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Meeting the Brewers of Europe in Tromsø

On 19/05/15 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

Tromsø; 2,000 km from Oslo in Norway and 1,500 from the Russian Border. The land of Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights), which you see in the winter months, and the midnight sun, which can be seen from the end of May - it was certainly never dark whilst I was there! Since 1877 there has been a brewery, and Harold Bredrup (chairman of the Norwegian Brewers) is the 5th generation family brewer who owns the 'Mach' brand. As it happens, Harold is the British Consul in Tromsø and the links to Britain are clear.

I was in Tromsø for the meeting of the Northern countries who make up Brewers of Europe, which includes the UK, Ireland, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway. It was the first time I have been to Norway and never so close to the Arctic. Tromsø is home to the Polar Institute and those who use it as a base before heading off for the Arctic. Their bar has been home to polar hunters and both in their pub and in the hotel there were stuffed polar bears!

There was prohibition in Norway from 1916 to 1927, but the brewery was allowed to sell beer on the premises as it already had permission to produce. During the Second World War when Norway was occupied by the Germans, they at first refused to allow the brewery to sell beer, and then demanded that they provide beer for all German troops everywhere in Norway. Because they needed to know how many soldiers they were supplying, they gathered detailed figures of troop movements which they were able to pass back to London.

It was May, but like being in Scotland in February. Cold, snow on the steep slopes of the mountains, very beautiful, but as yet no leaves on the trees. I gathered that spring is not a season in northern Norway, instead they wake up one day to green leaves and summer has arrived. The snow lasts until June.

In our meeting, we discussed our individual markets, nutritional labelling, the Brewers of Europe plans to produce a lobbying tool on reducing duty, the review of the Structures Directive and much more besides. It gives us an opportunity to agree our lines before the next Secretaries General meeting in June. It is a valuable alliance and a good opportunity to share best practice.

We were given the chance to drive out to the new brewery for 'Mach' which was completed in 2013 at a cost of £35 million. In addition to 15 types of beer (for which they suggest music on vinyl to accompany each one!), they also produce cider are the only producer of Coca-Cola in Norway. They also produce their own soft drinks, with half the capacity of the brewery for beer and the other for soft drinks. The new brewery has allowed them to reduce their energy costs by 40 per cent and water use by 50 per cent.

The region is certainly a fascinating place to visit. It is great for skiing, particularly 'randonnée', but it is as far from London to Oslo as it is from Oslo to Tromsø! However, great beer and a warm welcome await you when you are there!

Beer and vinyl matching, Tromso


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