29/01/20183 min of reading

Einstok Olgerd - Craft brewing on top of the world!

Located less than 100km south of the arctic circle on the far north coast of Iceland, Einstok is one of the world's most northerly breweries. In fact, until someone decided to open one in Svalbard, Greenland, they were the world’s most northerly brewery.

So, what’s it like running a brewery with nothing between you and the North Pole? In short, liberating. The up-and-coming Craft Brewery attributes the exceptional quality of its beers to "ancient Viking ingredients", as well as the purest glacial meltwater taken direct from the local Hlíðarfjall mountain, an imposing volcanic pile some 6km from the brewery's front door, and not forgetting their totally fearless Viking spirit!

While it isn’t quite the world’s most northerly brewery, pipped by just a few hundred kilometres, it still has the honour of being our most northerly brewery. We took the opportunity to talk to Guðjón Guðmundsson, Managing Director of Einstök Ölgerð brewery in Akureyri, Iceland.

Asked how easy it is to set up a brewery in the far north of Iceland, the affable Icelander told us how Einstok relationship with the tight-knit local community helped to make the dream a reality. “Akureyri is a small town - it’s mostly fishing and the university. It’s about 20,000 people, and the capital of north Iceland. Sure it’s not easy, but we have a great partnership with a local Icelandic brewery, and so we use their facilities to brew our recipes.”

But it’s not just the facilities that have made their range of classic beers the success that they are. Guðjón puts a large part of their popularity down to the most basic, though most important of ingredients. “We’re lucky to have great quality water up here, with great purity and pH. Perfect for brewing, it comes straight off the glacier, so we just put it straight in to the kettle.”

But while he makes brewing in northern Iceland sound like simplicity itself, it’s not all plane-sailing, however. We asked him to take us through the brewing process.

“Iceland is not great for growing hops, but we are using Icelandic barley. We use all the local products we can, including the water, so it’s not just the ingredients that make the beer, it’s the environment too.”

Finally, we asked about the friendly rivalry with their Svalbard 'neighbours' “We’re really happy for them.” He tells us “There aren’t many breweries up here, so the more the merrier. There are others in Tromsø, Norway, and also in Finland, but I’m really excited to visit the Svalbard brewery.”

Despite a particular talent for thick, rich, award-winning Scotch Ales and heavy, warming Winter Ales and a truly superb Porter, Einstok are able to turn their hand to light, fragrant summer brews like their wheaty, spicy Einstok Icelandic White Ale - one of our best-selling beers, or fruit infused Einstok Icelandic Arctic Berry Ale.

"If they had to choose a warming beer for Valhalla, this would be it!"

A measure of Einstok Olgerd’s popularity, we’ve asked them to contribute to our Beery Christmas Advent Calendar for a number of years now, proving to be one of the highlights of this Christmas classic. Brewed with smoked Icelandic barley, Einstok's limited-edition Icelandic Winter Ale is a Winter Warmer par excellence! And to enhance that wintery hygge feeling, Einstok infused their brew with Bavarian hops and spruce tips, specially cured at the local Eimverk distillery to give a bold medicinal, piney quality.

On the tongue, the sweet smoked barley and pine needles give a satisfying whisky character that will warm your bones like no other. If they had to choose a warming brew for Valhalla, this would be it!

Like many Einstok beers, Winter Ale is designed to bring a rosy glow to your cheeks on even the coldest of days, and the brewery often makes full use of invigorating spicing to further enhance a generous alcohol note that spreads across the palate and giving a pleasing sensation of central heating. Combine all this with a well-measured hops character, and you've got winning combination that's sure to keep out the cold!

And no Icelandic beer would be complete without Einstok tell us that the ultimate food pairing – though something of an acquired taste – is the traditional thorramtur – a selection of meats including boiled liver sausage, smoked sheep's head, air-dried lamb leg, and fermented shark! Thankfully the local supermarket is unlikely to stock most of these ingredients!

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