Land of... sheep-dung smoked whale testicle beer?

Word Up! The love of craft beer is spreading. Around the world people are turning back to the malted grain as the stuff of life. And, being always up for a challenge, the committed brewers of Eden River are following this frothy path to the extremes in their quest for the best of the amber nectar.

So, from China the obvious choice for our next (research!) destination was of course…Iceland?

It turns out that despite beer actually being illegal in Iceland until 1989, and then becoming dominated by the mainstream Carlsberg, Víking and Gull, there is now a thriving community of craft breweries, gypsy brewers and cool bars creating and celebrating great, flavoursome, original, very local and so very fresh small batch brews.

From summer farmsteads in the remote highlands to industrial units in the New Harbour of Reykjavik, brewers are using unique Icelandic ingredients to create small-batch beers that offer the drinker a true taste of the north.                                    

There are the sublime native herbs such as Arctic Moss, Meadowsweet and Arctic Thyme, the equisite use of local honey and the delicious Icelandic yoghurt Skyr. And then there is...

Brugghus Stedja, a brewery with a bar was created in a barn in the middle of nowhere, to the North West of Reykjavik. Sitting on wooden benches, woollen blankets to keep you warm, this place truly embraces Northern romance, but with a twinkle in its eye! They brew to the gustatorily extreme – the 'intensely' flavoured sheep-dung smoked, whale testicle beer! x... we were spoilt!

Sampling at Brugghus

Common amongst all the breweries we visited and brewers we spoke to was the importance of using quality materials. And the purity of the Icelandic water, to which no salts need be added.

Supporting the breweries is a growing number of bars catering for the craft ale drinker. Try the classy Skúli Craftsbar in downtown Reykjavik. With a generous happy hour (2pm – 7pm), here you can find an excellent variety of up to 14 different beers on tap with a strong focus on the award-winning recipes from the progressive Borg brewery!

We also paid a visit to Aegir Brugghus who offered us a fantastic Coffee IPA, pale, hoppy, coffee notes, inspiring...

But then there is what became the favourite on our trip - hot newcomer to the Icelandic beer scene, Bryggjan Brugghús decided to break the mould; rather than simply offering quality beers, they thought they would make them too. With live music, great food, craft brews made on location, views of the old harbour, it’s got all a great bar needs to guarantee a good night. For a great value tasting menu of their homebrews, take advantage of one of their value-for-money beer flights, served by expert staff. Also on offer are tours around the brewing premises (conspicuously hidden behind a massive glass wall on the main area of the bar), complete with an obligatory beer tasting.

And as a chaser do try the pure-grain spirits from the family-run Eimverk distillery, found a 15-minute car ride to the outskirts of Reykjavik. It’s worth the trip because the handcrafted premium Icelandic spirits made using 100% local ingredients, the Flóki, a Single Malt Whisky, and Víti – a premium Icelandic Brennivín, made using locally grown Icelandic barley, are particularly spectacular. With these you can taste the clean yet hot Icelandic landscape in a glass.

Go sample, but be prepared to pay for your beer, its not cheap!

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