Thursday, 16 July 2009

Stockholm (part two)

Two days gone already. And do you know what? I still haven't made it to any of my target pubs.

I was already aware that Akkurat, Stockholm's premier beer boozer, would be shut for the summer. Well, you can add to that Monk's Cafe. At least for this week. They're decorating.

We're staying fairly centrally in town. It can't be more than a ten-minute walk to Centralstation. So yesterday, after a hard day hiking around Skansen (the open-air museum) me and Dolores dumped the kids in the pool and headed off for Monk's Cafe. Over the bridge with the vertiginous views of the railway tracks. Monk's Cafe isn't much past that. But, as you already know, it was closed.

We went in search of somewhere else to have a quiet beer. The only other place in my guide reasonably close by is Belgo Bar. Now that's something I'm not doing. Coming to Sweden and drinking Belgian beer. I can - and do - do that at home. Ten minutes stroll uncovered nothing but cafes. I thought everyone here was a raging alcy. Turns out they're actually coffee addicts. What a disappointment.

We did find a Styembolaget. One of the shiny new ones, with even the spirits enticingly draped across the shelves. It takes some getting used to. Do you know something weird? I sort of miss the Soviet-style queueing ones, where all the dangerous booze was stored well away from the eyes of the putative punters. I got an Arboga Majbock, Jamtlands Pelgrim and a couple of Oppigards beers. The Oppigards Porter wasn't bad. And the Majbock at least had a little poke.

Sweden has changed a lot since my first visits. Beer stronger and 5.6% ABV is now legal. The systembolaget shops have the drinks arranged on shelves and everything is dirt cheap. Sorry, the last one isn't true. Just my wishful thinking.

Yesterday, Dolores and I ended up in the uninspiring sports bar on the corner. Her Falcon Export and my Carnegie Porter only cost 12 euros. What a bargain.


The Beer Nut said...

Does the open-air museum have one of the closed-access Systembolagets in it? The one in Oslo does, with a superb exhibition on the relationship between the Norwegian authorities and alcohol.

Laurent Mousson said...

Well, in comparison to Alko (Finalnd) and Vinmonopolet (Norway) indeed, at Systembolaget, booze is dirt cheap. One of the main arguments for maintaining alcohol sales in state hands being that "alcohol must not be sold so as to make a profit", it's only coherent taht booze is not that expensive at Systembolaget shops.
As a result of this and the nice, well-lit new shops, I'm quite sure most people entering a Systembolaget end up leaving the place with more than they intended to buy.

But indeed, at 39, being asked for ID and having my birthdate typed into their computer system feels a little bit weird.

Barm said...

Can I add another voice recommending Glenfiddich Warehouse. I haven't been for several years, but back then the beer was great and IIRC prices were not substantially above what some other places charge for a dull macrobrewed stor stark.

MentalDental said...

Everyone in Stockholm seems to like a drink (and coffee too) but I didn't notice any alcies either. But when we went north to a smaller town I was taken aback by the number of people who had clearly had one (or ten) too many. If Liam Donaldson thinks that UK has a drink problem he should go to Sweden. And at the same time he can see how useless raising prices is.

It seems, in rural Sweden at least, alcoholism is a problem. But it's not the booze in bars and the Systembolaget that's at the root of it. It's the illicit home distilled spirits, some of which are of dubious quality but, of course, very cheap.

Home distilling is illegal in Sweden but is widespread. A visit to Lidl reveals a wide range of flavourings available to add to your hooch. There does appear to be some, at least, tacit condoning of home distilling.

To give you an idea of the scale of amateur distilling, when I went to a friends party recently (with say 40 guests) there were three cars outside with extensive supplies of hooch available in addition to a fair few bottles in pockets.

Ron: I hope you find some decent beer soon!

Gary Gillman said...

Ron, interesting reports.

Can you glean from bar and alcohol (retail) store offerings what are the surviving (English-derived-via-Baltic) porters and stouts? You mentioned Carnegie, which has always been an excellent fruity stout albeit pared down to 5% from what must have been higher in the early 1800's.

What others are there (including any from other Baltic areas such as Sinebryhoff's superb Imperial stout? Did you see any on draft?


Ron Pattinson said...

Beer Nut, not that I saw. The whole alcohol thing didn't get a lookin. One of the farmhouses did have something described as a brygghuset. It was locked.

Ron Pattinson said...

Laurent, after my visit yesterday, I have to agree that the prices in the Systembolaget aren't stupid. Considering the level of tax.

The new Systembolaget shops freak me out. They look way too nice.

Alko - crazy name,crazy guy.

Ron Pattinson said...

Barm, I plan going to the Glenfiddich Warehouse tonight.

Ron Pattinson said...

Mental, the books on home distilling are a giveaway, too. There's a theory that in Sweden and Norway illegal distilling is ignored because it makes the official alcohol consumption figures look better (lower) than they really are.

I've seen estimates that, when illegal distilling, legal imports and illegal imports are included, the real consumption figures are as much as 20 % higher.

Ron Pattinson said...

Gary, I've not seen any Porter from outside Sweden. I'm drinking a Carnegie noe. I've tried both the 3,5% and 5,5% version. I'm sure the weaker one used to have much more character.

Kristen England said...

To my knowledge systembolaget doesn't carry much for porters or stouts. No Sinebrychoff for sure but they do carry 4 other imperial stouts.

Search under the name field (namn)

Mager said...

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Please respond me or leave your e-mail adress.
Thank you

Ron Pattinson said...

Mager, you can find my email address here: