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Christmas beer - Smiðjan

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Smiðjan Brugghús was founded in 2018 in Vík as a brewery and pub. The booming tourist industry was not the only reason so many breweries were founded in Iceland in the past 8 years, the government also had several grants one could apply for to found a business in the tourist sector. It is somewhat of an Icelandic tradition to always be creating gold rushes. Before the collapse in 2008 it was the financial sector, in the past 8 years it was tourism. Sustainable growth of any industry is just not an Icelandic thing. It is one of the reasons Covid had an immediate devastating impact on the Icelandic economy and the poster child of the bubble and the the aftermath of it bursting is Vík, which is the main tourist hub on the south coast. Smiðjan (as most of the other micro-breweries I have covered) seems to be surviving for now and you can still visit their bar if you make it to Vík.

They have three Christmas beers and one of the reason I am covering them late, is because they only come in 500ml cans, and this is too much to drink on my own, so the following opinions are by me and two friends. Santa's blue balls, a milkshake IPA with vanilla and bilberries and Choc Ho Ho, a milk stout with chocolate and peanut butter were featured at Christmas dinner with Mariska and Jeff, who have appeared on this blog before. Jeff was willing to share (my) beer with me, we did have some fights how to interpret me just wanting to try a little of it, for me this means half a glass, for him it means just a sip. Jeff likes IPAs and he liked Santa's blue balls (hehehe). We both had been disappointed by All That Glitters Ain't Gold Raspberry Ale from Lady Brewery for lack of fruitiness, but with Santa's blue balls, Jeff was happy that the bilberry beer tasted of bilberries. I only tasted hops. Choc Ho Ho tastes like liquid peanut butter, it is strange.
Ris a la Sour, the last Christmas beer from Smiðjan, is a sour and I was lucky that a friend of mine, who does not like beer at all, but likes sours came by my place. They loved it and were excited to drink most of it for me, so I only had to have a few sips to try. It does not taste like beer at all, it is not as terribly sour as the one from RKV Brewing company, but it is still a sour.






Christmas beer - RKV Brewing Company

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There is not much to say about RKV Brewing Company. They have been around since 2018, are based in Reykjavik (bar included) and are founded by some banker, who left the financial market to brew beer. They have 4 Christmas beers, and one of them, to my horror is a sour. I always thought IPAs were the worst beer and I could not wait for them to go out of fashion (there was a time 90% of beer you could get here were IPA or way to hoppy lagers) and for the next trend to start. Then the next trend were sours, the beer for people who hate beer. Seriously, the only person I know who likes sours does not like beer. Things I do for science.

RKVBrewing_ChristmasBeer

The four Christmas beers they have are:
Frostrósir, a traditional white ale and my favourite. I noticed during the weeks of beer tasting that I prefer the beers with no or few added ingredients. This beer manages to be light and fruity and still feel like a winter beer. It tastes like a crisp winter morning. There, this is my poetic line of the day.
Eftir Sex a wild amber. Brewed with wild yeast and slightly sour as these kind of beers are (not a sour though!) this is not as much to my taste as Frostrósir, but it feels like the pinot noir of beer, complicated and maybe not for every day, but if you are in the mood for it amazing.
Eitthvað Fallegt? a season IPA with mandarins and Christmas tree(?????). The sweet mandarins balance out the bitter IPA taste nicely, I do not know how Christmas tree tastes (it is pine they added) and I did not taste it. I guess considering some tendencies of Icelandic brewers (looking at you Steðji) I should be thankful for any beer ingredients, which do not include bones or testicles. Throw a tree into your beer, why not?
Jóla Magnús frúktus we ave arrived at the sour. This one is using skyr (an Icelandic yogurt, which is actually cheese, full of protein, so quite healthy and usually yummy) for the milk acid part of the beer. The fruit parts of the beer (billberries and cherries) do not even out the extreme sourness of this beer. It tastes like fruit skyr that has gone sour.

Sours are an abomination.


Christmas beer - Steðji

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Steðji is one of the older micro-breweries in Iceland, based near Borgarfjörður in the South West and one of the places we had planned to visit several times during trips around Reykjavik, but never managed to. They featured on both the previous Christmas beer sagas on this blog, one time with a licorice beer I really liked and the other time one I really hated. This is an apt representation of the roller coaster of emotions that their beer can be, they make good beer with a lot of craft and natural spring water, but beware, sometimes they use milled whale bones or smoked sheep testicles as ingredients. Taking "made with Icelandic ingredients" to the extreme.

Stedji_ChristmasBeers

The Christmas beer I really liked is now part of their general line up (and called Northern Lights). The one I did not like, Almáttugur, a porter with licorice, is still one of their two Christmas beers and I decided I do not need to do that to myself again. The other Christmas beer is Halelúja a German Schwarzbier. It really shows their craft. Using only malted barley, hops and water (as it should be!) it has coffee and chocolate notes, while being light and perfectly balanced. One of my favourite of the ones I tried this year.


Christmas beer - The Brothers' Brewery

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Here we have another micro-brewery in a remote small town ruled by the fishing industry and with a strong regional identity. The Brothers' Brewery was formed 2012 on the Vestmann Islands, off the south coast of Iceland by two friends, who then involved their brothers (hence the name). Just like Dokkan they also have a tap room in the middle of town. Their website is here.

TheBrothersBrewery_ChristmasBeer

They have two Christmas beers this year: Leiðindaskjóða, a hoppy red ale and Leppur, a milk stout. They added oats to both beers, which finally motivated me to look up oats in beer brewing and why someone would do such a thing. Turns out, oats are used to build "the body" of the beer, meaning it helps all the other flavours develop, while not adding any flavours to the beer itself (unless malted). Still against the Reinheitsgebot, though.

That out of the way, how do they taste like? Leiðindaskjóða, the hoppy red ale does have a lot of flavour, underneath all the hops is a very rounded beer, with the right balance of slight sweetness from the malted barley and bitterness. It is also very carbonated, which I liked. If they ever make a red ale without the emphasis on hops, I would try that.
I also liked the stout Leppur, additionally to the oats a lot was added to it (coconut, vanilla and lactose again), but it harmonized really well and while it was creamy and sweet, not too much though. Now the real challenge is, could you guys achieve a good beer following the Reinheitsgebot :Þ?


Christmas beer - Dokkan

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In the old part of Ísafjörður, founded in 2017, the first brewery in the Westfjörds. Proudly made in and by the people of Ísafjörður, the water used to brew the beer is spring water from the mountains around Ísafjörður. Water quality is actually very important in beer making. Unsurprising considering it is the main ingredient. One of the reasons small breweries make better beer than industrial ones is because they often use spring water, something that cannot be replicated ones production moves world wide.

Dokkan_ChristmasBeer

They have two Christmas beers, Jóla Drangi, an amber ale and Hátíðar Púki, a sweet stout. I got a bit of an identity crisis with this beer, I always considered myself a stout person, and yet again, I preferred the ale over the stout, just as with Álfur and Ölvisholt. Maybe it was because Púki is brewed with added lactose and I found the additional sweetness strange tasting. Jóla Drangi achieves it's amber colour with the malted barley, which also gives it it's smooth and slightly sweeter taste. Púki is surprisingly sweet and not very bitter for a stout (this is where the lactose comes in), but it feels a bit flat. Maybe the amber ale is simply better, because it is a variation of one of their flag ship beers (Drangi). They generally brew pale ales and lager style beers, all which you can taste in their tap room in their brewery in Ísafjörður. With a view of the mountains where the water for the beer comes from.



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