Norwegian craft beer 2012


Norwegian beer of the year 2012

A year ago I posted an analysis of craft beer in Norway, where I concluded that craft beer had taken off in Norway, and that the growth would continue in 2012. It's now 2013, so it's time to take a look at how the year turned out.

If we look at wine monopoly sales of "strong beer" (they have only beers above 4.75%), their sales are up by 23% compared to 2011. Strong beer is in fact the only product category showing any growth worth mentioning, except for alcohol-free beer (up 33%). But most of their beer sales have traditionally been industrial beers, so this doesn't tell us much. Like last year, I've taken the Norwegian wine monopoly list of best-selling beers in 2012, and divided it into craft beers and industrial beers. You can see the result below.

Industrial vs craft beer sales at the wine monopoly

As you can see, both categories are up, but craft beer has increased much more. Industrial beer is up by about 1%, while craft beer is up by 36%. So industrial beer sales now stand at 635,000 liters (50.9%), and craft beer at 613,000 liters (49.1%). It seems fair to assume that this year the wine monopoly will sell more craft beer than industrial beer, for the first time ever. Wine monopoly sales of craft beer are now well over five times those of 2007, which is a fairly dramatic increase in as many years.

Note that the list contains only the 100 best-selling beers, and leaves 13% of the beer sales unaccounted for. It's fair to assume that most, perhaps even all, of those 13% are craft beer. What's interesting is that last year the best-seller list left only 7% unaccounted for. This must mean that the wine monopoly is also selling more of the beers that are not in the top 100, so the wine monopoly is also selling a bigger variety of beers. Their long tail is growing.

Our other key indicator, the number of new beers, is based on the list that Yngvar Ørebek puts together each year. 2012, not unexpectedly, turned out to be a record year, with 220 new beers, demolishing last year's record, which was 141 new beers. As you can see in the diagram below, the trend here is the same here, with the growth increasing every year. The number of new beers is up by a factor of almost 4 since 2007.

New Norwegian beers by year

My source for the number of breweries is a list I maintain, with all breweries plus opening and closing years, based on Ratebeer, Wikipedia, and personal knowledge. It goes back to 2001, and shows exactly the same trend. 2012 was a record year, with 57 breweries, no less than 16 more than in 2011. This, of course, is a large part of the reason why there were so many new beers in 2012.

Norwegian breweries by year

However, it's worth noting that total Norwegian beer production in 2011 was 235 million liters of beer, 94% of it below 4.75% alcohol. Craft beer is still clearly a very small part of the Norwegian beer market. Unfortunately, the Norwegian brewing association has no craft/industrial classification in its statistics, so no precise figures exist.

Anyway, the conclusion is inescapable: 2012 was a record year for Norwegian craft beer in just about every way. It's not clear that all of these indicators will continue growing as rapidly in 2013, since I am not aware of as many new breweries planning to open this year as I was last year. Still, most of the craft brewers say they have difficulty producing enough beer, so it seems unlikely that the number of breweries is going to fall in 2013, and I bet craft beer sales will continue growing this year.

In short, Norwegian craft beer is booming, and the boom shows no sign of stopping any time soon.


Terje Fredvik - 2013-01-24 03:16:20

Good news!

I wonder what's the percentage of beers below 4.75% that can be labelled as craft beer? I mean, Centra, Ultra and several smaller shops do sell a lot of high quality non-industrial beers? But I guess the Ringnes Pilseners and Tuborg Greens still make up the vast majority.

By the way, the caption of norwegian-breweries-2012.png isn't quite right, is it?

Lars Marius - 2013-01-24 03:35:07

@Terje: I'm not sure how much of what's sold in shops is craft beer, but like you I assume the percentage is small. There's also pub/restaurant sales to consider.

In private email, the Brewing Association informed me that Norwegian craft beer production is 1.6% of total beer production in Norway. So craft beer is still fairly small.

Yes, the caption is wrong. Corrected now. Thank you.

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