Monday, April 20, 2009

Karsk Part To: Norwegian Moonshine

As you may remember I posted about a concoction, named Karsk, which was moonshine and coffee. At the end of the post I asked if anyone had a story or information about Karsk or Norwegian moonshine. Well, in true-form Sons of Norway cultural guru Colin Thomsen came through with the info! Check it out below:

In Norway the sale of alcohol is tightly regulated compared to the US. On-sale drinks are taxed heavily – it’s not unusual to pay $10 US for a beer in a bar in Oslo – and everything stronger than 4.75% alcohol has to be purchased off-sale from state-run monopoly stores.

Norway’s alcohol policies have roots reaching deep into history. From as far back as the 1750s the Norwegian state or church has instituted various bans, controls and monopolies on the sale and distribution of beer, wine and spirits. Given the long tradition of governmental control, it’s no wonder that home-brewing and moonshine remain quietly popular in Norway today.

Current Norwegian laws allow private individuals to brew beer and make wine for their own personal use, but specifically outlaw the unlicensed distillation of “hjemmebrent”, ie, moonshine. Hjemmebrent is made from a mixture of fermented water, sugar and yeast that is gently heated to a temperature below the boiling point of water. Since alcohol evaporates at a lower temperature than water, the alcohol vapor is captured and allowed to condense in a separate pot. The resulting liquid is almost pure alcohol. Like all moonshine, hjemmebrent can be very dangerous to make – and drink – as even minor impurities can become poisonous after the distillation process. Nonetheless, hjemmebrent is a common feature of parties, holidays and get-togethers, and information for making the stuff is easy to find on the Internet.

Here are a few moonshining words in Norwegian:

brennevin – Brandy, or any hard liquor. Literally, “burned wine” referring to the distillation process. Related to the English word “brandy.”
gjæring – Fermentation
hjemmebrent – Moonshine, literally, “home-burned”
sats – Mash, the fermented mixture of water, yeast from which moonshine is distilled

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