Published on March 4, 2019 | by Alastair Gilmour


Land of fire and ice… and great beer

Iceland is the sixth most developed country in the world; it ranks number one on the global peace index; it runs almost completely on renewable energy, and since 2018 it is illegal for women to be paid less than men. So it stands to reason that when Icelanders take to brewing, they end up making brilliant beer.

New breweries emerging with an acceleration of the craft brewing sector and its subsequent wide variety of styles. Brewing inspiration emerges from innumerable sources – a fisherman’s injured knee being one of them. Ólafur Ólafsson had been a fisherman for 26 years but in 2003 he damaged his leg which ended his career. He and his wife Agnes were staring into difficult times as there was simply no other work in their little town Árskógssandur – population 100 – sitting on the fringes of the Arctic Circle. Everything was fish.

But two years later, Agnes was watching a documentary on television about microbreweries and their increasing popularity around the world. The programme featured a microbrewery in Denmark. At that time there were none in Iceland, only two large mass-production breweries, Vífilfell and Ölgerðin, so perhaps her reaction “let’s start a microbrewery” might have sounded a touch crazy. However, she acknowledged that they had a good start with the pristine water that comes out of a mountain spring above Árskógssandur.

Ólafur took no convincing and a week later they set off for Denmark to visit the brewery that had sparked her enthusiasm. They founded Bruggsmiðjan Kaldi in 2006 and engaged the services of fourth-generation Czech brewmaster David Masa, a specialist in setting up microbreweries.

The eventual result was Kaldi Icelandic beer with Czech influences, such as Saas and Sladek hops and Moravian barley, unpasteurised and without preservatives or added sugar. Demand has grown steadily with brewhouse expansion taking place virtually every year – new fermenters, kegging, bottling, and an increase in the workforce to 15. Hops now also come from Australia, New Zealand and the US.

Now there are five core beers in the range with another five seasonals and special limited-editions.

Kaldi Blonde Lager (5.0% abv) was the first beer that Bruggsmiðjan Kaldi brought to market, and is now Iceland’s best-selling bottled beer. Deep golden in colour with a crisp and fresh aroma and soft filling of grainy roasted malt leading to a bitter but gently lingering finish.

Norðan Kaldi (5.4% abv) is the first ale produced by Bruggsmiðjan Kaldi; English in style, amber coloured with a mouth-filling maltiness.

Kaldi IPA (6.0% abv) is American in influence, using Mosaic, Citra and Simcoe hops fermented with an American yeast strain. It’s beautifully deep gold in colour with sensational head retention, quite a bit of fruit and soft grain on the palate then a pleasing bitterness emerging.

Bruggsmiðjan Kaldi beers are being brought to the UK by Gerard Connolly of Northumberland-based Icelandic Drinks (the company that also handles Icelandic Mountain Vodka and Eagle Gin from the distillery owned by Game of Thrones star Hafthor “The Mountain” Björnsson).


07930 270 561.

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Alastair Gilmour

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