So, new students, are you already acclimated to the Norwegian culture around alcohol? Of course, there are many aspects of this, from the vorspiel (preparty) to the nachspiel (afterparty) and a tendency towards big nights on weekends only (instead of moderation more often) – but today’s focus is on buying alcohol at Vinmonopolet and other stores. If you haven’t had to stock up for your vorspiel at Vinmonopolet yet, read on!
Vorspiel with 7fjell (7 Mountains Brewery). Photo: Stand Hiestand
Norway’s alcohol restrictions
Norway has laws (for example the Vinmonopol Act and the Alcohol Act) that attempt to protect against the potential harms of alcohol and regulate the sale of alcohol. The high taxes(maybe you’ve noticed them) placed on alcoholic beverages are also a measure that strives to reduce alcohol-related social harm. Like most countries, Norway also has age minimums for alcohol purchases. Visibly underage (without ID) and visibly drunk people will not be sold or served alcohol.
Norway also has a total ban on alcohol advertisements in order to try to combat the tendency of such advertisements to increase alcohol consumption – especially in young people. I learned about this ban only recently. During my too brief volunteer stint at Kvarteret, I learned that bartenders here are not allowed to do a ‘last call’. I assume that you may be familiar with this concept, wherein the bartender lets customers know that it is the last chance to buy anything alcoholic ~1. Under the advertising ban, a ‘last call’ is considered an advertisement and is therefore forbidden. I had wondered why there were no ‘last calls’ here.
If you’ve ever enjoyed the ambiance at Folk og Røvere, you may have noticed that they have to carry your beer across the street for you if you want to sit outside. That’s because it’s illegal to drink in public in Norway (apparently restaurants can license specific designated seating areas for drinking, though). Even though drinking in public is illegal, on those rare nice days I have seen my fair share of people cooking in the park with “engangsgriller” one-time-use grills (a bit of a tradition here) while enjoying a bottle or can of an ‘adult beverage’. The police seem to tolerate it as long as people are behaving themselves.
Finally, the legal blood alcohol limit for driving in Norway is 0.02%, so… just don’t drive if you’ve been drinking.
Vinmonopoler are stores operated by the Norwegian government that have exclusive rights to sell alcoholic beverages above 4.7%. The stores may vary in size, and range in the number of brands they stock from 300 of the most popular items for a small store to at least 1800 in a large one.
If Vinmonopolet doesn’t have what you’re looking for, you can make a special order. Also, Vinmonopolet has an online storefront where you can order online, by phone, fax, or e-mail.
Enough of all this background, when can I purchase alcohol?
Monday-Saturday alcohol is sold in Vinmonopolet and other shops (if it is under 4.7% alcohol by volume). Times that alcohol is sold may vary depending on the store and your location, but legally it won’t be available for sale after 20:00 weekdays or 18:00 Saturdays. Vinmonopolet hours may also vary – but in Bergen Sentrum most should be open between 10:00 am – 18:00 Monday-Friday and 10:00 – 15:00 Saturday. On Sundays and outside of the legal hours for selling alcohol in shops you can only get alcohol at restaurants and bars.
And, of course you always have the option of stocking up at the Duty Free shop in the airport – that is truly a Norwegian tradition. Generally, everybody local heads directly to Duty Free after an international flight to stock up, as Duty Free is genuinely a good deal cheaper than any stores. Lately I’ve seen some decent Nøgne Ø and Kinn beers there (two local microbreweries). I can recommend Kinn’s Bresjnev Sovjet Staut, if you like russian imperial stouts. Delicious.
So, head out and explore your local Vinmonopolet. Just remember to consume alcohol responsibly. Skål!