Norway has a long tradition of brewing ales and beers - from the Vikings on up. In fact, it used to be part of a farmer's obligation to brew beer, and many in rural areas still do so, regardless of regulations that prohibit the practice. In addition to homebrewing, Norway is increasingly home to a selection of microbreweries that are following the old traditions and innovating new ones to rival the best craft brewers in the U.S. Most breweries have a few things in common - a desire to see Norwegian beers move past the lagers that dominate the market, an appreciation of handcrafted beers and, of course, a dedication to the winter ales that pop up everywhere in the Christmas season in Norway.
On your Norway cruise, you may have the opportunity to take an excursion to a town that houses a brewery, or perhaps you'd like to make a tour of them part of your post-cruise travel within Norway. When you plan to go on such a tour, make sure you include these breweries in your itinerary:
Part of the Flamsbrygga Hotel in Flam, the Aegir Brewery is more than worth a visit. There is a pub on site that provides tastes of the ales produced there, and you couldn't find a more mythically Norwegian environment to sample drinks in. The floors are slate, the fireplace is 9 meters high and the walls are made of driftwood, making the experience of a brewery visit an epic one before you even take your first sip. When you do, you'll find a robust year-round selection and plenty of seasonal beers for holiday times. From a scotch ale to a bock and a couple of blonde ales, the brewery is fully stocked with options for every palate.
HaandBryggeriet, located in Drammen and literally translated as "brewed by hand," is a small operation that deserves a visit. The dedicated brewers are interested in forging new brews, but also in preserving traditional brewing techniques, such as spicing beer with juniper branches and smoking barley malt over beechwood fires. The brewery has also created an Akevitt Porter, a beer that is aged in barrels that used to hold Akevitt, better known overseas as Aquavit and more or less Norway's national drink. If you're at all interested in traditional brewing processes, check out HaandBryggeriet and sample its interpretation of them.
Nøgne ø is a brewery that is well established on the Norwegian craft scene - it is the country's largest supplier of craft beer. The brewery concentrates on top-fermented and bottle-conditioned beers, rather than the bottom-fermented pale lagers that are most common from larger breweries. It also declines to pasteurize its product, or to filter it, giving it a longer shelf life than mainstream beers. The brewery's year-round offerings range all over the standards, and it produces the requisite Christmas beers in the wintertime. Nøgne ø is located in Grimstad, and asks that you phone ahead if you would like to have a tour.