Just 60 miles south of the Arctic Circle lies the fishing town of Akureyri. Reykjavik may receive the lion’s share of national acclaim, but Akureyri is nothing to overlook. The city has a lot of history and culture tied to it. Every time I make my way up north, I make sure to visit Iceland’s unofficial northern capital for a day trip. It also helps that two of my favorite microbreweries are located here. These two breweries consistently put out tasty beers with new exciting flavors that pair well with just about anything. If you are planning on being in the region for an Icelandic road trip, you have to check out two of Iceland’s favorite northern microbreweries: Bruggsmidjan Kaldi and Einstök Ölgerð.
Bruggsmidjan Kaldi has a fascinating tale. The inception of the brewery reflects the innovative and hardworking spirit of Icelanders across the country. In 2006, the microbrewery was founded by husband and wife Ólafur and Agnes. Up until 2003, Ólafur was a career fisherman. He, like many of the residents of Akureyri, took to the seas for their bounty. On one of his last expeditions out into the North Atlantic, Ólafur had an accident at sea and severely hurt his knee. A lifetime of mastering the open ocean and catching fish was cut short; Ólafur could no longer work. Agnes and Ólafur endured two years of searching for work, but in Akyueryi (at that time) there was little opportunity other than fishing. They would have to get creative. Fate would have it that they would catch a news program about a microbrewery in Denmark. The rest is history.
Ólafur and Agnes traveled to Denmark to speak to microbreweries, in an effort pick their minds about tips and tricks to get their very own Icelandic brewery off the ground. Agnes originally came up with the idea when she was reflecting on how fortunate the residents of Akyueryi were to have such clean and safe drinking water. Akyueryi is lucky to have glacier-fed, pure, crystal clear water. Funny enough, she was spot on. By using the glacier-fed water, new Danish insights, and ancient Czech brewing methods they began production. Everything came to fruition in 2006 when Kaldi officially opened its doors. Since then, they have been brewing some of Iceland’s most excellent microbrews; their beers are made through the ancient Czech methods: no preservatives, or added sugars, and no pasteurization.
Today they have nearly doubled in size, and they currently have five beers, along with five seasonal brews. There are some special limited edition beers that they make, but it’s a secret, so don’t tell anyone. My favorite beer from this brewery is the Kaldi Blond Beer. It is the first beer that Kaldi initially brought to market, and now it is the most sold bottled beer in the country. It is a gentle, relaxed, roasted malt flavored beer that is suitable for any occasion. Definitely try one if you are coming to visit. Also, if you have time, take a brewery tour. The tours are daily and exciting.
Einstök Ölgerð has a bit of a different vibe than Bruggsmidjan Kaldi, not only in the taste of the beers but also in their breweries. Both microbreweries utilize fresh, incredibly clean, glacier water and both have knowledgeable and innovative brewmasters; you should know though that Einstök Ölgerð has the only Icelandic brewmaster to complete the Heriot Watt University brewing program. This Edinburgh-based program produces the cream of the crop of brewmasters. The difference between the two rears its head in the form of Einstök Ölgerð’s Brewer’s lounge.
The Brewer’s lounge is a cozy and quaint bar where you can sample all that Einstök Ölgerð has to offer. My favorite thing to get here is their flight of beers that come out on a custom-made wooden ax. It is the perfect way to experience the beer before you buy it.
Einstök Ölgerð is also known for meticulously testing and refining their offerings before they make them available to the public. It takes them generally the better part of a year to release any new styles or flavors of beer. According to the staff, it is because they want to perfect the recipes and source the right ingredients before they send their beers out into the world. They aren’t so much concerned with flooding the market with as many flavors of beer as possible, as much as they are concerned with creating a great product. Personally, my favorite beer is the Arctic Berry Ale. This wheat and pilsner malt-filled beer has notes of Bavarian hops, oats, and locally grown Icelandic bilberries. Indeed an excellent beer for tourists and Icelanders alike. Swing by for a tour that will leave your taste buds delighted.
Best Microbreweries and Craft Beer in Akureyri
Finding a great beer in Iceland used to be a tall task. Now, we have an eclectic offering of locally made beer that is getting worldwide renown. Most microbreweries are based out of Reykjavik. However, I find that more often than not I will always opt for northern breweries. Maybe it is because of the glacier water in Akyueryi, maybe its how close they are to the Arctic Circle, or maybe it’s just magic. But, whatever it is, there is something undeniably delicious about our northern neighbors’ microbrews. Like I said, if you find yourself headed north during your visit to Iceland, make sure you swing by these microbreweries. Leave a comment below if you have a favorite Icelandic microbrew that you think is making a great beer right now.