Basic Swedish Drinking Laws

The first thing to know is Sweden is obsessed with the alcohol content of beer. You can buy beer in the grocery store if it is 2.8 or 3.5% anything higher than that you have to buy in the state run liquor store called Systembolaget, for comparison a Coors Light is 4.2% and a Corona is 4.5% . At home I honestly never thought about what percentage my beer was and since it does not matter where it is sold and it is actually hard to find the percentage labeled on the bottle which is mandatory in Sweden.

Now that I have been in Sweden I am starting to get into this whole percentage thing, mainly what I  care about is the price difference. If it is say a Thursday and I just want a beer to go with dinner I think buying the cheaper beer at the grocery store is the way to go, even for a quieter night in with friends I will still say lets get the cheap beer. My husband will agree that if it is just us cheap beer is the way forward, however if we are going to be with friends it needs to be beer bought from Systembolaget as it is a status symbol.

One other oddity in Swedish drinking laws is that you can go to a bar at 18 and drink and can buy cheap grocery store beer, however to to go Systembolaget and buy beer, wine, or hard alcohol you have to be 20 (edited I originally wrote 21 as a reflex since that is the legal age in America). I find this to be very odd since you could go to a bar and order say a Rum & Coke at 18 but to make said drink at home, which presumably is safer, you have to be 20.

Hope you enjoyed this and let me know if you have any questions on systembolaget!


10 thoughts on “Basic Swedish Drinking Laws

  1. Very interesting about the country’s alcohol laws! I agree with you that it doesn’t make much sense for an 18 year old to be able to drink at a bar, but not buy the ingredients for his/her own home.

    Have you been able to find many international brands of beer? The selection here isn’t so wide, and since I’m a picky beer drinker, I might just go this year without drinking beer!

    • We are able to get a selection of international beers but they are often very pricey, I have had Estralla Damm which was pretty good not a micro brew or anything like that but nice for a refreshing beer!

  2. The age limit at Systembolaget is 20, not 21. And I would not call it a status symbol at all, it’s just that the beer from Systembolaget is stronger and therefore tastes better (than the same beer with kess alcohol) plus you get more drunk, i.e. there are only advantages to it! :)

    Not that stronger beer always tastes better, duh, but the 4,5 is ususally better tasting than the 3,5.

  3. And the different age limits makes perfect sense. In a bar, it’s the bar owners responsibility, and they are not allowed to sell you any more alcohol if you are too drunk. Aslo there are other people around, i e you are very unlikely to drink until it’s dangerous. If you buy to drink at home, you can drink as much as you want which can of course be dangerous, even more so if you’re young – your body and brain is more vulnerable and you probably haven’t learned how to handle it yet.


    Blue laws about alcohol here in the states are just as weird… like how here in Indy you can’t buy alcohol on Sundays except in a restaurant where you could consume it (which you think is riskier than home drinking) OR you can buy beer in a growler (half gallon glass container) from a brewery that brews on-site. But you can’t buy a six-pack at a grocery store. WEIRD. Also the % allowed for alcohol is different state to state… like my bestie in OK got SO DRUNK here in IN… turns out a, say, Coors here is WAY stronger than what’s allowed there. People in OK will drive to TX for stronger booze!!!!

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