I can hear the din of an excited crowd who is about two-hours into a beer festival but it's just out of sight. Trying to get into the 25th Anniversary Stockholm Beer and Whisky Festival, I grumble a bit at three quintessential Swedish blondes for being both beautiful and, well, between me and my festival glass. Finally they take their long legs and move along so I reach for a glass and a program. 

Stockholm Beer & Whisky Festival glass Kungsbryggeriet Dortmunder Gold

Damn. It's all in Swedish. I guess I'm winging it. No matter. I feel at home in this great Scandinavian city for today we all speak the same language: Beer. Influenced

I can hear the din of an excited crowd who is about two-hours into a beer festival but it's just out of sight. Trying to get into the 25th Anniversary Stockholm Beer and Whisky Festival, I grumble a bit at three quintessential Swedish blondes for being both beautiful and, well, between me and my festival glass. Finally they take their long legs and move along so I reach for a glass and a program. 

Stockholm Beer & Whisky Festival glass Kungsbryggeriet Dortmunder Gold

Damn. It's all in Swedish. I guess I'm winging it. No matter. I feel at home in this great Scandinavian city for today we all speak the same language: Beer. Influenced greatly by the American craft beer scene, Stockholm--and Sweden in general--is one of the world's most established craft beer industries. Mirroring the trajectory of most beer-making markets today, Sweden started with its first craft beer brewery in the 1990's. A slow-and-steady trickle continued in the years after followed by the explosion that we're all currently seeing internationally. As in many places, the Swedes are finally liberating themselves from the darkness of the decades-long shit beer winter. Its proximity to Denmark meant that Carlsberg all but came out of the taps. Yet today Sweden is the US Craft Beer market's 2nd largest export market after Canada, accounting for roughly 10% of American craft beer exports.1 I do a quick loop of the festival. It's beautiful and it's huge. Spanning two different halls, it's a teetotaler's nightmare. A truly international affair--with representation from the US, the Netherlands, New Zealand and the UK (among others)--I find that the Stockholm Beer & Whisky Festival is a window into Swedish beer culture. Big brands like Pilsner Urquell and Carlsberg are represented but the queues are longest at the bars in the back-corner of the festival in a room set up exclusively for Swedish microbrews. Furthermore, I'm intrigued by the groups of women I see. It's still about 4:1 to the men here but it's interesting to see the ladies who have obviously come here after work with their girlfriends; I'm not sure I've seen this sort of thing even in the UK. It's something I'd find more back in the US.

Drink Local

Searching for new Swedish beers for our warehouse, I'm on a mission for the locals. However, considering my program is all in Swedish, I didn't know I had found them until I found the Stockholm Brewing Co. Even this American knows where to find that on a map. Figuring "when in Stockholm" I make their Saison d'Être my first beer of the festival. It's nice, delicate. And not too yeasty--which I like. It's a great start! drink-local

Unfamiliar with the rest of the breweries in the Swedish corner, I turn my back on the omnipresent West Coast Bryggeri--with their flashing lights and thumping music. I'm interested but not yet in the mood for that (not sure I ever will be...) I'm looking for something simple so I step over to Kungsbryggeriet. Clearly a specialist in lagers, I choose their Dortmunder Gold. It's just what I'm looking for: clean, simple and nice to drink. Almost worth the £2 I paid for the 1/4 pint. Yep. It's about £8/pint at this here beer festival. In searching for my next beer I observe something interesting--and I'm pretty sure it's me who isn't doing something right. Like any good American/Brit, when finally reaching the front of the queue I take my position at the bar, attempt to make eye contact with the person serving and wait until being served. But then I'm waiting. And waiting. I wait for a group of men who come up behind me to all get served. Another bloke to my left. Someone who hasn't yet left their house. A zygote.

Stigbergets GBG 2016 IPA

Stigbergets GBG 2016 IPA. My beer of the festival.[/caption] Dude. Seriously. I start getting huffy. Is it because I'm a woman? No. Can't be. There's too many of us here. Am I invisible? Nope. Left my invisibility cloak at home. But then after it happens again and again, bar after bar, I figure I must be doing something wrong. Too polite, perhaps? Just keep that in mind if you ever make it to Stockholm. Apparently you've just got to belly up to that bar with authority. After dumping a few unappealing beers (and £6 in the process) my patience is rewarded. I have found an absolute stunner: Stigbergets GBG Beer Week 2016 IPA. This IPA is so full of flavor; hops, hops and hops. Mango, pineapple, citrus and a bit of resin. Dry and bitter but not that tongue-destroying variety. Truly one of my stand-out beers of the year. For what it's worth, their West Coast IPA is pretty nice too. What a fantastic brewery! I'm drawn over to another brewery who appears to be giving away vinyl albums. They're not. And they're not giving away beer either. I still order one though and my 30 krona is aptly rewarded with Ode Bryggeri's Smokey Gargle Coffee Stout. Aged in whisky barrels, this 6.5% stout from the brewery's Pioneer Series is every bit the flavor extravaganza I'm looking for. We're already in touch with the head-brewer, Robb, to see about getting their beers in. A sample of Tempel Brygghus' Perdition Sour Raspberry Stout and the O/O Narangi IPA only further prove the point that Sweden has more than Omnipollo to take credit for. My cheeks are getting a bit rosy, however, so it's time to leave the sampling for another day back at Beer Hawk HQ. Besides, somebody has swiped my glass. So, as I walk off into the cold Stockholm night to catch my bus back into the city I reflect on what I have just experienced: the Stockholm Beer and Whisky Festival is truly a world-class festival and rightfully gives the Swedish brewing industry its time in the spotlight. It's exciting, progressive and revered. But man. It's so damn expensive. Cheers Maggie --Beer Sommelier PS: I first visited the festival alone on Thursday evening and had a lovely time. I went back on Saturday with friends and it was an absolute crowded nightmare. It did ease up later in the evening but you've been warned. 1 "US Craft Beer Exports Top 116 Million." Brewers Association. Web. 29 March 2016.