Usually, I feel the shops should wait until at least the end of November before they start stocking up on Christmas products. For example, I usually don't feel the need for Christmas marzipan, Christmas chocolate or Christmas decorations in the middle of October. There is one exception, however, and that is "juleøl". Juleøl means "Christmas beer", and is a tradition dating back a millennium or more, according to an article about juleøl as a pagan tradition
. Apparently, the brewing of beer for the midwinter celebration was declared mandatory by the older Gulating laws (the earliest known collection of Norwegian laws, written down during the late 1000s), with hefty fines for those who didn't comply.
Juleøl is usually somewhat darker than the average Norwegian beer, and has a stronger taste. In part, this is to go better with all the heavy food people usually eat during Christmas, and I imagine juleøl and aquavit is by far the most popular alchololic drink to have with Christmas dinner. Not all juleøl are meant to go with food, though, or at least not dinner-type food. For example, the excellent brewery Nøgne Ø (means "naked isle") has this description of one of their juleøl:
The name of this beer is "Peculiar Christmas" in english. This spiced Christmas ale is strange - and indeed a fusion beer. We have gathered inspiration from the Norwegian drink “gløgg”, and as such this is quite an uncompromising brew. Best served with “goro” and “fattigmann”. Recommended serving temperature 10°C/50°F, but you are free to try on higher temperatures....
As you may remember from my article about julebakst
, "fattigmann" is a kind of Christmas cookie, and so is "goro". Another example of a beer that not necessarily meant for drinking with dinner is Ringnes Julebokk
, which is "a beer best enjoyed before or after dinner, or for desserts with chocolate, cloudberries and riskrem", and it is of course perfect for puns.
I said that I don't mind if the shops start stocking up on juleøl well before Christmas, and the reason is simply that I generally like juleøl better than most other Norwegian beers. However, in Norway, beer with more than 4.75% alcohol is only sold at Vinmonopolet
, while beer with less alcohol is found in normal shops. This means that even though the shops have a better selection of beer I like around Christmas, it is at Vinmonopolet one can find the real gems, such as the two beers mentioned above.