98. Olympen Mat og Vinhus, Oslo, Norway

“Mount Olympus” is the oldest beer hall in Oslo, dating back to 1892, and has endured numerous reinventions. The incumbent style is a nod to the traditional continental beer hall style.

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Olympen is deep into possibly the only run-down, poor suburb of Oslo (and perhaps Norway), so pilgrimage is less than appealing. It is however merely blocks from the central train station, so its easy to find a reason to visit, no matter how little time you have in Oslo. The interior is starting Olympento look quite worn; whereas in a Belgian or Dutch ‘brown’ bar this would only add to the charm, unfortunately for Olympen the effect is more of a miserable neglect.

Expect to pay prices you didn’t think possible for beer, all the while the barman keeping a straight face. They are fiercely proud of the local Norwegian craft beers and you can find many small brewers not represented anywhere else in Norway. The food is local and seasonal, so think fish, pickled things and astronomically high prices.

Venue: 5/10

The unremarkable exterior belies the grand and striking interior. However, it was rather quiet on my visit and felt soulless through its capaciousness.

Beer: 7/10

150+ beer menu is truly remarkable for Norway. The focus is on Norwegian beers, some of which are rather good. The typical cannon of Abbey and Trappist brews are also well-represented.

Worthy? Yes

A good blend of history and local beer, Olympen is Oslo’s one weak candle to the beer world.

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Candidate #1- Biercafé Gollem, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Trappist beer cheese

Trappist beer cheese

Until very recently, Biercafé Gollem and the original, Café Gollem near Spuistraat in the centre, were closed for business. Their third venture, Gollem’s Proeflokaal on the Overtoom in Oud West, was the sole survivor. The public feared the end of an era: Gollem was the first to import quality ales from Belgium, back in the 70s, and helped to reinvigorate the craft beer traditions of the Netherlands. Gollem’s Proeflokaal persevered through the tough economic climate and the financially draining infighting within the tri-chain, and a few months ago Amsterdam celebrated the re-opening of Café and Biercafé Gollem.

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The decor enjoyed a lick of paint and the beer list benefitted from some very enthusiastic and competent staff to bring Biercafé Gollem into the small elite of Amsterdam’s brown bars.

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Venue: 7/10

A decent bar length for solo drinking, a mezzanine nook for privacy and vertical drinking outside offer a variety of ways to drink beer. Biercafé Gollem lies in the heart of the vibrant De Pijp area of town, so there is a real buzz around this bar and plenty of alternatives for afters. And there is a Scrabble set should you feel like displaying your vocabulary-based prowess.

Beer: 9/10

It’s hard to imagine a better beer list. Sure, it might be a little light on imports from the States or further, but beers can lose their quality over those distances. There are 14 taps to choose from (7 regulars, 7 guest) and >150 bottles covering local breweries here in Amsterdam, craft brewers around the Netherlands and all the big and small players from Belgium.

Worthy?

It is debatable whether Biercafé Gollem is even the best Gollum in town. In most places, this bar would be top dog, but Amsterdam bats above its weight in the beer bar arena.