Published November 6, 2019
Bryggjan Brugghús means “brewery on the pier,” which is quite fitting, considering its prime location on Reykjavík’s Old Harbour. Inside the gastropub lies a fine brewery in the Reykjavík area. They’ve been open for four years, brewing for two, and have done over 60 different beers in that time. To test those hoppy waters, we sent two of our most avid beer drinkers, Lea and Sam, to take a tour of Bryggjan and sample the Icelandic beers.
We’re standing in Bryggjan Brugghús, next to two large brass vats, part of a two-vessel German style brewing system produced in Hungary, and brought to Iceland. Beer, as you may know, is made from hops, barley, yeast and water. Bryggjan makes theirs with pristine Icelandic tap water. Our guide, Andy, emphasises that Icelandic tap water is excellent to make beer with, as it’s very pure, so there’s no need to worry about filtration. However, their barley is not as local. Iceland does grow barley, but it’s more of a fodder crop, which is difficult to make beer out of. So Bryggjan imports that key ingredient from Germany.
Hoppyness is a full glass
Another must-have are the hops, which, as Andy explains, flavour the brew with hundreds of essential oils. “If you brew carefully,” he said, “these oils will travel through your brewing system and fermentation, and may physically end up in your glass where you can taste and smell them.” While the flavour is a big reason brewers use hops, our guide says, the most important reason behind hops is they are a natural preservative. “A hoppy beer can have a nice, long shelf life.”
While Andy regaled us with stories of how Bryggjan’s beers are masterfully made, we’re not here to spill any trade secrets. Book your own tour at bryggjanbrugghus.is to hear it all from the source. A tour also allows you to sample the goods right at the source. One thing that makes Bryggjan Brugghús’ brewery stand out from the rest is the freshness of the product. Nearly all of their beers are consumed on-site, so you’re basically drinking an Icelandic beer only metres away from where it was brewed.
What we came for
Having learned about the brewing process, and the expertise it takes, it’s time to taste three out of over 30 flavours Bryggjan has on tap and give our feedback first-hand. We sit down in the charming, rustic restaurant and begin to sip.
Timber trays display three labelled glasses for each of us, each filled with differently coloured beer. We start with the golden lager (Baldur) on the left that leaves Lea—a German—visibly impressed. She studied in Bavaria, and said it was much more flavourful the lagers she grew familiar with there. Sam was equally impressed. An American, his knowledge of lager was much less intricate, but he said it was something he could easily picture himself drinking regularly. Above all else, the beer underscored that the quality of the ingredients truly is undeniable.
Next up, was the Bryggjan Pale Ale, with its unique hoppy undertone. Hoppy beer isn’t for everyone—some find the taste too intense—but this one is rather drinkable. With a fresh, crisp, fruity taste, it manages to both impress those that love hops and those that aren’t as passionate about them. Last but not least is the beer we were most curious about: the chocolate beer. The Omnom Chocolate Stout—brewed with local Omnom chocolate—is almost black, in stark contrast to the other beverages in the trio. It’s a creamy and immensely flavourful beer, so much so that each sip leaves you reeling. Along with the brew, we’re served a few chocolate bites, and their intense flavour perfectly rounds with the Icelandic beer. Talk about a dessert.
The pleasant environment of the gastropub/brewery invites us to linger on for a little bit and order some food off the menu before heading back out in the cold. When we finally hit the road, we’re well-fed and at a comfortable level of tipsy. If you’re looking for an afternoon in Reykjavík that combines two of humankind’s most delightful treasures—education and drinking—look no further than Bryggjan Brugghús.
CORRECTION: This article originally stated that the Bryggjan Brugghús is Reykjavík’s only brewery and has 30 varieties of beer. Both of these contentions are incorrect. The article has been amended to reflect this.