Swedes are more into beer than ever before. Not surprising, when you consider that the number of breweries in Sweden has grown from a 32 in 2009 to a whopping 345 in 2018. Most of these are independent microbreweries – fuelled by growing consumer demand for small-scale, locally sourced products.
Fredrik Sörbom is a Project Manager with The Swedish Brewers Association (Sveriges Bryggerier), a confederation of businesses in the Swedish brewing industry. He says now is an exciting time to be a Swedish brewer.
“Beer used to be generic, but these days consumers don’t just order ‘a beer’ just like they wouldn’t ask for ‘a glass of wine’. The growing interest in beer is allowing producers to be more innovative, using new types of hops and different ingredients. In Swedish beer brewing in 2018 there are no rights or wrongs,” he comments.
Organic Swedish beer
In planet-conscious Sweden, it will come as no surprise that the market for organic beer is booming. Microbreweries such as 100 per-cent-organic Poppels have led the way, closely followed by larger breweries such as Åbro and Carlsberg. Last year, the state-owned Swedish Alcohol Retailing Monopoly, Systembolaget, sold more than 14 million litres of organic beer; close to six per cent of its total annual beer sales. Only three years earlier, in 2014, less than four million litres of organic beer were sold – proving that Swedes have really started putting their money where their mouth is.
Lager, pale ale and IPA
Although classic, light lagers still account for 90 per cent of the beer produced in Sweden, the leading microbreweries have generated more interest in other types of beer, such as hoppy India Pale Ale (IPA), as well as typically British varieties such as Bitter, Stout and Porter. Examples include ale- and porter-specialists Dugges, and Omnipollo with its impressive range of IPAs and Imperial Stouts.
Non-alcoholic beer and other drinks
Non-alcoholic beverages are popular among health-minded Swedes and, as a result, the country’s brewers are well versed in the art of producing beer and cider with low alcohol content. A few years ago, when non-alcoholic beer suddenly became internationally trendy, they were ready to set the standard. Sweden is home to several leading producers of non-alcoholic beer, including NAPA by Sigtuna Brygghus and Easy Rider made by Gotlands Bryggeri. Other popular non-alcoholic drinks include non-alcoholic sparkling wine from MRG Wines, Wellnox’s range of raw, cold-pressed juices, as well as Blåbär 100%, a fruit drink made from Swedish bilberries.
Despite the growing number of breweries, Swedish beer still has a long way to go before it can compete internationally with Swedish cider. Ten years ago, nobody would have dreamed that Swedish fruit cider would rival the likes of Absolut Vodka and Ikea as the world’s top Swedish export. Fast forward to 2018, and Rekorderlig cider from Åbro is available in 25 countries and 43 U.S. states, while Kopparberg’s globally best-selling pear cider can be found in more than 30 countries worldwide.
With its bitterly cold winters and far-from-balmy summers, Sweden is not the first country that springs to mind as an obvious wine producer. However, climate change has turned the dream of growing wine in the southern Swedish region of Scania into a commercial reality. Arilds vingård in Österlen has been one of the trailblazers, and currently produces volumes to rival most mid-sized German wineries. On the non-alcoholic side, MRG Wines is leading the way with its outstanding range of non-alcoholic sparkling wine, developed in collaboration with world-renowned Champagne expert Richard Juhlin.