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This room will be filled with beer

In short time, Robert Johansen and Andreas Hegermann Riis will start producing beer in the hall, next to the port of Longyearbyen. FOTO: Geir Barstein

This room will be filled with beer

Most things are resolved: This summer Longyearbyen will get its very first locally made brew. The hope is it will quench people's thirst worldwide.

At the moment the room is empty, but soon everything needed to create thousands of liters of locally produced brew will be in place in the warehouse in the maritime area.

"In mid-May the boat is going upward from the mainland," said Robert Johansen, head of Svalbard Bryggeri. "Then we will get the barrels, boxes and everything we need. It will get pretty crowded in here."


Beers of summer
Together with master brewer Andreas Hegermann Riis, a beer veteran with experience in Oslo microbreweries and the Haandbryggeriet brewery in Drammen, Johansen is about to add the finishing touches.

The hope is the first noble droplets will be ready in July and the factory can produce 2,200 cans of beer an hour.

"It takes 14 days to set up all the equipment and 14 days until the first beer is ready to be packed," he said.

"This is almost a bit too big to call a microbrewery. We just call it a brewery."


Focusing on the world

The beer will be sold at licensed premises in Longyearbyen, Nordpolet and the mainland.
"We are engaging right now and negotiating with distributors," Johansen said. "Initially, it will be sold in the surrounding area, meaning northern Norway, but eventually the rest of the country and the world tour."

This summer they are betting on three different beers: pale lager, pale ale and India pale ale. In time, the brewery also plans to have a stout and wheat beer in its fixed range.

"In addition, we will spice things up with various special types and we are aiming, for example, at a special Christmas beer," Johansen said.

In addition, the brewery plans to sell local water.

"It will be a bit more local than Ramlösa – the one that is drunk here," Johansen said. "We are looking at opportunities to initiate expeditions to retrieve ice from glaciers for the water."


Burning ambitions

Johansen has spent the past six years working to fulfill his dream of a brewery.

"It feels really good to soon be at that goal, although there are still some choppy waters," he said. "I wish that I could just concentrate on brewing beer, but there are conditions that must be met."

The brewing process leaves large amounts of biomass from the grains. The brewery must have a sound mechanism in place for dealing with this waste.

"Here we have a challenge," Johansen said. "We will get a mill that presses out most of the water, dries it and stores it in a container. That can be sent down to the mainland. But sooner or later we are envisioning that it can be burned. This in turn produces heat which can be used in the brewing process and thus relieve the power plant."


Prohibited

The manufacture of alcoholic beverages in Svalbard was banned by ban in 1929. Johansen said obtaining permission to open a brewery has been the biggest obstacle to getting started.

On Jan. 28, 2010, he applied for a change in the law.

"And now I have papers in hand, where it says that I'm allowed," he said.

Translated by Mark Sabbatini

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