Craft beer proliferation in Skåne
Sweden is a country often touted for its gender equality, generous parental leave policies, broadminded immigration, and environmental stewardship. But the country has received considerably less attention for its burgeoning craft beer movement. One region that has experienced robust growth in this area is Skåne.
Situated at the southern tip of Sweden—much closer to Copenhagen, Denmark than the Swedish capital, Stockholm—the region is roughly half the size and population of the Twin Cities seven-county metro area. The region is home to a well-educated population and a hearty restaurant and tourism sector, which provide an ideal breeding place for a thriving craft beer scene.
Today Skåne has roughly 30 craft breweries producing roughly 16,000 barrels of beer annually. Most breweries were established in the past five years and are looking to enhance beer production outputs based on increased demand both in Sweden and internationally. In urban areas, the breweries have taken up residence in vacant industrial locations. In the periphery, they often inhabit agricultural buildings once occupied for animal husbandry.
For beer enthusiasts, the region is home to a number of organized and active craft beer drinkers’ associations, as well as proprietorships that arrange beer tasting events and brewery tours. Many major cities in the region also now host a annual craft beer festivals where beers and beards can be compared.
To supply the resources for homebrewers and the craft beer industry, the region has also seen the emergence of a number of regional ingredient suppliers. One notable provider established outside of the city, Malmö, Korngarden, specialize in organic hop growing to fulfill the ever-increasing brewer demand.
Influence from the U.S. and beyond
Sweden is a prominent export market for American craft beers and most brewers in Skåne have drawn inspiration from U.S. brewers. The majority of breweries base their core production around American IPAs, brown or red ales, and lagers. However, with growing brewing experience in this ever-competitive sector, several breweries have begun to carve out individual niches. One notable brewery is Brekeriet, located in the coastal town of Landskrona, which has concentrated significantly on unique sour beers and fermenting with wild yeasts or bacteria. Another company, Brewski, located in Helsingborg, produces a line of unique IPAs infused with fruits such as mango, passion fruit, peaches, or pineapple, that help Swedes cope with the lengthy, dim winters.
The breweries in Skåne are not only producing beer for local consumption. Their products often reach taps and retail shelves throughout Sweden and across Europe. Moreover, a number of the breweries have also begun exporting their product to the U.S., including both Brekeriet and Brewski. Since September 2015 Brygghuset Finn (Brewhouse Finn), another brewery located in Landskrona, has begun exporting their beer to a select number of restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Guarded growth: Swedish liquor monopoly
One factor that may be prohibiting the growth of craft beer in Sweden is its stringent liquor laws and restrictive alcohol taxes. With the mission to minimize alcohol-related problems by selling alcohol in a responsible way without a profit motive, all beer over 3.5% ABV is sold through the state-owned liquor monopoly, Systembolaget. The retail outlets host no in-store promotions; furthermore, they do not advertise any of the products they sell. The system has worked to stem problems related to alcohol abuse in the country; however, it presents several challenges for brewers to efficiently and effectively reach a broader host of craft beer consumers throughout the country.
There are pressures to alter the system, however. With brisk growth in the craft beer industry, along with broader societal priorities to promote rural development and locally produced products, there have been discussions to test on-farm beer and wine sales. The proposal is particularly prudent for breweries that have complementary on-site activities such as tasting events, brewing courses, or bed and breakfast operations. Allowing on-site sales would create a supplementary outlet for craft brewers where tourism and farm stores are an ever-important part of Skåne’s landscape.
Green craft beer
Another feature of the craft beer industry in Skåne is the strong focus on the environment and sustainability. Several breweries, such as Remmarlöv Gårdsbryggeri and Brygghuset Finn, produce certified organic beers as a part of their permanent offerings. There is also a new focus on more sustainable alcohol packaging systems, the most impactful part of the beer chain, including the turn to aluminum cans and lighter weight bottles. Augmenting these are ongoing measures to decrease electricity and water use as well as innovative ways to engage with the broader community.
Curious to learn more about craft beer’s impact around the world? Follow The Growler as we globe-trot in search of craft beer in 7 Continents of Beer.