Many beer lovers have properly had a beer from Nøgne Ø brewery in Grimstad, Norway. Their beers are widely popular in America. You would think that there is a good selection of craft breweries in Norway with a great brewery like that. You will get disappointed, a least not in the north part of Norway. I had the opportunity to spend some time north of Narvik and my researchbefore the trip only led me to one craft brewery Nordkapp Brewery that close down in 2009 and Mack. After a few days here I found that this is Mack country, the most northerly brewery in the world according to their website. The brewery is located in Tromsø north of the Arctic Circle. It seems like Mack Brewery owns 90% of the market up here. I had their Pils, Arctic, Haakon (named after the Norwegian king 1905 to 1957), Høstøl (fall beer) and Bayer. Brewing a beer with the name Bayer is not unusual in Scandinavia. Bayer or Bayersk comes from the word Bavaria, a Bavarian style beer. I can’t say that the Mack beers I tried are beers that I enjoy. They lack interesting flavor and there is little difference between them. To me it seems like they are all the same beer with flavor and color additives to make them different. The Pils is shabby, the Arctic is watery and Bayer lacks all the great flavors I associate with a beer from Bavaria or any other good beer for that matters. The beer market in the north is not big. It’s a very rural are and Norway together with Finland and Sweden is part of the European vodka belt. I got the impression that the wine is significantly more popular than beer. I guess it’s a big challenge for a small brewery to convert people to beer drinkers in the north and at least break even financially at the same time. The climate here is definitely a beer climate. The short and often chilly summers and snowy, dark and cold winter have great opportunities for interesting beer. Branding the beers would be a
blast. The midnight sun in the summer, total darkness in the winter, northern light, mountains and fjords makes my brain boil just thinking about all the opportunities. What about a heavy, almost black and strong stout rich in flavor named Winter Darkness. The label would be all black with just a little white, yellow and red line at the bottom, just the way it looks at the horizon in the south when the first signs of lighter days are coming. Or maybe a beer that sparkles like the northern light, a Belgian Sour Ale. Some of the Belgian sour beers like the Gueuzes or Flemish Brown Ale have a sparkling touch to them. A Flamish Brown Ale might go well with the traditional Norwegian dish Rakfisk (Rakfish). It’s a fish dish that is fermented like the sour beers in Belgium. On the other hand a sour beer with fermented fish might not beer the best combination. Thinking about it, nothing is good with Rakfisk, not even Rakfisk itself.
I’m sorry all Mack fans but Mack beers are just not my definition a good beers. I look for something more interesting in a beer. I think the people in the northern part of Norway deserve something better. The nature in this part is spectacular and worth visiting. I had the opportunity to spend a fantastic weekend on Senja Island. You can always bring the beers from the south with you when going here. The beer scene in the south is better. If you’re planing a trip to Norway you can get updated on the Norwegian beer scene on Knutalbert’s blog.