It will likely not be the first destination that comes to mind when you are asked for a city where one can drink good beer in Europe – but there is a lot to discover and enjoy in Oslo, capital of Norway! Admittedly, you have to bring a small fortune since the Norwegian excise is among Europe’s highest – beer is atrociously expensive – but you get a lot in return. Especially the Grünerløkka district offers a bewildering amount of superb watering holes.
First a warning: legislation on liquor in Norway borders on Talibanian rigor. In supermarkets you can only buy drinks with less than 4.7% alcohol by volume, and at six o’clock in the evening they lower a screen for the beer shelf. Yes, you read that right: after six you cannot buy beer for home consumption. To top it all off, on Sundays the screen does not even go up!
Beverages with more than 4.7% alcohol (ie ALL wine, spirits and virtually all craft beer) for home consumption are only sold through the State monopoly. Norway has 292 of these shops (Vinmonopolet) which have a more than decent selection, but you need to be looking out for them.
Back to Grünerløkka. The district borders on the center of Oslo and has an incredible amount of great shops. Many secondhand clothes and, well, stuff but bakeries, coffee shops, restaurants, cafés and Brewpubs dominate the streetscape. The entrance landmark, coming from Storgata, is the old building of Schous Bryggeri. Behind this is, in the basement, a beautiful tasting cellar: Schouskjeller. Here you will find many locally brewed beers (the microbrewery is partially visible at the entrance), but also an impressive list of (inter) national specialties and highlights. The visitors are mostly local, you know, young and hip people.
Stroll north through Thorvald Meyer Gata: every meter is worth it, and you will eventually end up at the lovely Birkelundenpark – a sign that you’ve strolled too far. Just before the park on Meyer Gata, there’s Grünerløkka Brygghus. The restaurant does not actually house a brewery but develops its own recipes, then contracts out. At least half of the twenty faucets is filled with their own work. The ideal combination here may be obvious: the kitchen serves, next to the inevitable fish and chips and burgers, the famous ‘Husmannskost ‘ or plain Norwegian cuisine. The extensive beer and food menus each refer to each other, so you can always order a winning combo. There is a small terrace.
Also in Oslo Brewdog is present in the form of a Brewdog Bar: BD57, on Marktveien 57, running parallel to Thorvald Meyer Gata. The typical Brewdog decor, exuberant beer list and a small menu – you can spend a good few hours here and not be bored. BD57 also has a small terrace, and as everywhere in Oslo can bring your beer out – until half past ten in the evening. Really.
Not far away we find Mathallen. Each city now has a refurbished piece of industrial heritage which now revolves around eating and drinking, and it’s no different here. Several shops offer every imaginable cuisine, or at least its ingredients. Its location on the Akerselva, the river that runs through Oslo, is beautiful and the whole area is actually more than worth it: the old slaughterhouse site has transformed, in addition to this heaven for foodies, into a shopping center with something for everyone. But we come here for the beer: in Mathallen you’ll find Øltorget, an smallish bar with several beers on bottle and tap. Besides the well-known international celebrities one can also taste nice local specialties. The opportunity to order food to combine with your beer of choice just adds to the fun of course.
If you decide to go back to the center you cannot avoid visiting Crow Bar. This brewpub has industrial design taken to the absurd and looks at first glance like your Better Tattoo parlor, but is populated by extremely friendly and knowledgeable staff and ditto patronage. The brewery, located in the back of the room, mainly produces strong, heavy, dark and hoppy beer. The choice of music is in the same segment, only the kitchen seems to withdraw from the adage ‘the darker, the better.’ Furthermore, Crow Bar (nice word play, no?) boasts 20 taps and a bottle list of Old Testament proportions.
And even then you’re not home! We walk down Torggata further, crossing Youngstorget and ignoring the square’s gems like Internasjonal (nice selection of beers) and Kulturhuset, where absolutely everything seems built of bran – also beers)) and dive left into an alley immediately after party cafe Sør: it puts you in a courtyard with lively bars and tucked away in the right rear we find Wurst. The bar offers 20 taps, a nice bottle card and you can choose from hot dogs made every conceivable way . Praise God, even the ordinary Wiener is not shunned. The small bar have inside and outside seating and staff is just arrogant enough to be fun, the beer selection is “All 13 A Winner” for geeks and the list of possible hotdogs endless. They are made right behind the bar and you can choose from a seemingly endless battery of toppings. Wurst is, in short, the perfect final blow after a tour of Oslo – Grünerløkka.