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'A taste of security': NATO-themed beer flies off the shelves in Finland

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By David Mac Dougall
Beer cans with writing OTAN inspired by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) logo by Olaf Brewing, in Savonlinna, eastern Finland, Tuesday, May 17, 2022
Beer cans with writing OTAN inspired by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) logo by Olaf Brewing, in Savonlinna, eastern Finland, Tuesday, May 17, 2022   -   Copyright  Soila Puurtinen/Lehtikuva via AP   -  

The telephone is ringing non-stop at Olaf craft brewery in Savonlinna, eastern Finland. 

Owner Petteri Vanttinen has been fielding calls from around the world since he tapped into the zeitgeist about Finland's application to join NATO, and created a NATO-themed beer. 

"There's been about 200 phone calls per day from all over the world. I'm enjoying the ride here. It's only once in a lifetime!," he tells Euronews in between packing beer orders for shipping to local supermarkets. 

Until now Savonlinna has been best known for its imposing 15th-century castle and the annual summer opera festival, but the NATO beer in distinctive blue cans is putting the town on the map with zythophiles -- beer connoisseurs.

"I got the idea on Thursday or Friday last week, and during the weekend we just decided to make the labels and luckily we already had some beer without labels at our warehouse. The timing was good" says Vanttinen, who founded Olaf Brewing in 2016. 

So far they've shipped about 8,000 litres of the beer in cans to supermarkets, but from next week they'll be partnering with Finland's two biggest retail chains, and making it available in stores all around the country in bottles as well.

"It's flying off the shelves and there's a lot of positive feedback. I think it must be because this spring has been filled with darkness and so maybe this just offered people something positive about the whole thing," Vanttinen explains. 

A popular brew

The beer's name is a play on the Finnish expression “Otan olutta,” which means “I’ll have a beer,” and the French abbreviation for NATO, which is “OTAN.” 

"We're not very serious, the knight in the label is a cartoon, it's just to celebrate Finnish security getting a little better, and the message is something people really relate to," says Petteri Vanttinen, 42. 

It tastes like security with a hint of freedom."
Petteri Vanttinen
CEO, Olaf Brewery

There have been queues this week at the Olaf Brewing shop as Finns try to get their hands on cans of beer, and they've even had customers driving from other cities hundreds of kilometres away to wait in line to buy a can. 

No surprise perhaps when you consider that Finns consume around 74 litres of beer per person each year -- a figure that's roughly the same percentage of people who supported this week's NATO application.

"The only panic-buying in Finland is for this beer," Vanttinen notes. 

Finnish brewers are also no strangers to a quirky beer gimmick. In July 2018 the Rock Paper Scissors Brewing Company in Kuopio launched a beer called "Let's Settle This Like Adults" to coincide with the summit between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin taking place in Helsinki at that time.

And in November 2018 Tornion Panimo sent emergency shipments of specially-brewed Peacemaker Arctic Pilsner to northern Norway, where tens of thousands of NATO personnel were taking part in operation Trident Juncture, just in case the troops drank the bars dry.