Wondering where to get a beer in Sauðárkrókur, North Iceland, my travelling companion and I catch a resident who directs us to the only bar in town, Microbar. The name might seem familiar, since its representative in Reykjavík is the first craft beer bar in Iceland.
As always when going for just one beer, one thing leads to another, and all of a sudden we find ourselves knocking on the doors of the Gæðingur microbrewery, located less than a ten minutes’ drive away. There we meet Árni Hafstað, owner of the brewery and bar. He’s in his element, holding a beer tasting for a tourist couple and two brewers. “Does this happen often, that tourists contact you and drop by?” I ask him, amazed by the cosy little gathering. “It’s not uncommon, and most of the time I say yes—if I can,” he answers. “Because it must be fun too and not only work. I love meeting new people and I’m really curious about their background. I’m doing it for me, not for them.”
Skyr, Icelandic moss and double trouble
“Can you handle this? Not everyone can,” Àrni says as he pours me a glass. He has that twinkle in his eye and his passion for craft beer is unmistakable in the way he talks about his experiments. He was one of the first brewers to make a beer with skyr, and the next flavour sensations on the to-do list are a Scandinavian Brown Ale with hints of Icelandic moss, and a New England Double IPA. When asked about where he gets his inspiration from, Àrni laughs a little. “Well, I drink a lot.”
Gæðingur microbrewery was up and running June 2011. The whole journey started in Denmark, where Àrni together with a friend went on a brewing course. Afterwards they bought a home brewery kit, and the beers turned out great. Àrni continues the story: “We then went to a more serious course in England, and the course leader was selling equipment to breweries. At the same time I had the building where I earlier housed my cattle standing empty, and I wanted to do something with it. So I bought equipment from the guy and he came to set it up and helped out with the first brews. And we just carried on from there.”
Several irons in the fire
Safe to say that Àrni is a busy man, with two bars and a brewery to supervise. Above that he’s also a father and runs a dairy farm. “I’ve many ideas,” he reflects. “At times I’m growing in my mind. Sometimes I’m getting into bigger productions, sometimes I’m opening more breweries and sometimes I’m selling. But everything is always changing. I’ll just follow the stream but not in the matter of fashion or what everyone else is doing, but how it fits into my life.”
Before saying goodbye I just have to ask if anything crazy has gone down at previous tastings. “Hmm… No one has gotten naked yet. I’m still waiting for that moment.”