"It is pretty amazing," said Robert Johansen, who initiated the work resulting in Longyearbyen's first local brew. "Now it's beginning to sink in that we are actually sitting here at the bar and drinking our own beer. It's a fantastic feeling after so many years."
He and business partner Andreas Hegermann Riis gathered at Coal Miners' Cabin last Friday to launch two of the beers Svalbard Bryggeri will make. The taps were in constant motion, offering guests who made the trip a change to try both pale ale and wheat beer.
It's taken six-and-a-half years for Johansen's dream of his own brewery in Svalbard to become a reality. Along the way he had to, among other things, fight to change a law banning the manufacture of beer, wine and spirits in the archipelago.
"That is what has taken so long," Johansen said. "But the desire has always been to create something that belongs to us in the city. There should be something for Svalbard that is our own."
A steady stream of beer-carrying customers passed the brewers sitting at the bar, with many pausing to congratulate the two men for what they have accomplished.
"After so much stress and work we've had lately, it's very fun to sit here and see everyone drinking, toasting and smiling," Riis said.
Among those making the trip to Coal Miners' Cabin for the party were Heidi Harviken, Lise Gjellestad and Mona Ada Andersen.
"The beer is surprisingly good," said Harviken, taking a drink from a pale ale.
"It is among the best pale ales I have tasted. It tastes very good on such a nice Friday in August," she said, adding it's tremendous that Longyearbyen now has its own brewery.
"It's fun to be able to serve beer from Svalbard when you get people up here visiting," Gjellestad said, smiling.
Andersen said she thinks it's good that beer is finally being made in Svalbard and she's already received "orders" from friends.
"I have some friends in Stavanger who have already asked me to bring beer to them," she said. "It will be very fun if Svalbard Bryggeri successfully exports their beer eventually."
The three also have a tip for the guys at the brewery.
"There could perhaps be some local names for the different beers," Harviken said.
"Instead of just calling it 'pale ale,' for example, the beer could have names more attached to Svalbard."
Translated by Mark Sabbatini