Finland’s application this week to join NATO is a sign of tense times. And for one brewery, that’s a good reason to say, “Otan olutta” — Finnish for “I’ll have a beer.”
“Our brewery and our hometown lies only 50 km from the border to Russia, and naturally after their attack on Ukraine you look to Russia being so close with new eyes,” Petteri Vänttinen, Olaf’s chief executive, said in an email to The Washington Post, adding that he hoped Finland joins the alliance and that membership “will continue peaceful times in our country and city.”
The brewery released the beer days before Finland and Sweden submitted their applications to join NATO, an alliance of 30 countries originally formed in 1949 to counterbalance the power of the Soviet Union. Finnish membership would add 800 miles to the alliance’s border with Russia. Analysts say the bids of both Nordic countries could further strain relations with Russia, which has opposed NATO’s expansion along its borders.
For more than 70 years, Finland and Sweden remained nonaligned for their own reasons. But when Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, sentiment shifted among the countries’ leaders and citizens. Seventy-six percent of Finns now support NATO membership, according to a recent poll.
Vänttinen said his beer’s popularity reflects that change. Since the OTAN beer was released Monday, “our sales email has been flooded with orders from Finland and from abroad,” Vänttinen said. “We sell the [beer] at our taproom in Savonlinna and people are driving long distances within Finland to buy it.”
Vänttinen said he will continue to sell the lager “at least for the summer season 2022.” In an interview with the Associated Press, Vänttinen described OTAN as having “a taste of security, with a hint of freedom.”
Vänttinen said Savonlinna, where his brewery is located, has “always been at the borderlands between east and west” because of its proximity to Russia’s western border and noted the Soviet Union’s 1939 invasion of Finland. “My 91-year-old grandmother still remembers Savonlinna being bombed by Russians during [World War II] so I am well aware of the history of the city and country at war not very long ago,” Vänttinen wrote.
“So we think joining NATO is a good decision and after good decisions it is normal to have a beer, right?” he added.