Master brewer Andreas Hegermann Riis, who made his name at the Oslo Microbrewery and came to Svalbard’s capital Longyearbyen in February, now has 8,000 litres of beer, about half of which is IPA and the rest a wheat beer — sitting in a stainless steel fermentation tank ahead of being packaged this weekend.
Next Friday, the beer, named Spitsbergen IPA, will launched at the Coal Miners‘ Cabin pub, after which it will be rolled out to the rest of the island’s pubs.
The beer has been made using waters from the local Bogerbreen glacier, which its makers hope will give it a unique flavour.
“It’s not quite finished yet,” Hegermann Riis told The Local, saying he had yet to work out how he feels about the release.
“It’s been so much work that I haven’t really had so much work to reflect on it yet, so I guess when we have packaged it and released it and we can taste it. It’s for the locals first of all of course,and hopefully they will drink it all here.”
Brewing beer was illegal in Svalbard from 1928 right up until last year, a measure designed to reduce drunkenness among the islands’ coal miners.
“It’s an old law dating back to when there was mainly a male-dominated mining society up here, they prohibited it so the miners wouldn’t make their own brews,” Hegermann Riis said. “There’s still a rationing system up here, so you can only buy 12 cases of beer a year.”
Hegermann Riis said that he had been enjoying the unusual Arctic lifestyle on the islands and intends to stay “indefinitely”.
“I came up in February, and bought a snow mobile and all the trappings you need to survive the harsh climate. I absolutely don’t regret it. It’s beautiful up here, and a small community and I like it.”
He says that as well as IPA and wheat beer, he plans to make stout, pilsner and other beers.
“Anything in time we will experiment with, just like a proper craft beer brewery should do,” he says.
The company’s chief executive Robert Johansen told Norway's NRK channel that he aimed eventually to export the beer to the rest of Norway and in turn across the world.
The official opening of the brewery will take place during Oktoberfest on Svalbard on September 25, when it will hold an open day on its premises.