Image of a mug of beer
A Mug Of Beer

Alcohol in Sweden

Beer has been a staple drink of the Swedes since bygone years. From the 15th century distillation began and that is when much stronger alcoholic drinks were used. There are periods of time in the past when prohibition of the production or sale of distilled alcohols was enforced.

The history of alcohol consumption includes general frequent binge drinking of distilled liquors, such as vodka. From the second half of the 20th century, alcohol drinking seems to have become more aligned with Western Europe. Consequently alcohol drinking became more in vogue during weekdays and wine sales have became higher (has a lower alcohol volume than distilled liquors).

Brännvin (which means burnt-wine is produced by distilling liquors from fermented alcohol from grains or potatoes) is Sweden’s special alcohol. The prime form is vodka.

Akvavit is brännvin seasoned with herbs.

Lager beer is the most widely drunk beer. Consumers tend to prefer stronger beer than folköl (meaning people's beer) and this means to get it they need to shop at Systembolaget or go to out to a restaurant, pub or nightclub.

Folköl is a beer with a 3,5% or less alcohol by volume, sold at supermarkets to anyone of the age of 18 or older. In the past anything labelled cider could be any alcoholic fermented fruit juice. Current legislation stipulates that only fermented pear or apple juice may be termed cider.

Lättöl is a beer, or referred to as a light beverage, with less than 2,25% alcohol by volume and can be sold to anyone anywhere.

There is a retail monopoly in the sale of alcohol in Sweden with Systembolaget (a government owned company) that sells alcohol to consumers from 20 years of age and older. When any alcoholic drink has an alcohol volume of 3,5% and over it has to be sold by an outlet of Systembolaget. For any other alcoholic drink with a volume of alcohol lower than 3,5% it may be sold at supermarkets or other consumer sale outlets.

Numerous international beer brands, such as Heineken, are sold in two versions in the country of Sweden. Systembolage sells the international version known generally as starköl. Supermarkets sell the watered down version known generally as folköl.

Taxation on alcohol is higher compared to many other countries, and in Sweden the tax is determined according to the content of alcohol. The higher the alcohol content the more it is taxed, this means something like vodka will have a significantly high tax and ultimately anything with 2,8% or lower of alcohol volume are tax free yet are subject to vat. Vat is 12% (which is the food tax, and beverages are placed among it).

There are a variety of local breweries and currently the largest brewery plant in the country is owned by a Danish company. Sweden’s largest cider brewery is Kopparberg Breweries AB and they are the main employer in Kopparberg (a central small town in Sweden).

Out to drink
Some nightclubs have an age restriction of 18, 20, 23 or even 30. With permission, a variety of strengths of alcohol by volume are served to people from the age 18 to 20 (from age 20 anyone has the freedom to drink high alcohol volumes) at restaurants and pubs.