains obfuscated by a giant cruise ship, but such is life in the secluded town of Flam.
Next up, Scandinavian Beer Part 3 – Iceland