A Few Things I Learned at the Stockholm Spritmuseum
I'm guessing that sprit translates to "spirit." As in alcohol. But I can't say for sure because I spent most of my time in Stockholm loosely translating words in my head from Swedish into English. And when things got confusing, a kind Swede would pop in, speaking English with a polite smile, and make it all clear for me. (I know: damn my American ego and god bless the super-nice Swedes.) Anyway, the Spritmuseum (or, Spirit Museum) is on an island called Djurgården. What's cool is that this entire island is packed with museums and things to see. There's little else—no residential property, subways don't go there. It's just a sightseeing island. Whoever planned this city was a total genius. "Keep the tourists over here," they thought. Imagine if Times Square, the Empire State Building and The Bronx Zoo were all on Governor's Island. (Riiiight? Genius!)
We visited a lot of spots on Djurgården, though sadly never made it to the ABBA Museum. But the Spritmuseum was possibly my favorite—although it's neck and neck with the wonderful Vasa Museum, a museum all about a 17th century shipwreck. They pulled the sunken ship out of Stockholm harbor in the 1960s and reassembled it inside the hall with 90% original parts; so cool!
Anyway, back to the Spritmuseum. There was an exhibit about Absolut and their advertisements since the 1980s. Andy Warhol designed one of their most iconic ads which featured the Absolut bottle, front-and-center and the ads have been pieces of art ever since.
The other exhibit that we loved was the craft beer exhibit. If you're in Stockholm in the next few months, definitely check it out. It's a tiny, one-room exhibit, but it takes you through the history of beer in Sweden. It was especially interesting after spending the first half of our week in beer-obsessed Denmark where you'd see a kid walking through the streets with a six pack under his arm and homework under the other.
Beautifully done and stylishly simple, the craft beer exhibit also taught me a lot. For example, did you know:
- The drinking age in Sweden is twenty-years-old. Who knew? I've definitely been caught in lots of conversations where people go on talking about how the drinking age in the United States should be lower because it is in Europe. I usually keep quiet, but am thinking, I dunno. High school kids are pretty dumb. Now, I can disguise my contrariness with a factoid.... "well, in fact, the drinking age in Sweden is twenty!"
- Did you know that Sweden also had a prohibition? It fell around the same time as the one in the United States.
- The Swedish view towards beer for a lot of the twentieth century was actually pretty negative. There was a bit of a counter-culture movement where "working man" types enjoyed drinking pilsner. Otherwise, for most of the twentieth century, folks generally turned up their noses at beer (unlike in the nearby Denmark, Poland or Germany). Pilsner bars were seen as seedy places where fights often broke out. Instead, vodka and other liquors were enjoyed on a more massive scale.
- The Stockholm Spritmuseum also has a tasting flight to go along with the exhibit! Get there at the right time; so, around lunch. (I learned that a lot of Stockholm restaurants would list hours that read something like "12:00 - 22:00," but they were actually closed in between lunch and dinner and didn't really specify.) Then, plan to stick around after the exhibit for an awesome meal plus beer tasting in a lovely, bright, Scandinavian space. You can even sit outside along the water if the weather is nice.
This was a fun, easy place to spend a couple of hours when other museums felt like a lot of work. At the Spritmuseum we smelled hops, listened to vintage beer ads through headphones and took a little trivia quiz at the end—versus walking through quiet halls and reading lots of placards. I definitely recommend a visit the next time you're in Stockholm!