So you want to try Finnish beer? I hope you enjoy gold colored lager style beers then. 75% of Finnish beer seems to have a very similar taste and look. Karhu, Koff, Lapin Kulta,Olvi, and Karjala are all very popular ones. They are all typically sold in 3-5 different alcohol percentage designations.
|percentage by volume||sold in restaurants||sold in stores||notes|
|I-beer||0.0% - 2.8%||yes||yes||doesn't require a license|
|II-beer||2.8% – 3.7%||yes||yes||not usually used in Finland, however, it is used in Sweden|
|III-beer||3.7% - 4.7%||yes||yes||known as "keskiolut", "kolmosolut" or "kolmonen", the most popular class of beer in Finland|
|IVA-beer||4.8% - 5.2%||yes||no||steep taxation before the 1995 reform, usually sold as Export-beers|
|IVB-beer||5.2% - 8.0%||yes||no||steep taxation before the 1995 reform, usually sold as Export-beers|
You want to try Finnish wine? Ha - did you really think they grow grapes in Finland? :) Well, I have heard of a few different Finnish fruit wines, but I haven't tried them yet. In the meanwhile, you can get your wine from the monopoly Alko store. The store prominently features wines from France, Italy, Spain and South America (Peru and Argentina). You will not find that much California wine, at least not in most Alko shops. Time to get used to that "un-oaked" Chardonnay or Chablis from France or a light earthy red instead of the California fruit bomb you are used to. Actually, the selection at Alko is not all that bad, and many decent wines can be purchased for about $10-$20.
Wine in restaurants is a whole different "ball game" in Finland as compared to the United States. First of all, you are quite limited when ordering by the glass versus buying a bottle. However, if you think you are going to save money by ordering a glass of wine, think twice. Finnish bars and restaurants actually measure the pour of wine they give you and it comes in 2 or 3 different sizes. You can have a "normal" glass of wine which is 12 deciliters or a larger 18-20 deciliter glass. Prices for single glasses are for the small version and if you want a larger pour you will be charged twice the price. Essentially that means for a good glass of wine it will be $10 or more for a small and $20 or more for a larger pour of wine. In US the larger glass would be the "normal" glass and you would pay much less than $20. I was kind of shocked to see the waiters measuring the wine, seems kind of silly, but that is how they do it in Finland. So, then why not just save by buying a bottle of wine you might ask? In a decent restaurant in Finland wine is marked up like 3-4x the normal cost of a bottle, compared to about 2x in US (most cases). So, it is hard to find a decent bottle under $60 US. OK, the first two options don't save any money, then why not just bring a nice bottle of wine to the restaurant and pay a corkage fee like in the US. Sorry, bringing a bottle of wine is not an accepted practice in Finland and not allowed at this time (as far as I know). I guess just try to limit your wine consumption in Finland or stick to wine at home that was purchased from the Alko store.
So, drinking wine or beer in Finland is quite expensive compared to the United States and the inventory is quite different. However, if you want to splurge you can get very good non US stuff from your local Alko store or favorite restaurant. Just remember to save your cash for a special occasion. :)