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Beer for breakfast? At Helsinki Airport, only Finns down early morning pints

At the restaurants and pubs at Helsinki Airport, alcoholic drinks are sold almost around the clock. According to one pub, only Finns drink beer early in the morning, while people from other countries regard them as a curiosity.

Polttariseurue juomassa olutta ja lonkeroa Helsinki-Vantaan lentokentällä
A bachelor party with groom-to-be Joonas Holviala in the middle drinks beer at the airport at 7 am. Image: Marianne Sundholm / Yle

Right after check-in and security at Helsinki Airport, The Oak Barrel bar is already full at 7 am on a Saturday morning.

“Ninety-nine percent of the early morning patrons are Finnish," says the English-style pub’s supervisor Hanna-Kaisa Niemi. "People from other countries tend to regard the thirsty patrons as a bit of a curiosity,” she says.

On Thursdays and Fridays the bar opens at 5 am to a line-up of people who are predominantly Finns, according to Niemi. Later on in the day, the atmosphere becomes more international and by noon about half of the patrons are from other countries.

As for the Finns, “many drink one beer while they’re waiting for their gate to open. Often, when there’s a bigger group of people travelling together they drink more beer,” says Niemi.

Such a group has gathered at the bar on Saturday morning to celebrate Joonas Holviala’s impending nuptials at 7 am before they head off on a bachelor party trip. They won't reveal their destination as it's surprise for the groom-to-be.

Everyone in the bachelor party has a drink in front of them. There's general agreement within the group that it's quite alright to start the day with a beer, especially before a trip.

"At the airport, before a flight you can drink as early as you like, but only at the airport,” says Holviala.

No word yet on whether other bars at Helsinki Airport experience the same phenomenon of domestic-only early bird drinkers.

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