If you ever get the chance to visit the magical country of Iceland in winter, do it. Frozen waterfalls, mountains covered in snow and the Northern Lights; does it get much better? Well, add a little craft beer into the mix and you’ve got yourself an excellent vacation.
Many tourists often drive the “Ring Road” in Iceland, which is a highway that forms a rough circle around the country. Although my boyfriend and I only had a Ford Fiesta with studded tires, we somehow made it through wintry weather without getting stuck. The microbrewery Bruggsmiðjan is located in the small town of Árskógssandur, which is just off the Ring Road. The brewery offers guided tours and a chance to sample Kaldi, the craft beer that is brewed here.
We turned off the Ring Road and down a small road surrounded by towering mountains. Bruggsmiðjan wasn’t too hard to find since the brewery is clearly labeled with Kaldi bottles. We didn’t have a reservation, so on a whim we parked the car and knocked on the door. We were greeted by Agnes Anna, one of the brewery owners who invited us inside the facility.
Bruggsmiðjan was established in December 2005, and the idea for starting a craft brewery came from two people in Árskogssandur, the couple Agnes Anna and Olafur Trostur. Agnes saw a small news report on Icelandic television about the growing popularity of small breweries in Denmark, and a week later she convinced her husband to head to Denmark to pay a visit to these breweries. Early in 2006, the couple found investors and today there are 15 individuals who share 44% of the company, and Agnes and Olafur own 56%.
Agnes and Olafur wanted to give Icelandic people a new brand of beer, something high quality and rich in taste. The couple chose to use traditional Czech brewing because beers from the Czech Republic are known for their good quality. They hired a brewmaster named David Masa from the Czech Republic, who has studied brewing for 9 years, to craft recipes for their new brewery.
Agnes and Olafur’s son and head brewer Sigurdur Bragi (“Siggi” for short) took us around the brewery to explain the brewing and bottling processes. We even had the opportunity to see fresh Kaldi being bottled and packaged.
Siggi explained that the brewery gets all of their materials from the Czech Republic except the Icelandic fresh water. If you peek around the fermentation tanks, you can see Solarfjall, the mountain in Arskogssandur where the brewery gets its water. The outcome of combining all of these quality ingredients is Kaldi. The beer has no added sugar or any preservatives, and Kaldi is not pasteurized.
In the beginning, Kaldi was producing 170,000 liters per year, however, due to the demand they have added fermentation tanks and increased production in 700,000 liters per year. Today, Bruggsmiðjan produces Kaldi, Kaldi Dark, Kaldi Lite, Gullfoss and a variety of seasonal brews like the red lager and chocolate porter for Christmas.
When we visited the brewery, we had the opportunity to taste a new IPA brewed with Citra, Mosaic and Galaxy hops. Hoppy beers aren’t huge yet in Iceland and I expect Kaldi to be quite the trendsetter, especially after sampling their new IPA.
If you find yourself driving the Ring Road, plan a visit to Bruggsmiðjan. The brewery offers guided tours around the brewery and they receive around 8,000 to 10,000 guests annually. The tour lasts for approximately one hour and offers a taste of the brewery’s products. Tours can be booked via email or phone, and admission is 1,500 krónur for adults.