It's summer and time for a trip away. A few days in Sweden. Fewer than originally planned, but hey ho! A few bike rides, a few more beers and not so few mosquitoes. It seems to be a myggår. A short spin out on the bitz-box-bike (which will no doubt feature in a post of its own at some later date) and I pass this place in Hammerdal.
Sweden has an interesting, somewhat ambivalent, relationship with alcohol. It's quite well-known for its drinking but not its pubs. Let's first consider the licensing system.
Simply put, nowhere can sell any alcoholic product stronger than 3.5% for consumption off the premises other than the state-controlled monopoly, Systembolaget. Folköl of 2.8% or 3.5% can be obtained from supermarkets. Hotels, bars, etc. can sell the proper stuff, but it can't be taken out of the building. I remember, once, my dear wife causing a barman near apoplexy when she attempted to take a cold beer out of a hotel bar to her husband who was sweltering outside. I believe that the main reason that outside events, festivals and the like have so many security guards is not to stop, or sort out, trouble but rather to stop individuals taking booze out of the designated drinking pen. And yes, they do remove drinks from folk leaving. Now let's consider pricing.
Bars generally sell the draught versions of the bottled and canned brews from the major brewers at about five times the price at which they are obtainable at Systembolaget. That makes the difference between cost of Hobgoblin at Ye Olde Bull's Gonads compared with its price at Sainsbury's almost acceptable. How about drinking culture?
According to official statistics from the Swedish Government, two-thirds of folk abstain from alcohol consumption on Monday to Thursday. Many folk don't drink on Sunday night either, especially if they have to drive on Monday morning. In 2009 the average annual consumption was the equivalent of approximately 9.4 litres of pure (100%) ethanol. Considering that about a third of the population are teetotalers that equates to around 560 pints of draught Hobgoblin crammed into Friday and Saturday nights for those that do partake. So how about pre-loading?
The cost of those 560 pints of Hobgoblin at bar prices is going to mount up, so Swedes, especially those of a younger age, will tend to pre-load. Whilst it undoubtedly happens in the UK, it tends to be even more prevalent in Sweden. Would you fancy a load of hammered youngsters arriving in your bar if you didn't have the security staff? Security staff just add to your costs. No security staff just adds to your problems. Which brings me back to the Hotell Åsgården.
About five years ago the previous owners decided to open as a pub on Friday and Saturday nights. Was it a success? Well, they shut up shop few months later and then sold up. Was the frequency with which they had to call the police an issue? I'm not sure. The current owners have yet to open for a pubafton.
All is not lost though. Ten miles away, which counts as just down the road in Jämtland, the former school in the hamlet of Gåxsjö has been converted into a conference centre offering accommodation and, at the weekend... pub evenings. It's a long way to go if someone isn't prepared to abstain and drive. So... so far, so good.
And just for good measure, a pic of the bitz-box-bike. I bet you just can't wait for its post.