Swedes drinking more specialty beers

3:23 min

Sweden is not known for its beer. But there is a quite revolution taking hold inside the country. One expert referred to it as the craft beer renaissance. It consists of small brewers brewing specialty beers that give consumers an alternative to the stor stark, which literally means big strong, and refers to the light, international lager that can be found at every bar in the country.

This year alone, over 80 new types of small and specialty beers from micro brewers are being sold at Systembolaget, Sweden's retail monopoly for alcohol beverages.

Mats Olauson is the purchaser for bottled lager and specialty beers at Systembolaget. He says there is a clear beer trend appearing.

“Our customers are demanding more special beers,” he says. “We see an overall trend…for example customers now buy more beers in bottles than in cans…especially special beers such as ales, porters, stouts, beers coming from smaller breweries is really on the rise.”

Cecilia Giertta, CEO of the Brewers of Sweden, the biggest brewery organization in the country, says the trend towards specialty beer began ten to fifteen years ago but has picked up pace during the past five years. She says twenty years ago there were 8 breweries in Sweden, and now there's nearly fifty.

Another big change, she says, “is that we drink for the taste, not to get drunk.

Today, when people order a typical lager, or stor stark, at a bar or restaurant in Sweden, they generally don't know which brand of beer they will be getting. But they do know how it will taste, as most stor starks in the country, just like other international lagers throughout the world, generally taste the same.

Darren Packman agrees that there is a trend away from these lagers and towards smaller brewers. He is a beer expert and runs Sweden's most popular beer blog. He couldn't be happier that Swedes are expanding their taste buds for new types of beers and different flavors beyond the typical stor stark.

"I think if there are two words that need to be banned from the Swedish language, it is those two,” he says. “Quite frankly, and if I can be in any way a part of its demise, I would be happy to.”

He says that while he hopes the new beers will bring the demise to the stor stark, he knows that it is wishful thinking.

Mats Olauson at Systembolaget says the stor stark will definitely continue to be the type of beer most drunk in Sweden. But he also believes this trend towards more speciality and micro brewed beers will continue.