Månedens matblogger: North Wild Kitchen // Hopyard

It’s almost lunch and the sun, surrounded by a clear blue sky, is beaming down on Oslo. Days like this draw everyone outdoors to take the time to soak in the rays and enjoy a good meal, a good conversation, and of course, a good drink. And what’s more Norwegian than having a glass of beer outside on a sunny day?  

At Mathallen, I meet with Kenneth, the bar manager of Hopyard – a place to wind down, grab a beer, and chat away. While Hopyard has an array of beers from all over the world, I as a foodie focusing on Norwegian cuisine, am mostly interested in learning more about the Norwegian beers they serve as well as where Norway stands today in terms of beer culture.

Of course, beer has a long-standing tradition in Norway. So much so, it was once the law for farms to brew their own beer, the consequences resulting in potential fines or in extreme cases extraction of land. Later on, in Norway, and the rest of the world, brewing became more industrialized and mass-produced lager became the staple. Brewing at home was done less and less. The older flavors and methods of brewing weren’t being passed down as they were before. Spontaneous fermenting and the use of juniper branches and berries were becoming a thing of the past.

Fast forward to the present and microbreweries are popping up all over Norway bringing artisanal brewing back to the masses. Currently, there are around 300 official microbreweries with around 150 of them being active – a number that is constantly growing. It’s a huge change that has happened quickly, especially in the last four years. To gain an understanding of why, I asked Petter Nome, CEO of Bryggeri- og drikkevareforeningen. He explains that a combination of different sentiments for small, traditional and local products and producers as well as the newfound discovery of the diversity in product range has been important to promote the role of artisanal beer. Also, there was a huge increase of media attention around 2012 and onwards putting beer up as “the new wine” – with various flavors and depth that can and should be paired with food.

Hopyard is certainly contributing to making beer an important part of the culinary experience at Mathallen. At any given day, Hopyard will have 10 – 20% Norwegian beers in stock with at least 3 Norwegian drafts, 1 being local, on tap. The amount varies, but they are always fronting quality Norwegian beers. When asked how many people tend to order a Norwegian beer, Kenneth tells me that around 80 – 90% of tourists want to try one. They want that connection to Norway – to try something local, fresh, and traditional.  To meet this need they have a good range of beers that offer that traditional connection. You’ll find ones produced with spontaneous fermenting and even a couple that use “kveik” – yeast that has been reused and passed down for generations.

Kenneth also confirms the transition happening in Norway where beer is something you can take the time to enjoy and pair with food. More people are becoming conscious of quality over quantity. And that’s part of Hopyard’s mission, to provide insight into craft beer – the flavors, nuances, and how to pair them with food. In fact, Hopyard has an open policy for bringing food you’ve purchased from other restaurants/boutiques in Mathallen to their seating area and they’ll help pair it with a beer they have on hand. They used to offer a small menu but have since taken it away, so they can focus on what they do best. Of course, you can still order nuts and small snacks if you’re feeling peckish.

We wrap up our conversation as I pose one more question about whether the global recognition of Norwegian beer is rising. Kenneth´s grin gets larger as he proudly shares that he’s now hearing the term “scandi” being used outside of Norway to refer to Nordic beers. “Have you had a scandi?”, they say. According to the online newspaper The Independent, breweries in Norway, Denmark and Sweden are among the most influential breweries worldwide, making Scandinavia “one of the most important regions in the new brew world order”. Norwegian craft breweries are winning awards internationally and especially the dark beers have a very good reputation. Kenneth pulls out a few of the acclaimed Norwegian beers and talks about each one. I know I’m in good hands because his enthusiasm and knowledge are not only genuine and contagious but also on offer for anyone wanting to know more.

So, the next time you are at Mathallen make sure you grab something to eat and venture over to Hopyard for a good beer pairing with that meal. You’ll find more than a good drink because here you’ll be encouraged to try something new and in this way you’ll experience the full potential of what beer can be.

– North Wild Kitchen