Sweden traditionally hasn’t been a big destination for beer snobs. If you went to the pub, you’d pretty much be limited in choice by whether or not you wanted a big beer or a small one, according to Form Us With Love’s Jonas Petterson. But as in the United States, over the past couple decades, craft brewing has exploded in Sweden. In 1988, there were only nine breweries in the country. Today, there are at least 145.
Located on the island of Djurgården and situated in two beautiful 18th-century naval buildings, Stockholm’s Spiritmuseum dedicates itself to documenting Sweden’s complicated and bittersweet history with alcohol. In the past, that’s been the hard stuff, but with craft brewing figuring more prominently in Swedes’ lives, the museum turned to design house Form Us With Love to create an exhibition that celebrate the science and art of beer making.
“We wanted to try to explain Swedish beer culture both from a historical point of view and what’s happening right now,” says Petterson. “And we wanted to do so in a way that was attractive to beer enthusiasts and more casual beer drinkers, which I thinks includes us: we’re definitely not beer nerds. So the biggest challenge was how to attract both these different worlds.”
Designed over a period of six months, the Spiritmuseum’s Beer Exhibition is made up of three different sections. First, there’s a wall of beer. That’s the kind of sentence that will get any beer lover interested, but this wall of beer isn’t necessarily to drink. Arrayed by hue in clear glass bottles, the wall serves as a colorful reminder of the vast continuum of beer. It’s like an alcoholic swatch.
The Beer Exhibition also tries to convey the history of brewing across a series of podiums, each with a small exhibit not much bigger than a home brewing kit. Different podiums tackle one small part of beer’s history in Sweden, which extends as far back as the Vikings, and the exhibits range from an examination of vintage steins to a diorama showing exactly how craft beer has exploded in the country in the past 30 years. There’s also a brewing station, where visitors can learn about the process of making beer—a part of the exhibit Petterson tells me was inspired by the Form Us With Love team’s drunken attempt to brew their own beer after hours one night.
Throughout, the Beer Exhibition is covered in classic white tiles, which Petterson tells me are replicas of the functional tiles used by many Swedish breweries, to make mopping up spills easier. That’s a wise design choice, since you can drink at the Spiritmuseum, too. Recognizing that the one thing people love more than learning about beer is drinking beer, the Spiritmuseum will hold regular tastings with an in-house beer expert. You can’t just reach up to the wall of beer and crack a cold one open, but if you plan ahead, you can still throw back a few pints at the Spiritmuseum in style.
Form Us With Love’s Beer Exhibition for the Spiritmuseum premiered during Stockholm Design Week. According to Petterson, if you’re planning on making a trip to Sweden particularly for the exhibit, come in summer, where a fourth, to-be-announced section of the Beer Exhibition will open up on the Spiritmuseum’s seaside terrace. Make your plans soon, though: the Beer Exhibition will only last for the next year.