The year was 2002. Our summer vacation was to Norway. Much of the country is north of the Arctic Circle, and therefore gets 24 hours of daylight for at least some of the summer. There is a network of hiking cabins you can stay at all over the country. Viking sites and museums. Trains and boats galore. Fjords even!
Something that challenged us at that time was that Norway was known as a country with nothing more than weak modern international lagers, and huge taxes on beer, wine and alcohol of any kind. The extreme regulation of drink, and the prices charged in Scandinavian countries was something we had not known much about until we were preparing to leave on the trip.
When we got to Oslo, we did what we normally do when in unfamiliar territory, we asked locals where to get the best beer and if there was a brew pub close by. We were sent to several nice and friendly bars and thankfully to one lone brewpub.
The bars were fine, generally friendly and the beer was potable if not notable.
This little brewpub, however, (which we believe was northwest of the Slottsparken and the royal palace) and whose name we don’t remember, featured some tasty British style beers, brewed by an English woman who, unfortunately, we did not get a chance to meet. Our attraction to the pub was one of those “newfound oasis in the Sahara” effects. The place was modern, pleasant and friendly, had tanks in the corner, and it served ales. There is no way to “objectively” evaluate their quality now, from memory, but there wasn’t then either. The flavorful beers called us back again and again. We stayed late, into the couple of hours of deep dusk that was the extent of night at that latitude.
We are not now able to locate the brew pub on a current map nor can we find reference to its name. Does anybody know this place?
The trip was some kind of a turning point for us. The joy of good local beers (and to some extent wines), in their proper surroundings, in prior trips to England, Germany and other places in Europe and North America, was something we’d taken for granted, but not seen as a prerequisite to a great vacation. We hadn’t really understood that our love of good beers had become that important to us.
Could we travel to a no-beer destination? Sure. But now that would be a major point of contemplation and discussion.
Another thing that has changed is that less than ten years later, Norway is now known for some fine craft brewers such as Nøgne ø.
Being a beer tourist is a lot of fun and incredibly educational. That reminds us of another story… but that’s what the next Session is about. The wonderful pub that’s not as far, the beer destination that wasn’t a pub, the dream trip you want to get to someday…
You’re invited to July’s Session: Will Travel for Beer.
Midnight in July, 2002, Lofoten Islands, Norway. ( Ok, the brewpub was a little south, in Oslo, where there were a few hours of wimpy night. We don’t have a picture of it, so enjoy part of our outdoor adventure instead. Three shots taken between 11:00pm and 2:00 am, on the gorgeous islands we traveled to, just above the Arctic Circle.)
Explore Beer By BART; see our list of the San Francisco Bay Area’s best beer places with detailed transit info, so you can get out there to enjoy without driving.