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  • Writer's pictureDaniel Bates

Svalbard Bryggeri: checking out the northernmost brewery in the world

Times have changed in between my two visits to the archipelago of Svalbard high up in the Arctic and not too far away from the North Pole. When I first went in the summer of 2009 (wow, ten years have passed already!) there was no brewery. I didn’t even know at the time that the guys behind Svalbard Bryggeri already put in a planning application to build a brewery whilst I was there but it was refused. Back then there was a law that no making alcohol was allowed on the island and eventually the law was changed in 2014 Before I made my second visit to Svalbard in January 2018, the brewery was up and running and the company was on its way to brewing 250.000 litres of beer.

Svalbard Bryggeri

For beer lovers this is the ideal tour, to visit the northernmost brewery in the world. One to tick off the bucket list. However it is visible that visitors book in advance as they run only three times a week and there is only a certain amount of space on the tour.

Located on the main road heading west out of the town towards the airport (and not very far from the ‘Polar Bear’ road sign), the brewery is on the seafront, a beautiful location, however when I went, it’s the middle of winter and there is twenty-four hours of darkness so the sea couldn’t been seen.

The brewery looks like a tiny modern warehouse from the outside. To get to the tour I even walked through the main area of the building where the beer in tins etc is stored ready to be shipped out around the island and elsewhere. The beer can be brought in the local alcohol shop (where the residents are limited on how much beer, wines and spirits they can buy a month due to the risks of mental health and suicides...not sure if that is completely true. However the locals do have an alcohol card which is punched everytime they buy something from the shop) and are the main beer to be sold on Norway’s Norwegian airlines. One day I hope they sell beer in my home country as I really do love this brand.

Heading up a staircase I found myself in a room with a table and chairs plus a mini bar at the back. The room was on the upper level of the building and had windows to one side to which tour visitors can see the production room. Once all the visitors were ready, the tour commenced by a local girl who spoke very good English and was very passionate about the company. I can tell by her voice. She explained what the brewery produced and there are five different types of beer produced. The IPA, Pale Ale, Pilsner (my favourite), Stout and Weissbier. However, to produce good beers, they need the finest products to produce them, so they have to be imported from the European mainland. The hops come in as far from the United States, England but also Germany (as well as yeast) and the malt came in from Finland. 

My quick review on the beers I tried: 

Spitsbergen Pale Ale: The joyous occasions of the sun returning to Longyearbyen after a long and dark winter inspired the brewery to brew this light, fruity and full flavoured beer. The addition of wheat malt and ample amounts of Centennial hops spark the light back into sun hungry Svalbardians. Orange colour, moderate white head. Aroma of fruity and floral hops, also notes of caramel. Light bodied. Medium dry flavour, only a hint of caramel, medium bitter hops, but not so much hop flavour besides the bitterness. Still quite refreshing and I have drank this already a few times on flights from Norway, it is a nice pale ale to drink. I call it a session beer. ABV is now 4.7%.

Spitsbergen Weissbier: Based on German traditions of mixing at least 50% wheat to barley malt, this is a light colored top-fermented beer. Adding to the ancient wheat beer tradition, the brewery uses glacier water from Borgarbreen. ABV is 5.5%. Hazy golden colour, moderate white head. Unfresh aroma of grain and stale jam. The flavour is slightly better, notes of citrus, hints of banana and cloves.

Spitsbergen Stout: Nice dark beer which is rather smooth and has a nice aftertaste. Made with water (of which 16% glacier water), roasted malt, hops & yeast. The hops come from England (East Kent Golding) the malt comes from Finland (Vikingmalt) and yeast used is dry ale from England. ABV: 7%.

Spitsbergen Pilsner: Hazy, darker straw color. Modest, but lasting head. A few blotches for lace.Malty with a thinnish adjunct creamed corn nose. Light hop. Clean and refreshing. The grainy flavor is mostly malted barley. The adjunct smell was mostly gone, although I did get a bit of unmalted graininess. The hop presence is also much improved, providing some mild balancing. The body is appropriate for the style. Higher carbonation. Short aftertaste. ABV: 4.7%

Spitsbergen IPA: ABV is 7%. Deep golden to orange colour, slightly hazy. Large white head. Moderate aroma of fruity and piney hops. Slightly dry flavour, with a very distinct and resinous hop bitterness from start to finish.

What I love about the beer tasting (apart from the mighty fine tastes of the beer) is the testing glasses they came in with the company's logo on them. I thought they were cute. Afterwards I had the chance to buy a couple of ‘proper’ large beer glasses to take home with me to which I still have to this day (yes, they survived the two flights back to England from Svalbard in the luggage).

Now for the lowdown, simply, if you love beer, you love the Svalbard Brewery. I did this on a Saturday evening before heading into town for an evening meal to which I drank more beer from the brewery (they sell it in most restaurants and bars here also). The only thing I need to advise you on is to book tickets in advance which can be done here.

For more information on the brewery, please visit there site here.

Date visited: January 2018

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Svalbard Bryggeri, Svalbard, Norway

Disclosure: Please note that while I was working with Svalbard Bryggeri, my review and experiences written about in this post are 100% genuine. I value my readers too much to lie to you. My blog would be nothing without you and your continued support! There maybe some links above which are affiliate and are at no additional cost to you. If my readers use them, I earn a commission to buy their products and remember, I only mentioned products and companies I use. The income from this keeps this website going. Thank you.

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