From Kristiansand we head north in our quest to see the Northern Lights. Well, most passengers are seeking the Aurora Borealis but I’ll be looking out for the best beer highlights that the north of Norway has to offer the cruising beer geek.
Tromsø is the principal city of north Norway. Its beer heritage is long established being tagged the “gateway to the Arctic” and the consistent flow of beer drinkers that this has historically brought to the city. Tromsø, for well over a century, also boasted the world’s most northerly brewery though this crown has long since slipped even though the (Mack) brewery and most of the tourist guides will not accept it.
(More about the world’s most northerly brewery in a future post)
The Mack Brygghus and its attached pub, Ølhallen occupies a large footprint a short walk to the east of town at Storgata 4, where they have quenched the thirst of travellers for over 140 years. The main brewery (one of Norway’s largest) relocated to an out of town site in 2012 leaving a new micro brewery in the old building. There are now daily tours of the microbrewery, just drop in at 3.30pm (in summer there is a second tour at 2pm). NOK180 (2018 price) per person for an hour tour and two tastings.
The real treat for the beer lover though is the pub next door, Ølhallen. It is the oldest pub in Tromso (1928) and could easily be stuck in the past being owned by the old traditional, family owned, Mack Brewery and being a classy old-school, dare I say English style, pub with a long mahogany bar and wooden furniture (oh, and a stuffed polar bear).
As you might expect there is a range of Mack beers, both from the microbrewery next door (12 taps) and from the out of town, more commercial, brewery (15 taps). However, to make us feel like we are in the 21st century there is also a long tap wall bringing the total number up to 67 beers.
On my visit in November 2017 there were 39 beers available from a further 7 Norwegian microbreweries. A kid in a sweetshop where the candy costs from NOK 65 (about six quid) for a 33cl glass up to a knee-trembling NOK 215 for a 33cl serving of Lervig 3 Bean Stout – expensive but one of the world’s greatest beers in my opinion.
I decided to wait until my local beer shop, Micro Beers, stocks this beer again at a more affordable c£9 and plumped for the Mack Microbrewery Christmas stout at a more modest NOK 85 – just perfect to take the edge off a cold day.
I heard it suggested by a fellow drinker that the wall of taps here is the longest in the world. It is great to see in such a traditional old pub but frankly, these days, I’d be surprised if there wasn’t more beers available in a bar somewhere else in Norway. The search continues.
On the road out of the city towards the Tromsø Bridge is a fairly new taproom for Bryggeri 13 at Skippergata 15 set in an unimposing shopfront that was clearly previously a deli shop. Here you find a tiny brewkit to the right of the shop and a bar area to the left as you walk into the single room premises. There’s also an upright piano, a clear sign that good times happen here.
It’s a friendly spot with a warm welcome in the coldest of weather with a small range of (7 on my visit) beers brewed on the premises priced at 40/60 NOK depending on strength for a 25cl pour. The beers and styles are a work in progress as the brewery had only just been installed but any slight deficiencies in the beer were more than made up by the friendliness and the knowledge of the owners who were in situ during my visit.
Although it’s only about a 10 minute walk away from the city, it feels a bit out off-piste but I hope they make a success of this venture as it is a great new spot for the cruising beer geek.
I lingered here for a little longer than I had intended, so easily done when you are enjoying a beer or two. The light was giving way to winter’s early afternoon twilight and flurries of snow were falling. I had run out of time to visit my third option Cafe Sånn.
A bit of a shame but my motto is always leave something for a future visit.
Café Sånn is situated at 1 Erling Bangsunds Plass. It’s a bit hidden and tucked away and the only signage is the etched windows on the corner and the A board outside when open. The easiest way to find it is to stand with your back to the catholic church facing the Culture Hall and Café Sånn is opposite you as illustrated in the photo.
If the time, the light and the weather had not beaten me, it was here that I was hoping to find a beer from the world’s most northerly brewery. No, not as still claimed by Mack of Tromsø, but the latest holder of that geographic accolade, the Svalbard Brewery, situated in the Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean midway between Norway and the North Pole – of which more in the future (see below).
Café Sånn has 9 taps of draft beer – usually all Norwegian including a rotating beer from Svalbard Brewery. I had to leave that for another time.
See also the previous stop Cruising for Craft Beer in Kristiansand
So, where is the world’s most northerly brewery then ? See the explanation here.