Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Oslo Beer City - 5 years of growth

With the 5 year anniversary of the Grünerløkka mat- og mikrobrygg festival this year I couldn't help but thinking back at all that has happened in Oslo and Norway when it comes to beer since the very first festival was held at Parkteatret in September 2008. I've already summarized the early history in this post, so here I will just briefly say a few words on the tremendous changes that has taken place in Oslo over the last five years, before ending the post with a list of the 25 most important beer places in the Norwegian capital.

HaandBryggeriet co-founder and brewmaster Jens Maudal
- serving craft beer at Parkteatret on September 27, 2008

Five years of growth
Back in 2008, a visitor to Oslo would be hard pressed to find a good beer bar, the best ones would be Bar & Cigar, Beer Palace and the newly reopened Olympen. But nowhere would a visitor find Norwegian micros on draft, even hardly on bottle. Oslo was a barren beer city, local beer geeks dreamed of going to Stavanger to visit the superior Cardinal Pub or spend a weekend in Copenhagen or Gothenburg, known for their mature beer scenes. There was a demand for good beer places but it seemed that Oslo would remain barren. That was, until the first Grünerløkka mat- og mikrobrygg festival took place on September 27 that year.

The only attending brewery at the festival was HaandBryggeriet from Drammen, which brought along many cases of bottles as well as two kegs of their "extreme" beers, Dobbel Dose double IPA and Dark Force imperial stout. It was the first time such beers had been available on draft in Oslo and both kegs sold out in a couple of hours, along with most of the bottled beer. This success took HaandBryggeriet by surprise and showed everyone attending that you could sell such strong and flavorful Norwegian craft beers on draft, even here in Oslo. A couple of months later the first pubs in Oslo installed special beer towers for serving Nøgne Ø or HaandBryggeriet on draft. This was the start of a five year long amazing growth of the Oslo beer scene. So, the first Grünerløkka mat- og mikrobrygg festival deserves praise for helping draft craft beer get a foothold in Oslo.

The current beer scene
As I mentioned in a previous post, the beer scene in Oslo has never been this vibrant, old pubs are upgrading their beer menus and new beer pubs and microbreweries open up frequently. Only in the last 9 months, three new microbreweries have opened up in Oslo - Crowbar, Grünerløkka Brygghus and Nydalen Bryggeri & Spiseri. Several others are in various stages of planning and even construction, with two more likely to open up before the end of 2013.

Mash tun and Copper at Nydalen Bryggeri

As the saying goes, beer is the new wine, the interest in good beer still seems to be on the rise, with more people starting to brew beer at home and newspapers publishing stories every day about beer, brewing and pubs. With a population of 600 thousand, I don't think Oslo has reached saturation level yet - all the microbreweries sell out their beer just as fast as they can brew it, forcing the brewpubs to rely an a high rotation of guest taps to serve their thirsty customers.

Back in 2008, it was so easy to keep tab on what was going on in Oslo. You would often know ahead of time which pub would have something new to offer, and it was no use going out more than a couple of times per months because new imports would seldom arrive more than once a month. In 2013, the situation is reversed, with new beer appearing daily and at so many places that a single person would not stand a chance to cover it all, even if it was a full time job! There are simply too many great beer bars and brewpubs in Oslo now.

Below is my personal pick of the 25 most important beer places in Oslo, be it bars, brewpubs or restaurants, the way I see it in late August 2013, though by now I've given up any pretense of getting a complete overview of the beer scene. I have not been able to visit all of these places recently and I may have overlooked new ones, so take this more as an impressionist landscape painting than a detailed road map.

Oslo Beer City - 28 August 2013

Aku Aku Tiki Bar
Address: Thorvald Meyers gate 32 A, Grünerløkka
Opened: 27 April 2007
Type: Tiki Bar
Taps: 2

Jan Vardøen, affectionally called "Mr Grünerløkka", started this bar after Aftenposten complained about the lack of a good tiki bar at Grünerløkka. Aku Aku Tiki Bar is mostly about drinks but in 2009 they convinced Nøgne Ø to brew a house beer for them, using lemongrass, and thus Nøgne Ø Aku Aku Lemongrass Ale was born. It's still brewed by Nøgne Ø and served on draft at Aku Aku.

Though the bar doesn't have the widest selection of beer, they usually have a couple of good ones on tap and a handful of bottles from Norwegian micros, its charming Hawaiian atmosphere makes it a nice place to sit down for a cold beer on a hot summer day at Løkka.

Amundsen Bryggeri & Spiseri
Address: Stortingsgt 20, entrance from Roald Amundsens gt by the City Hall
Opened: 17 February 2011
Type: Restaurant and Brewpub
Taps: 20
Bottles: 100+

Amundsen was the third brewpub to open up in Oslo. Located very close to Stortingsgata, near the City Hall, it gets its share of tourists so the sales ratio of good beers to bland lagers can be very low on crowded days. It's still a great place to visit, especially early in the week or early in the afternoon when you can sit at the bar. The kitchen is really good (go for the homemade burger), the draft beer selection is nice and the bottle menu great, in league with Dr Jekyll's, Olympen and Håndverkerstuene.

Another good reason for coming here is to try the beers brewed at the 5 hl microbrewery located in a room next to the bar. Through several large windows you can often see the brewer, Tom Alfred Øimo, preparing a new batch or check on the fermentation tanks. In the span of two years he has brewed a number of excellent beers, from smoked porters and barley wines to pale ale session ales. Several collaboration brews have also been made at Amundsen, such as the 9% Imperial Dunkel Wit with Nøgne Ø, the 9.5% Nordic Warrior Double IPA with Sigtuna Brygghus and the infmaous Rough Snuff with Midtfyns Bryghus.

Bar & Cigar
Address: C. J. Hambros plass 2, by Oslo Tinghus
Opened: August 1998
Type: Beer & Whisky Bar
Taps: 2
Bottles: 20+

This is without a doubt the most conservative place in Oslo. You will always find the same people, drinking the same beers and talking about the same things. The owner, Ole Gunnar Hauso, is a big fan of Cuban Cigars and single malt whisky so expect to find many likeminded people out on the back porch, where smoking is allowed.

The beer selection is small but decent, with about a twenty types on bottle and usually a good Norwegian craft beer and a Czech pilsner on draft. From time to time they will put on a really rare beer on draft, such as Ugly Duck Imperial Vanilla Coffee Porter, and they also do whisky and beer tastings here frequently. Bar & Cigar was also the first place to do cask ales in Oslo, back in the spring 2008. In summers you can enjoy your beer and cigar on the square outside Bar & Cigar.

On August 24, 2013, Bar & Cigar threw a party to celebrate its 15th anniversary and there are persistent rumours about more tap lines being installed at the bar soon, so it seems that Bar & Cigar is a healthy 15 year old.

Beer Palace
Address: Holmens Gate 3, Aker Brygge
Opened: 6 April 1993, renovated fall 2012 and reopened 14 November 2012
Type: Beer bar
Taps: 34 (about half are craft beers)
Bottles: 100+

After extensive renovations and some structural changes, including rebuilding the bar upstairs, Beer Palace reopened in November 2012 with an extended draft beer menu and even more focus on beer related events, including beer tastings. The place now sports more than thirty tap lines and usually about half of these are with quality craft beer. The selection of bottled beers has also been expanded, with bottles from all over the world in beer coolers both upstairs and downstairs.

For its 20th anniversary, in April 2013, Beer Palace managed to secure a keg of the rare Nøgne Ø Dark Horizon 4th Edition. It didn't last long!

But I'm not all happy with the new Beer Palace. Two long shuffleboards and the extended bar take up very much space on the second floor, reducing the seating capacity and making it difficult to enter or leave on busy nights, when everyone flocks to the bar and blocks the staircase.

Still, the dedication to good beer is evident and I've enjoyed some really great craft beer on draft since they reopened, such as Nøgne Ø Two Captains IPA, Ugly Duck Imperial Vanilla Coffe Porter, Emelisse Rauchbier, Boulevard Pale Ale and Ægir Lindisfarne.

BRU: Vulkan Pub
Address: Maridalsveien 13, next to Mathallen
Opened: 14 June 2013
Type: Beer bar
Taps: 10
Bottles: 150

This pub is owned and operated by the people behind Ølakademiet, who also run the Øltorget beer bar in Mathallen and the old Akersberget restaurant just up the hill. The pub was originally scheduled to open back in November 2012 but construction work took a lot longer than expected, with practically no progress over the winter, so it wasn't until June 7, 2013, that the place first opened its doors, with the grand opening a week later.

The prefix "BRU" is partly inspired by the old bridge factory that used to be in this area ("bru" meaning "bridge" in Norwegian), but it also hints at the the art of brewing since "bru" is pronounced just like the English word "brew". BRU: Vulkan Pub takes its inspiration from the English pub tradition but offering beers from all the big brewing nations. With a floor space of just 19 square meters it claims to be the smallest pub in Oslo.

Note that the pub is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, and that it opens as late as 8 pm on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Café Laundromat
Address: Underhaugsveien 2, Bislett
Opened: 2004
Type: Laundromat café
Taps: 10
Bottles: 100+

This is a laundromat with a café section where you can sit down to enjoy some good food, coffee or beer as you wait for your clothes to get washed. Many also meet here, without doing laundry, because of the cozy atmosphere and excellent beer selection - especially bottled beers, but also a handful of excellent draft beers, spanning from Nøgne Ø to Sam Adams and BrewDog. They serve breakfast from 7 am and in the summer you can sit outside with a view of the Bislett sports arena across the street.

Café Sara
Address: Hausmannsgate 29, Sentrum
Opened: 1 August 1989
Type: Café
Taps: 10 (only a couple are craft beers)
Bottles: 100+

This is one of the longest running brown cafés in Oslo, its bright green exterior contrasting with the dark brown interior, with well worn wooden furniture in several rooms radiating out from the central bar.

Located at the intersection of Hausmannsgate and Torggata, Café Sara has always been known for student friendly prices on beer and food. More surprisingly, for some, it has recently become known for its expanded range of excellent draft beer, usually with Nøgne Ø and HaandBryggeriet on tap but also rare stuff such as Struise Pannepot.

Crowbar Bryggeri
Address: Torggata 32, Sentrum
Opened: 13 January 2013
Type: Brewpub
Taps: 20
Bottles: 50+

Located in Torggata 32, in what formerly housed Zorbas greek restaurant, Crowbar Bryggeri became the 4th brewpub in Oslo when it opened to the public on December 13, 2012. This was a "quiet launch" to let beer fans get a taste of their beer and bar concept, and give them feedback before the official opening.

Known as Crowbar & Bryggeri in official registers, but usually called just Kråka or the Crow, Crowbar Bryggeri officially opened on January 13, 2013, with a big party and the cutting of the ribbon performed by Petter Nome, the leader of the Bryggeri- og drikkevareforeningen (Norwegian trades union for breweries). The inhouse brewery has a 5 hl batch size but with 10 hl fermentation tanks, so brewmaster Dave Gardonio, formerly of Ægir Bryggeri in Flåm, usually brews two batches to fill up a fermentation tank.

When I first heard about Crow, I got the feeling that they would only have 5-6 beers, mainly their own, on draft. That turned out to be far from the truth, Crow has an amazing (for Oslo) 20 tap lines! On any given day, the lowest numbers - usually from 1 to 5 or 6 - will be with their own beer, though the owner, Erk Potur, hopes they can stock up enough kegged beer to actually have taps 1-10 with their own beer. The rest of the tap lines carry guest beer from craft breweries in Europe and the US. I've already enjoyed draft beer from Thornbridge, BrewDog, Beer Here, Boulevard, Nøgne Ø, Ægir and HaandBryggeriet at Crow.

The interior is kept open and simple, with the micro brewery visible from all the tables. On the second floor they have a kitchen with a rotisserie, where you can order kebab in wraps and homemade potato chips.

After just seven months of operation, Crow has already carved out a niche for itself and Dave Gardonio has brewed a number of excellent beers - ranging from roggenbier and a strong mild, to experimental IPAs, hoppy amber and wheat ales and a very tasty dry stout. Crowbar has also done some contract brewing for the newly opened Nydalen Bryggeri & Spiseri, which didn't have their own brewery ready for the opening of their pub.

Den Gamle Major
Address: Bogstadveien 66, Majorstuen
Opened: 1921
Type: Beer bar
Taps: 9 (only a couple are craft beers)
Bottles: 30+

Located just across Kirkeveien from the Majorstuen metro stop and named after the old major whose cabin once stood here and gave name to the area, Den Gamle Major has been around since 1921. For many years it remained a brown pub for local oldtimers, selling cheap pilsner beer on draft.

Den Gamle Major may still look like a brown pub from the outside, but a total renovation in 1999 has given it a second life and in the last few years the owners have started taking craft beer seriously, offering good Norwegian micros on draft in addition to a very decent selection of bottled beers.

Today, Den Gamle Major is the best beer bar at Majorstuen.

Dr. Jekyll's Pub
Address: Klingenberggata 4, Sentrum
Opened: 2003
Type: Whisky and Beer bar
Taps: 10 (4 with craft beer)
Bottles: 180

When Dr. Jekyll's Pub opened up, near Saga cinema in downtown Oslo, ten years ago, it was with a focus on whisky. It soon became the main meeting place for whisky interested people in Oslo, hosting frequent whisky tastings. The interior of Dr. Jekyll's is decorated with gargoyles, stuffed birds, fake bookcases (one of them hiding the entrance to the toilets, which is a source of endless confusion for first-time visitors) and black and white photos from old horror movies, in short giving visitors an impression of a mixture between an old library and a mad scientist's laboratory.

In recent years, Dr. Jekyll's has discovered the thriving beer scene in Oslo, gradually expanding its draft and bottled beer selection. As of August 2013, they have two Nøgne Ø beer towers with two taps each, offering Nøgne Ø and other craft beers - such as Boulevard, Hornbeer and Against the Grain. There are plans to expand this further, probably in September 2013, with two more taps dedicated to craft beer, bringing the total up to 6 craft beers on draft. In addition to draft beer, the pub has recently built up an amazing bottle selection, ranging from Belgian abbey ales and lambic based sour ales, via Norwegian micros and BrewDog Abstrakts and Paradoxes to US craft beer, such as Port Brewing, Boulevard, Jolly Pumpkin etc. Only a few places in Oslo, notably Olympen, Amundsen and Håndverkerstuene, can possibly rival this selection.

On a sidenote, Dr. Jekyll's was where Amund P Arnesen first cut his teeth on craft beer before moving on to Håndverkerstuene in 2009 and later taking his beer sommelier certificate. So Dr. Jekyll's has already played an important part in spreading the gospel of good beer in Oslo.

Grünerløkka Brygghus
Address: Thorvald Meyers Gate 30 B, Grünerløkka
Opened: 8 October 2010, the microbrewery on 6 August 2013
Type: Gastropub and Brewery
Taps: 16
Bottles: 70-80

Grünerløkka Brygghus is another of Jan Vardøens projects on Grünerløkka. It opened up in October 2010, just days after Schouskjelleren Mikrobryggeri down the street, and I expected it to be another brewpub. But that turned out not to be the case.

Despite its name, "brygghus" meaning "brewhouse", Grünerløkka Brygghus opened without its own brewery. Instead, it relied on a good selection of guest beers plus a few house beers brewed for them at Nøgne Ø (Kjell Pop Single Hop IPA) and Kinn (Løkka Haust Amber Ale and Løkka Svarthumle Black IPA). This would remain the situation for the next three years, but more on that in a minute.

Like all other Vardøen projects, Grünerløkka Brygghus also has a strong focus on food, essentially making it the first gastropub in Oslo. Here you'll find homemade sausages, fresh fish & chips, pan-fried mackerel and much else. Every fall, for the last four years, Grünerløkka Brygghus has also been responsible for arranging the Grünerløkka mat- og mikrobrygg festival, the oldest craft beer festival in Oslo.

In March 2013, Grünerløkka Brygghus posted an update on its Facebook page informing followers that the pub would soon brew its own beer. To help with the brewing and design of new beer recipes, brewmaster Andreas Hegermann Riis, who had resigned from HaandBryggeriet in early April, was employed. As for the brewery, Grünerløkka Brygghus bought the old 10 hl test brewery from Lervig Aktiebryggeri. With good help from Mike Murphy, the Lervig brewmaster, the brewery was installed in the old Villa Paradiso building, owned by Jan Vardøen. This is a stone's throw from the pub so, technically, Grünerløkka Brygghus won't be a brewpub but a pub with an offsite brewery.

Finally, on 6 August 2013 the first batch of beer was brewed at the microbrewery, a new beer created by Hegermann Riis called Løkka Session. And on 21 August 2013, Grünerløkka Brygghus invited to a release party where Løkka Session and another new beer, Løkka Porter, was served on draft for the very first time. Grünerløkka Brygghus had finally become a brew house.

Address: Storgata 36, Sentrum
Opened: 19 May 2012
Type: Beer bar
Taps: 6
Bottles: 20+

Gaasa, Norwegian for "the goose", opened up in May 2012 with a nice selection of craft beer on draft, including their own Gaasa IPA house ale, brewed at Scouskjelleren Mikrobryggeri. They also have a decent bottle beer menu, which includes Belgian sour ales and several beer from Italian brewery Le Baladin.

Unlike many pubs in Oslo, Gaasa is indepenently owned by a group of friends with a burning passion for good beer. They hired an old, protected wood building along Storgata, but they were not allowed to make any changes to it, so the interior has kept its old, rustic feel, with creaky wooden floors. However, it's the cobblestone yard, out in the back, that really attracts people on warm summer days. The high fence and shady birch trees mute all sounds and make this one of the most tranquil places for good beer in Oslo. And, in my view, this is the only place in Oslo that deserves to be called a beer garden.

Address: Rosenkrantzgate 7 (entrance from Kristian IV), Sentrum
Opened: Reopened August 2009. Originally from the 1880s.
Type: Beer restaurant
Taps: 10
Bottles: 250+

The former Håndverkeren restaurant, which had been a gathering place for various craft guilds since the late 19th century, was bought by Thon Gruppen, renovated into a beer restaurant and reopened in the fall 2009. The focus was on beer and food pairing, and it was the first restaurant in Oslo to recommend beer, not wine, to each dish on their menu.

With Amund P Arnesen as bar manager, later to become Norway's first beer sommelier, Håndverkerstuene quickly took the lead in Oslo, importing a number of exciting craft beers from all over the world, from Japan in the far east to the US in the west. He also managed to import a number of kegs of Cantillon Gueuze, Kriek and Rosé de Gambrinus making Håndverkerstuene the only place, except for Moeder Lambic in Brussels, where I've had multiple Cantillon beers on draft the same night. The high quality of the food and the great beer selection earned the restaurant a top 30 position on RateBeer's Best Beer Restaurants 2011.

In addition to excellent food and beer, Håndverkerstuene is blessed with a cozy and quiet atmosphere. No loud music is played over the loudspeakers and the restaurant is sectioned into multiple rooms, reducing the amount of noise created by its customers.

However, beer knowledge and creativity took a nosedive after Amund P Arnesen left in 2011 and the place has struggled financially since then, only saved by the popular Christmas Dinner season, from early November until Christmas, when the place is absolutely packed.

In February 2013, a new daily manager was appointed to reinvigorate Håndverkerstuene: Hansi Tryggvason came from a similar position at Den Gamle Major, which had become a very successful and money making pub under his management. His first act was to host a Ringnes beer dinner, perhaps not too promising, but the place still seems to focus on a good selection of quality beer.

Kristiania Bar & Café
Address: Jernbanetorget 1, Østbanehallen
Opened: 1987
Type: Bar and café
Taps: 8
Bottles: 30+

With the opening of Oslo Central Station in 1987, the former Østbanehallen railway building was converted into a shopping mall with some places to eat and a very nice bar and café named Kristiania Bar & Café. This has become a great place to sit down for some warm food and cold beer while waiting for your train, and in the summertime they have a large seating area on the square outside.

After more than twenty years of wear and tear, the leather sofas and chairs look really worn and the place may remind you of a brown pub, but the last few years they've installed several new tap lines and expanded their bottle beer selection considerably. This was the first place in Oslo I found Chouffe Houblon and Maredsous Bruin on draft, and they always have Orval, BrewDog and a good selection of Norwegian micros on bottle.

Sadly, this soulful and charming "railway pub" will soon cease to operate. Rom Eiendom, the owner of Østbanehallen, has decreed that most of the current tenants, including Kristiania Bar & Café, will have to close their business in October 2013. Rom Eiendom plans to shine up Østbanehallen and replace the current shops and restaurants with more modern ones.

Kristiania Bar & Café will be replaced by a brasserie and there is no information about any beer focus, so it seems likely that future train travelers won't get the same good selection of beer as they currently do at Kristiania Bar & Café. Enjoy this bar while it's there!

Address: Youngstorget 3, Sentrum
Opened: 5 June 2013
Type: Café
Taps: 10
Bottles: 50

At 5 pm Wednesday June 5, 2013, Kulturhuset welcomed its first guests into the old Post Office on the south east corner of Youngstorget square in the heart of Oslo. With a total floor space of 800 meters, Kulturhuset is a "cultural café" offering a number of different services.

- It has a stage where concerts and small theatre pieces can be performed.
- For those out to burn some calories, there's both table tennis and a shuffleboard.
- There's a coffee bar.
- There's a regular bar offering around 50 types of wine and the same amount of beer.

Regarding the beer, Kulturhuset have around ten different beers on tap. Two are regulars, the Ægir India Pale Ale and BrewDog 5 Am Saint, while the 7 taps on the wall are for guest beers. On the opening night, in addition to the two regulars, they offerred Samuel Adams Boston Lager, Bockor Vanderghinste Oud Bruin, St. Austell Admirals Ale, Waldemars Hveteøl and Liefmans Fruitesse. Not a bad start.

What can be said, even after just one visit, is that the big room, unless they erect some sort of walls, carries all sound really well and make the place noisy even when only half full. So this is probably not the place you want to go to chat with friends. But the music was great (The Fall) so when you're alone it's not too bad. Another issue they may want to look into is the light; because the bar is located at the back wall, far from any windows, it may get a bit dark there.

Oh, and Ivar Mykland, the frontman from legendary Kristiansand band Munch, are in on the project too!

Nydalen Bryggeri & Spiseri
Address: Nydalsveien 30A, Nydalen
Opened: 23 August 2013 (the brewery on 25 August 2013)
Type: Restaurant & Brewery
Taps: 24 (about half with craft beer)
Bottles: 100+

Nydalen Bryggeri & Spiseri is a brand new restaurant and brewery that opened up in the old Bølgen & Moi restaurant in Nydalen on August 23, 2013. As the name implies, it has the same owners as Amundsen Bryggeri & Spiseri brewpub in downtown Oslo but the plan seems to be to use the new brewery more as a production brewery, because of its larger (10 hl) brewing capacity and the fact that a bottling machine has been installed.

When I first heard about the plans for Nydalen Bryggeri & Spiseri, I thought of it as a brewpub. But that is not a designation favored by the folks behind it, instead they like to see brewery and restaurant as separate entities, even though they share the same roof.

The brewery was purchased from Nøgne Ø who had bought it from Møllebyen Mikrobryggeri in Moss, when that microbrewery closed down at the end of 2008. Nøgne Ø considered opening their own brewpub, using this equipment, but workload and the rapidly expanding beer scene forced them to cancel such plans. So when Nydalen Bryggeri offered to buy the mash tun, copper and the seven 1000 liter fermentation tanks from Nøgne Ø, they got it.

In May 2013, John Hudson left his job as brewmaster at Schouskjelleren Mikrobryggeri to start brewing at Nydalen Bryggeri. Over the summer, he worked on installing the brewery as well as four, brand new 1000 liter steel serving tanks, connected to the bar. A new temperature control system, to better control the fermentation, was also installed.

On August 23, 2013, Nydalen Bryggeri & Spiseri opened its doors to the public. It was a sell-out night with both ground floor and the second floor mezzanine packed full of guests. With 24 tap lines, the pub offered a number of great guest beers as well as their own pale ale, brewed at Crowbar Bryggeri because their own brewery wasn't operational. However, two days later - August 25 - the first batch was brewed at Nydalen Bryggeri. The 6th microbrewery in Oslo had started brewing!

On September 11, 2013, Nydalen Bryggeri & Spiseri will have an official opening, this time serving its own beer too.

Olympen Mat & Vinhus
Address: Grønlandsleiret 15, Grønland
Opened: Reopened 3 November 2007. Originally from 1892.
Type: Beer restaurant
Taps: 15 + 5 upstairs
Bottles: 150+

This is one of Oslo's traditional beer halls and it is only fitting that it was here that the modern beer revolution first took hold in the capital. Olympen, affectionally called Lompa, has been a restaurant and beer hall since it first opened in 1892, but it was fairly rundown and infamous for its many alcoholics in the last few decades of the 20th century.

This all changed in 2007 when a new owner, Nevzat Arikan, took over and had the restaurant completely renovated. When Lompa reopened in November 2007, guests could admire large wall paintings of historical Oslo while enjoying solid portions of traditional Norwegian fare to very reasonable prices. But good craft beer was still a bit into the future.

It was in the spring 2008, that Lompa started expanding its beer menu, first with Norwegian micros but soon after with American and Danish craft beer, brands such as Mikkeller, Great Divide, North Coast and Stone became household names. Beer geeks started flocking to the restaurant, which gave Lompa the impetus to continue expanding its beer selection and by early 2009 the place offered a 100 types of mostly craft beer. Oslo had finally gotten a place which focused on craft beer.

Today, the restaurant still offers healthy portions of food and for very decent prices, and there are usually 5-7 quality craft beers on draft at the bar downstairs and up to 5 on draft at Lompa Ute, the roof terrace bar and grill which is open in the summer season.

Oslo Mikrobryggeri
Address: Bogstadveien 6 (entrance from Holtegaten), Majorstua
Opened: 15 September 1989
Type: Brewpub
Taps: 6

In the late 1980s two Norwegians, Frithjof Hungnes and Christopher Jerner, studied in Portland, Oregon, where they were impressed by the nascent microbrewery culture. After returning to Norway they decided to start their own brewpub and managed to attract the interest of several investors, including Jahn Teigen, which allowed them to invest in a small brewery and hire a location in the Majorstua area in the west of Oslo. Despite protests from Ungdom mot Alkohol, the brewpub opened up as Oslo Mikrobryggeri (OMB) on September 15, 1989, becoming the first new brewery to open in Oslo in the 20th century and the first brewpub in Scandinavia!

In the early 1990s, OMB provided a fresh breath for beer interested people in Oslo and for a few years it was even possible to buy their Porter, Steamer and Oslo Pils on bottle in selected stores in Oslo. But when the food chains demanded a larger, fixed volume, in order to distribute the beer, OMB was forced to decline because of its small 10 hl brewing capacity. Since then it has remained purely a microbrewery only selling its beer on draft at the brewpub.

Sadly, OMB is not what it once was. The original founders left a long time ago and while the world of beer has marched on for a quarter of a century, OMB has hardly changed. If it has it's been for the worse, serving rather bland and uninspired ales that taste more or less the same - whether called a Stout or a Pale Ale. I've included OMB on this list primarily because of its historical importance as the very first brewpub in Scandinavia.

Parkteatret Bar
Address: Olaf Ryes plass 11, Grünerløkka
Opened: 2003
Type: Beer bar
Taps: 5
Bottles: 20

Parkteatret is a theatre and concert venue on the north side of Olaf Ryes Plass at Grünerløkka, it also has a bar which has offered excellent craft beers for a number of years and even played a part in the early stages of the beer revolution in Oslo. More on that later.

The Parkteatret building dates back to 1907 when a cinema was established here, for the next 80 years it was used as a cinema and culture stage. In 1918-22 the current neoclassical facade was added and in the 1960s the red "Parkteatret" neon sign was put up above the entrance. In 1991 the cinema was closed down and converted to a theatre, used by the Nordic Black Theater until 2002 when new owners took over and renovated the building. The old cinema foyer became Parkteatret Bar which opened up to the public in 2003.

On September 27, 2008, the first Grünerløkka mat- og mikrobrygg festival was held at Parkteatret. Only one brewery attended, HaandBryggeriet from Drammen, but they brought Dark Force and Dobbel Dose on keg so for the first time it was possible for people in Oslo to enjoy craft beer from draft. The festival was a resounding success, HaandBryggeriet selling out most of their beer in just a few hours and thus proving that it was possible to sell craft beer on draft in Oslo too. Naturally, Parkteatret was among the first places in Oslo to offer Nøgne Ø and HaandBryggeriet on draft when that trend started a few months later.

Since then, Parkteatret has been a good place to enjoy Norwegian micros, both on draft and bottle.

Schouskjelleren Mikrobryggeri
Address: Trondheimsveien 2, Grünerløkka
Opened: 1 October 2010
Type: Brewpub
Taps: 14
Bottles: 50+

After the success of Olympen, with craft beer selling better and better, owner Nevzat Arikan decided that the natural thing would be start a brewpub. He managed to secure a beautiful old cellar at the former Schous Bryggeri on lower Grünerløkka, not far from Akerselva river, where spring and summer 2010 was spent renovating and installing a Chinese built 5 hl microbrewery.

Former HaandBryggeriet brewer, Englishman John Hudson, was hired to assemble the brewery, create new recipes and brew the beer. On the first day of October 2010, Schouskjelleren Mikrobryggeri opened its doors to the public, becoming the second brewpub in Oslo. Like Olympen, Schouskjelleren quickly became very popular. So popular that the small microbrewery struggled to make enough beer. To remedy this situation, more guest taps were installed at the bar allowing the brewpub to serve up to 8 guest beers in addition to 6 of its own.

Over the years, Schouskjelleren has been involved in several collbaration brews, both Beer Heer and Det Lille Bryggeri from Denmark has brewed in Oslo, while John Hudson has been in Denmark to brew. With no means of bottling their beer, Schouskjelleren has had a couple of batches brewed and bottled at Dugges in Sweden for sale at pubs and Vinmonopolet.

After two and a half years and 250 batches of beer, brewmaster John Hudson decided to move on in May 2013, after getting a tempting offer from the new Nydalen Bryggeri. His replacement, Luca Saccomandi, is an Italian brewer who worked for brewery Le Baladin when he got the offer to brew in Norway. Since late May, Saccomandi has been responsible for the microbrewery at Schouskjelleren and he will be responsible for the 10 hl production brewery being constructed in the "Pipehuset" just across the square.

With the change of brewmasters some of the old classics at Schouskjelleren, such as Empress of India, Garden of Eden and Thunderbear Stout, have been retired. Fortunately, Saccomandi has already created several wonderful beers, such as the Belgian Way - a delicious Tripel - and the smooth All Black Stout.

Schouskjelleren still is a great brewpub and one of the best beer bars in Oslo.

Address: Waldemar Thranesgate 10 (entrance from Ullevålsveien), St. Hanshaugen
Opens: November 9, 2012
Type: Restaurant
Taps: 9
Bottles: 50+

Smalhans is a Norwegian word for people that have a strained economy and therefore must be careful when spending what little they've got, so it's the perfect name for a place that aims at serving healthy portions of food for very reasonable prices.

Opening up in November 2012, in a building at St Hanshaugen that has housed restaurants since 1921, Smalhans quickly gained a good reputation for its rustic food and cozy atmosphere. The place is usually fully booked every night, so if you want to eat there you better call ahead to book a table. And, true to its name, Smalhans issues its own Rasjonaliseringskort ("ration card") which enables you to get every tenth Meal of the Day for free!

However, Smalhans also has a bar section where you don't have to book a seat. The bar has a very good selection of craft beer both on bottle and on draft, ranging from Norwegian and US micros to Belgian sour ales. The restaurant even have its own house beers, Amber Ale brewed by Schouskjelleren Mikrobryggeri and the Smalhaand Pale Ale brewed by HaandBryggeriet.

Address: Maridalsveien 17, below Mathallen
Opened: October 5, 2012
Type: Bar
Taps: 12
Bottles: 10

About 50 meter long and only 5 meter wide, with space for 200-250 guests, Smelteverket has opened up in the cellar underneath Mathallen at Vulkan. It's the perfect place to go when you're feeling overwhelmed by the crowds upstairs. Its claim for fame is the 25 meter long bar, surely the longest in Norway, and the twenty iron cast windows, along the outer wall, providing great views of the Akerselva river just outside.

Smelteverket is another Jan Vardøen project and closely tied in with his Grünerløkka Brygghus, sharing the import of beer and now also a new microbrewery that will surely be brewing beer for Smelteverket too. There are four "filling stations" along the long bar, where guests can order from a dozen different beers on draft, usually some industrial lagers but around half of the taps are with quality craft beers, mostly Norwegian micros but also some international brands. Smelteverket has its own house beer too, Thorvald's Red Ale brewed by Kinn Bryggeri in Florø.

Only a few weeks after its December 2012 opening, Smelteverket had turned into a commercial success. The bar is very popular with young people from Grünerløkka and is usually packed at night, so make sure to be there early to get a table. Lunch is perfect time, both for a light snack and a beer. Because Smelteverket also has an entrance from the bridge at Nedre Foss its opening hours are independent of Mathallen.

Address: Torggata 16 (entrance from Badstugata), Sentrum
Opened: 21 August 2009
Type: Games and beer bar
Taps: 10 (craft beer
Bottles: 50+

Tilt is located in a former public bath (Torggata bad) in downtown Oslo and has become a popular gathering place for gamers, students and concert-goers, many come here before and after concerts at the nearby Rockefeller Concert Hall. If you're coming for the beer, come early in the week and shortly after opening (they open at 3 pm Mon - Wed). Later in the day and during weekends, it will get packed and noisy.

Tilt was a great beer bar from the very start in August 2009, with half a dozen craft beers on draft. The place had a particular good rotation on beers from Ægir, so guests knew they would get a fresh Ægir IPA when they came to Tilt. Later on Tilt hosted a BrewDog beer tasting, with James Watt attending, and the bar has since then been very faithful to the Scottish brewery, often offering Punk IPA or 5 Am Saint on draft.

Late in 2012, Tilt threw out all of its bulky craft beer towers from the bar and installed a more compact tap system, which allowed the pub to increase the number of craft beers on draft from 6 to 10! Thus you'll now typically find beer from Nøgne Ø, Kinn, Ægir and BrewDog, in addition to guest beers from all over the world.

Gamers in Oslo have never had such a good selection of beer to choose from!

The Whisky Bar
Address: Rådhusgata 28, Kvadraturen
Opened: 12 May 2010
Type: Restaurant, beer and whisky bar
Taps: 12
Bottles: 40+

While already a fine beer and whisky bar when it opened up before the summer 2010, The Whisky Bar has recently upped the stakes by installing a new 7-tap beer tower, bringing the total number of draft beers up to a dozen (plus some industrial lagers I decline to include in the count).

According to the bartender I spoke with, they sell a lot of craft beer from breweries such as BrewDog, Magic Rock, HaandBryggeriet and Ægir, so there is a surprisingly good rotation of kegs. When I was there they served BrewDog Punk IPA, HaandBryggeriet Fyr & flamme, Ægir IPA, Svaneke Den Udødelige Hest Porter, Magic Rock Dark Star Stout and Lexington Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale, to name the highlights.

And because their customers keep asking for more exciting draft beer, The Whisky Bar plans to install another 7-tap beer tower. That is, if they can find space for it in the small bar. So keep an eye on The Whisky Bar.

Address: Maridalsveien 17A, in Mathallen
Opened: October 2012
Type: Beer bar
Taps: 14
Bottles: 200+

This is a small but well stocked beer bar inside Mathallen at Vulkan, it's run by the people behind Ølakademiet and Akersberget restaurant in Oslo. The pub offers beer from 14 taps, but have around 20 tap lines in all to allow for future expansion. The place also aims at offering about 300 types of beer on bottle, though in practice the number is probably closer to 200.

Because the pub is located within Mathallen, space is rather limited so be there early or on a weekday to find a good spot at the bar. The knowledge about beer varies from bartender to bartender, some know a good deal about beers others not.

Løkka Session at Grünerløkka Brygghus

Have fun in Oslo Beer City everyone!

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