Riis has experience from Oslo Mikrobryggeri and Håndbryggeriet, which he helped build, and today is working at Grünerløkka Bryggeri. Now he has been hired as a consultant for Svalbard Bryggeri, where he will build the brewery in addition to being a master brewer in the initial phase.
The two hoisted mugs of beer from Grünerløkka Bryggeri during Longyearbyen's Oktoberfest last weekend. The vibe was great. If everything goes according to plan, next year Svalbard will have its own local beer.
"How we changed the law to make real polar beer," read a pronouncement on the chest of Johansen. The t-shirt was referring to efforts to amend Svalbard's alcohol regulations. On Saturday at Oktoberfest, he enthusiastically described the project that is only days from starting up.
"For a period of four years, I called every month to the case officer at the ministry," Johansen said, referring to the lobbying necessary to get a ban on the manufacture of alcohol in Svalbard rescinded. On the July 1, the amendment was enacted and now it looks as if the funding is ready.
Thus, it also appears he is finally seeing his dream fulfilled.
Total investments are about ten million kroner, with 50 percent and 25 percent done, respectively, through the bank and Innovasjon Norge. The remaining 25 percent is equity.
With, among others, Frigg Jørgensen (chairman), Frank Jakobsen, Terje Carlsen and Svein Erik Svendsen in place on the board of directors, Johansen is starting the work of digging and laying of pipes for the future brewery down by Bykaia.
The brewery machinery is being ordered from Italy this month, and is scheduled to be in place in Longyearbyen by March or April of next year. The goal for the first year of production is 60,000 liters of beer.
The upcoming brewery owner will also utilize the water source in beer production for it's commercial worth.
"I have found documents from researchers that a portion of the water we use is 2,000 years old," said Johansen, who will have a fixed address in Longyearbyen starting Dec. 16. By day he is a pilot, but during his time off he will be trained by the master brewer and eventually take on the role as production manager.
"It's been five-and-a-half years since the process started, but I do not give up so easily once I've decided something," said Johansen, who until now has been brewing as a hobby. "And have mastered a lot."
In addition to Svalbard, the plan is to sell beer at selected locations on the mainland, preferably in Tromsø. The challenge for the upcoming brewery going into the market is the ban on alcohol advertising.
Will he sell 60,000 liters?
"Yes, basically I would expect that," he said. "That's a lot, but just up here 450,000 liters are sold. I think it should be within reach."
"I think it is a sobering start, but you must work a full-time job to distribute the beer," Riis said.
"I've been building my dream brewery. Here we have besmeared with what I know works from day one," he noted.
To ensure there are no surprises, the brewing machinery will undergo a test run at the factory in Italy before it is transported northward.
In addition, the brewery is seeking support from the Svalbard Environmental Protection to determine if it is possible to use biomass from beer production (the mask) for the recovery of energy. In a year, there would be 50 to 60 tons of mask.
Although the actual brewing process is a one-man job, packing requires more hands. The two estimate Svalbard Bryggeri will initially need two to three employees, but production volume will determine whether there will be more.
Johansen is expecting to break even during the first year of beer production, but after about two to three years of operation he is hoping for profit.
What the labels and boxes will look like is not yet clear, but the names are local. Such as Longyearbyen Lager and Gruve Port.
What is the secret of a good beer, then?
"It is love. Time and love," Riis said.