The beer bucket list and life bucket list cross over neatly in Tromso, a city 200 miles (320km) north of the Arctic Circle. It was once “The Gateway to the Arctic” and a place where explorers, expeditions, and animal hunts started and finished. I went there on my own hunt: to see orcas swimming in the wild and to watch the Northern Lights that dance in the sky most evenings during the long winter.
Obviously, when I travel somewhere new, I always look up the local breweries and beers, and Tromso offered a lot more than I expected, including Mack Bryggeri, formerly the northernmost brewery in the world and one of Norway’s oldest brewers, as well as a few small craft brewers.
Arctic Circle Beers In Troms Beer And Life Bucket Lists Combine Photo Gallery
Seeing orcas and the Northern Lights were beyond my expectations. As were the beers. The most exciting brewery is Graff Brygghus, which specializes in German and US styles, with brewer Marius Graff spending some time in breweries in Portland, Oregon, before returning to his hometown to brew with business partner Martin Amundsen—the
Graff beers are exceptionally good. Also in town are Polden and Bryg’g’eri 13, with a range of pale and hoppy and dark and malty beers between them—you can find these throughout the town’s bottle stores.
Mack Bryggeri is worthy of attention for its great story and predominance in northern Norway. The Mack family (pronounced closer to Muck) were merchants and bakers from near Hanover, in Germany. Baking took Georg Mack to Norway in the 1830s, where he worked in Bergen before heading north, settling in Tromso and having kids, including Ludwig Mack. Lugwig followed his father and learnt to bake, spending a few years in Germany before returning to his father’s bakery.
At that time Tromso was a wasteland of wasted fisherman, drunk on hard liquor. Ludwig had tasted German beer and knew its culture, so he decided to combine water, grain, and yeast in a new way. In 1877, Mack, then 35 years old, opened his eponymous brewery and started selling his first beer, Bayer—a dark, Bavarian-style lager—the following year. It wasn’t an easy beginning, and being a remote and small fishing town the prosperity of Tromso long paralleled the successes or failures of the fishermen. But it did survive and did manage to grow, becoming synonymous with northern Norway, and it’s still a family-run brewery today. As well as the beer, they added capacity to produce soft drinks and bottled water, plus in 2000 they installed a smart craft brewery. In 2012, the large production brewery had outgrown its original location, squeezed within the tight infrastructure of a small city, and so they built a new production brewery 44 miles (71km) away, leaving the microbrewery in Tromso. That’s also still run by the same family.
The best place to drink the beer is 01hallen, the Beer Hall, a 67-tap pub connected to the brewery—it’s also the oldest pub in Tromso. Like the brewery, the pub was opened to stop unruly public drinking and create a pleasant and comfortable place to enjoy a beer (though it was strictly a man’s place to begin with: the female restroom was only built in 1973). Today a huge polar bear stands over the bar, to provide a reminder of how this place would’ve been filled with fishermen and hunters. 01hallen has all the Mack beers, including’ the hop-forward craft beers brewed a few yards from the bar, and it also has many beers from Norwegian microbreweries. It’s a great pub serving many great beers. You should start with a Mack Bayer, their excellent dark lager. Locals like to order a “Blanding,” which is a Bayer topped up with Mack’s Pilsner—this balances the malt sweetness with the Pilsner’s hop bitterness.
Tromso is a great city to visit. You’ll discover amazing nature, lots of mountains nearby, a nice old town, plus top food and beer. I love it when the life bucket list meets the beer bucket list. Want to go on a Beer Safari around Tromso? Then check out this informative tour on www.budgettours.no/beersafari.
WHAT: Mack Brewery and 01hallen bar
HOW: Brewery tours run daily, finishing at the 01hallen bar (www. olhallen. no).
WHERE: Storgata 4, 9008 Tromso, Norway
Tromso sparkles in the twilight.
LOCAL TIP: Norway is Expensive
A half-liter of local lager in a bar might cost N0K50-80 (US$6—10), while a craft beer can range from N0K90-160 (US$11—20). Also, the government regulates the sale of alcohol for anything over 4.7% ABV. Any store can sell beer up to 4.7% ABV-meaning that the majority of Norwegian beers are 4.7% and under. If you want anything stronger, including wine and spirits, then you can only buy these from the Vinmonopolet stores. Note that these have restricted opening hours, but also tend to have excellent selections of beer and no crossover with what’s sold in regular stores.