Step into what looks like a giant industrial garage, and you’re in for an unexpected treat: the world’s northernmost brewery. You certainly won’t have to worry about being served any lukewarm beers here, as it’s located only 817 miles from the North Pole in an icy tundra with more polar bears than people.
Not only is Svalbard Brewery amazing for its geographic placement, but it’s also noteworthy because it’s the result of a long campaign to change Norwegian legislation.
In 1928, a law was enacted to prohibit the production of alcoholic beverages within the isolated Arctic archipelago. It served an important purpose: Svalbard was at the time a male-dominated mining society, and the law was a measure to decrease the drunkenness. The goal of the legislation was simply to prevent everyone from brewing alcohol at home.
But times have changed, and the mining industry no longer dominates Svalbard as it once did, which all the abandoned mines bear witness to. Tourism and research are just as important to the economy today.
Robert Johansen, a former coal miner on Svalbard, came up with the idea of opening the first brewery on the island after spending decades working within and falling in love with the Arctic landscape. Still, when the authorities got his application for a brewing license in 2009, they turned it down because of the law.
Instead, a long process to influence the politicians to change it was started. And finally, on July 1, 2014, a new law was passed opening up the possibility to brew beer on Svalbard.
Svalbard Brewery soon opened, and the business has grown rapidly ever since. It produces five different beers, and 16 percent of the water used to brew the beverages is collected from thawed ice from a 2,000-year-old glacier. Today the beer is exported both to mainland Norway and abroad, so you can sample some without having to trek to the top of the world.
Know Before You Go
Tours are held in the brewery. Please check their website for details.