“To be able to drink pure, bacteria free water directly from both the tap and a mountain stream is a luxury that I believe is quite unique in the world”, says Vidar Lund, senior scientist at the Norwegian institute of public health.
Within one day, and without travelling too far, you get to drink a great variety of the specialities Norway has to offer in a cup or a glass, from baristas, breweries, distilleries, numerous mountain streams, countryside farms, and much more.
Andreas Viestad is a recognised Norwegian food and drink writer with a long running column in The Washington Post. He also hosts the TV series New Scandinavian cooking.
“The best milk is obtained when the cows have eaten well, and Norway has lots of slow growing green grass. Regular milk purchased at the store is quite good”, he says.
Some farms will also be happy to introduce you to fresh milk straight from the cow.
“During a visit to a shieling in Sanddalen in Valdres, I put a can of fresh milk to cool in a mountain stream”, tells Viestad. You don’t need a fridge in nature, where natural solutions are found everywhere.
Besides milk, coffee is the staple drink in Norway. Few things are more typically Norwegian than meeting up for coffee all week, whether it's spontaneously served around the kitchen table at home, boiled over a camp fire in the middle of a hike by a fjord or a lake or brewed by baristas. Norwegian water and milk also make any latte or macchiato taste special. Make sure to test the new wave of coffee bars found in any urban area. Some are amongst the world’s most awarded in their field.
Andreas Viestad explains: “Since coffee came to Norway a long time ago, we have had an unusually high consumption that originates straight from the old culture of alcohol abstinence. In recent times, we have put more and more effort into the quality of the coffee. Robert Thoresen, former gold winner in the World Barista Championship, was first in the country to start his own micro roastery in the year 2000, and is now working globally with raw coffee import. He is also still involved in the running of his coffee bars Java and Mocca in Oslo, that helped start it all.”
"Norwegian water and milk make any latte and macchiato taste special".
Colin Eick is the co-author and photographer of the book Ølbrygging (meaning “Beer brewing”), an authoritative guide to the new Norwegian landscape of beer brewing entrepreneurs.
“One of my beer favourites is Lindheim farm in Gvarv in Telemark. Lindheim exploits the fruit garden’s origin by using fruit from the farm in the beer production. They came in at fifth place in the category ‘Top new brewers in the world’ at the website Ratebeer, who states that ‘Lindheim Ølkompani is the new star on the Norwegian beer scene, exploding out of nowhere’. Apples, cherries and plums add a special taste in combination with the use of aquavit barrels. Lindheim is amongst the very few who cooperates with world-renowned Mikkeller in Denmark”, tells Colin Eick.
Eick also mentions Oslo håndverksdestilleri, a distillery that combines spirits with wild botanicals handpicked by the founders themselves in the nature near the capital. The “Marka” brand, named after the huge forest of Marka that is surrounding the city of Oslo, is a digestive bitter with myrtle, dandelion and angelica root.
Merete Bø, originally from the mountain town of Voss, is a sommelier who has become a national reference of what to drink because of her food and drink related books and regular columns in the newspaper Dagens Næringsliv. Her beer tip:
“Voss bryggeri is a small-scale but increasingly popular beer producer, who’s speciality is to brew with unusual ingredients like the local variety of juniper, handpicked in the mountains.”
Tap water is considered safe and sane to drink all over Norway.
Bottled water from Norwegian sources is gaining popularity at the expense of soda products.
Bottled water is mainly sold to people “on the go”, less as a substitute for tap water at home.
You can return plastic bottles wherever they were bought and get money in return for each unit.
Beer has been produced in Norway for 3,000 years.
Norway counts around 100 microbreweries. They represent 5% of total beer sales and is expected to rise their share to around 10% within a few years.
Nearly 300 jobs are created in microbreweries all over the country, representing 20% of the total workforce in the brewery industry.
In remote places numerous independent small scale breweries have become tourist attractions.
Despite generally strict laws on alcohol distribution, breweries have license to sell directly to customers from production facilities.
Norwegian cider production has a long tradition, recently revitalised by the implantation of internationally industry leading French and English apple tree species. These have a bitter aspect compared to the typical sweetness of Norwegian fruits.
Old and new manufacturers, mainly of the fjords, are increasingly found on menus of hotels and restaurants all over Norway.
Over time strong drinks have lost their appeal in Norway, especially to wine.
The exception is varieties like aquavit and whisky. New small scale local distilleries are gaining popularity amongst connoisseurs.
Sources: Bryggeri- og drikkevareforeningen and Norsk vann
When Merete grew up in Voss, she and her family brought their own drinking cups in their backpacks when hiking in the mountains.
“We drank straight from small mountain streams. We went for water that runs steeply and always got an overview of the terrain to make sure that the stream wasn’t contaminated by animals”, tells Bø.
By the way, Fjellbekk (mountain stream in English) is also the name of a classic Norwegian cocktail.
“Fjellbekk is amongst the first drinks I mixed when I started in the business. It is basically based on aquavit, vodka, lemon, and lime.”
Aquavit spells “akevitt” in Norwegian and is the country’s most popular liquor. Merete urges you to taste aquavit, gin and whisky based on herbs found in the Norwegian nature from Det norske brenneri, former Puntervold, in the city of Grimstad in Southern Norway. She also recommends Myken distillery, the world’s first Arctic whisky distillery, which operates a small-scale production on Myken Island on the Helgeland coast, just north of the Arctic Circle.
"By the way, mountain stream is also the name of a classic Norwegian cocktail".
The sommelier says that you shouldn’t leave Norway before you have tasted Norwegian cider, for example from Balholm, a family business located in the city of Balestrand by Norway’s longest and largest fjord, the Sognefjord.
“Small producers like Balholm are characterised by their fearless attitude and their genuine interest in experimenting. The result is an interesting variety of cider. The climate by the Sognefjord is particularly favourable. The surface of the water reflects the sunshine in the steep hills where the trees are blooming. The soil is based on moraines of glaciers. There is a reason why apples have been cultivated here since monks moved to the area sometime in the 13th century.”
Beer enthusiast Colin Eick also wants to open people’s eyes for cider. He recently visited the inner end of the Hardangerfjord, where the village Ulvik is amongst the epicentres of fruit harvesting.
“Ulvik is reminiscent of a steep alpine village fenced by hills full of apple trees. There are many cool things to do based on the cider production in the village, such as the Fruksleppet festival (the fruit release) and the hiking and cider tasting activity called Frukt- og siderruta (the fruit and cider route)”, Colin says.
The cider varieties have tastes that go well with most kinds of food, like Norwegian seafood from the fjord by Ulvik.
Fermented smoothie anyone? Fermentation is a process where organic substances are slowly degraded. The method can be used for far more than beer, apple cider and food, when using starter cultures such as thick milk, kefir grains or whey.
Gry Hammer is the author of the book Fermentation and an enthusiast for the comeback of an old, Norwegian tradition.
“The advantage is that the process of fermentation retains taste and vitamins”, she explains.
Kefir grains are a fungal yeast culture. Whey occurs as fluid by sifting yogurt or kefir.
“Thick milk and whey have centuries-old traditions in Norway”, tells Gry, who shares fermentation based recipes for everything from dandelion juice to whey drinks with nettle and berries.
“Smoothies based on Norwegian sour, clotted milk mixed with seasonal berries and fruit is an easy way to use a fermented base. Any fermented drink is an elixir, a potion, with a lot of vitamin power”, states Gry Hammer.
Anywhere in Norway, you can satisfy your thirst with a great variety of drinks as pure as untouched nature. Go where the freshness that is poured in your glass comes naturally.