Do You know why Brewdog’s beer has this lady’s name on it?
This lady is Päivi Räsänen, Christian Democrat, who wants and tries very hard to put Finland back to the dark ages. Well, that isn’t true. With Dark Age is usually meant roughly time between the 6th and 14th centuries. World’s oldest, still working brewery, Weihenstephan, is established 1040. Beer itself has been dated to 7000 years ago in today Iran.
No, Päivi don’t want to put us back to Dark Ages. Päivi wants to put as in prohibition era. Or even better, time when there wasn’t beer or alcohol, which would on her opinion be the time of creation. That actually would be, according to creationists, about 6000 years ago. (perhaps Bible should go “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, water and the hops and the beer.”). Why am I telling this in travel blog? Because Finnish alcohol politics has been defined by Päivi for last couple of years. Hopefully not for long. In Parliament there is a bill that would bring us back to the modern ages. Hopefully soon we are in the situation where Finnish beer is one reason to visit Finland.
Up to the last couple of years it has been difficult to run a craft brewery in Finland. Even though brewery had excellent beers, selling it was difficult. Beers, and other beverages over 4.7% were possible to sell only in State owned liquor store Alko (monopoly in selling) or restaurants that were bold enough to buy from small craft breweries. In Finland, population of 5.4 million, there were a dozen or so of restaurants that served micro brewery beers. Alko also had so tight rules of ordering in, that it was practically impossible micro breweries to make a deal with them.
The lowest point was seen on New Year 2014/2015 when all outdoor alcohol ads were banned. Even trucks had to take their ad stickers off, which caused these kind of trucks.
Before that image marketing in alcohol ads were banned: no more talking foxes telling to drink Olvi cider. No cute gimmicks, no fun, just the product and straight command to drink it! Even Koff -horses, “work” horses pulling a carriage with a beer name of it, horses that have been part of Helsinki image for 190 years, were banned!
Craft beer over 4.7% were hard to find and some breweries made daughter companies to Estonia, where alcohol law was more loosen up and sold their craft beer in there. This meant that all the tax money went to Estonia. At one point it was also forbidden to give amount discounts for beer buyers so that price/bottle was the same whether you bought a single or 6-pack. Politicians thought that this would courage people to buy less. Situation went so crazy, that Finnish people travelled to Estonia to buy their beer instead of their own home land. And when they bought the beer, they didn’t buy just one case. This was very typical sight (and still is at times)
Yeah, safe to say that government digged a hole for themselves. Idea was to save money on a long run in healthcare, because Finnish people wouldn’t drink so much and the end result was that they still drank, they just bought the beer from abroad, carrying the tax money to Estonia, but the patients used Finnish health care. Congrats, well done!
(For your information, here is our beer experts opinion on that beer: “My name is Päivi. 330 ml bottle. #154. At the Ruby & the Fellas, Tampere, Finland. Slightly cloudy amber colour with a small white head. Berries, sweetness, malt and hops in the aroma. The flavour is sweet berry hops, moderate bitterness, sweetness malt and mild alcohol. And now I should write something witty about Päivi…” Yeah.. Päivi is truly loved person among beer lovers…
Why this post now? Because change is coming up (hopefully) and this time it’s to better direction. I try my best to get people do the same as we do in America: to visit local breweries. Later I will post also about Tampere’s beer scene, breweries, bars and probably also breweries in some other cities as well. I try to give you guys as many reasons as possible to visit Finland.
But what is happening in Finland in 2017 if bill goes through in parliament? Stores can sell 5.5% (now max 4.7%) beers. Yeah, it’s not much, but even better news is that also breweries can finally sell stronger than 4.7% beers to customers. For example, local brewery, Pyynikin käsityöläispanimo in Tampere, was excited because the change would mean growth for breweries and even export because breweries online store could also sell more freely abroad. Also restaurants could sell beers to go (till this point bought beer has to be drank in the place it has been bought), which is even more fantastic news! They can sell max 5.5% beers out, but it’s still better than nothing. Also regulations about portion size will vanish. Shame just that they have to follow same timetable as stores and Alko: from 9 am to 9 pm.
If we are thinking about traveling and craft beer, breweries are usually somewhere else than in downtown. Let’s take Tampere for example. In Tampere region there are 4 breweries nearby: Pyynikin käsityöläispanimo, Plevna, Nokian Panimo and Hopping Brewster. This is all with in 30 minutes by car radius. It’s not Mission Impossible, but it’s little bit tricky.
Of course there is Alko, and within last months they have opened their minds to local craft beers. Till lately they didn’t buy local beers, they wanted “X” amount of beer to be spread to every Alko in Finland and that was problem for micro breweries. How breweries with small vessels can produce so big amounts that state owned liquor store would be interested? Now they have loosen up their politics and offer also local beers without ambition to spread it all over Finland. They also keep their doors open longer: now they are open till 9 pm. Problem only is that in the area located in the map below, there is “only” 3 Alkos in the neighborhood (which is actually quite many, because in some cities there is only 1-2 Alkos.
In Tampere downtown, there is about ten to a dozen different beer restaurants, depending on what are you categorizing as a decent beer restaurant (according to Destination: Vacation own beer expert). Now, If you could buy local beers from these places… wow. This combined with Alkos and stores selling stronger beer.. then we would be talking about easy craft beer shopping for Tampere visitors. Multiple spots, wider variety.
If Tampere visitors has possibility to drive around Tampere, then opens even bigger beer scene. For example Pyynikin Käsityöläispanimo produces big variety of beers, which all may not be found in the bars or stores, because they are brewed for third party. Now those can be bought straight from brewery. This would mean that craft beer enthusiasts could buy three different sahti, imperial stout, barley wine, double and triple IPA, Strong Porter / Vahva Porter, Double Bock and so on from them.. Funny thing is that The Vahvaportteri has been chosen Worlds Best Craft Porter in Global Craft Beer Awards in 2014. Situation was funny because beer could have been bought in restaurants that ordered Vahvaportteri to their selection but the brewery couldn’t sell it themselves because it was 7.5%. Bureaucracy! Hopefully soon it can be bought straight from the brewery. But more about Pyynikin käsityöläispanimo on upcoming post about Tampere region breweries / beer bars.
So what have we learned: Finland will be (hopefully) great place to visit because of beer in 2017. Even now Pyynikin käsityöläispanimo is visited by couple of hundred beer enthusiasts weekly. Soon those all can buy wide variety of their beers to go. We have uprising beer scene coming up and we have world winning beers. Hopefully this helps you craft beer enthusiasts make your trip to Finland better. Keep checking this blog out, more info coming up. In the meanwhile, here’s a list about Finnish craft breweries.
Fat Lizard Brewing Company, Espoo
Keudan Panimo, Kerava
Koskipanimo ja Panimoravintola Plevna, Tampere
Kuninkaankartanon Panimo, Tammela
Lammin Sahti (Finnish “national beer” Sahti brewer, Finlands oldest craft brewery)
Maku Brewing, Tuusula
Malmgårdin Panimo, Pernaja
Panimo Hiisi, Jyväskylä
Panimo & Tislaamo Teerenpeli, Lahti ja Helsinki
Panimoravintola Beer Hunter’s, Pori
Panimoravintola Bruuveri, Helsinki
Panimoravintola Huvila, Savonlinna
Panimoravintola Koulu, Turku
Perhon Panimo, Ravintolakoulu Perho, Helsinki
Pyynikin käsityöläispanimo, Tampere (world winning porter Vahvaportteri)
Rekolan Panimo, Vantaa
Saimaan Juomatehdas, Mikkeli
Simapaja Oy, Helsinki
Stadin Panimo, Helsinki
Stallhagen Bryggeri, Godby, Ahvenanmaa
Suomenlinnan Panimo, Helsinki
Vakka-Suomen Panimo, Uusikaupunki
Varsinais-Suomen Maaseutuoppilaitos, Piikkiö
Orgin of photos
Information about Pyynikin käsityöläispanimo: Aamulehti 21.5.2016