Frydenlund Bayerøl

12th April 2011, 00:20~00:40

Alcohol content: 4.7%
Price: 69NOK (€8.70) for 330ml bottle
Overall verdict : Norwegian law fetishises alcohol

Norway is a nation of alcoholics which would descend into a Maelström of drunkenness were it not for the strict control of booze.

That seems to be the message from the Norwegian government, and the relationship between Norwegians and alcohol does seem to be a complex one.

The list of obstacles put between a man and his right to get shitfaced starts with the unbelievable prices (see above), and includes restrictions on when it can be sold in shops (until 8pm on a weekday, until 6pm at the weekend), where it can be sold (only in Vinomonopolet government monopoly outlets for wines and spirits), and where it can be consumed (not in public).

I flew in to Oslo airport at 11:30pm, and rushed to get to the car rental before it shut. But it seemed every other passenger on that plane had another more pressing errand to perform before leaving Gardermoen, namely picking up their ration of duty free Aquavit before they went through Norwegian immigration.

I’d witnessed similar scenes of Norwegian panic alcohol purchasing on a previous trip, where I wondered into a train-station off-licence at 7:50pm on a week-night and had to fight through an almighty scrum to get my can of Borg, which I went on to consume (illegally) on the train to the airport.

Crafty can of Borg on the train from Oslo to Gardermoen

But just as smokers feel obliged to have a cigarette whenever there’s an opportunity, perhaps these regulations are driving people more to grab every chance to buy alcohol, rather than discourage it…

The facts don’t really back me up, because Norwegian per capita alcohol consumption isn’t that high on the world league table of drinkers – only half of UK per capita consumption – but that’s averaged over a whole year. Given a chance, Norwegians will snatch at it with both hands.
The German woman at reception at the hotel seemed to think so. Originally from Leipzig, she had lived in Norway for 3 years to be with her Norwegian boyfriend, and said that further North it gets worse – blaming it on the dark and the weather. Her boyfriend’s aunt offered her coffee with a shot at three in the afternoon. Apparently they put a coin in a mug then pour coffee in till the coin disappears, then they dilute with spirits until the coin reappears. But on the other hand, they are so uptight about alcohol that they refuse to serve meat in a red-wine sauce to under-18s.
I guess it’s a moderate version of prohibition (which Norway also gave a go in the 1920s) with moderately similar results. That’s to say, not a uniformly teetotal population.
Or maybe that’s just the effect it has on me.
Anyway, the meeting went on for a lot longer than I expected, so in the end I had to drive straight back to the airport and there was no time fannying around looking for crap tourist spots – I was sizing up a pilgimage to Tønsberg, the birth-place of Magnus Carlsen – the youngest person ever to achieve the number one ranking in chess, but I guess that’ll have to wait.
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