Maine Craft Beer Goes International; Iceland

The craft beer boom in the United States is fantastic. More and more amazing and incredibly delicious brews are popping up everyday. And, surprisingly, they’re not all IPAs! However, as new breweries open, about one a day, there are a few other things that aren’t growing so quickly; supermarket shelves and bar taps. This means, while the brewing industry is not known for its competitiveness, some unique challenges are developing. Where do we sell all this beer? Shipping beer has also become a challenge, and crossing that mighty Mississippi can get expensive. This is why some large west coast breweries, Sierra Nevada and Stone just to name a few, have opened up east coast facilities.

A few years back the members of the Maine Brewers Guild realized they were in the perfect position to tackle these problems head on. You see, River Drive imports, exports, and ships barrels across the United States and Europe, and it’s our Maine headquarters that gives us a strategic advantage. In fact, it is just as cost effective, if not more efficient, to move barrels “across the pond” as it is across the United States. And same goes for beer.

The Maine Brewers Guild, partnered with Snap Space Solutions and Eimskip, an Icelandic-based ocean freight company, built the world’s largest kegerator. With over seventy-eight taps, Maine brewers filled the shipping-container-turned-beer-fridge with Maine craft beer and shipped it to Reykjavik, Iceland for the largest brew fest in Icelandic history, BjorFestival.

Iceland has become a hotspot in recent years. Pun intended. While they haven’t necessarily been known for their beer, their tourism has increased as more people discover the natural beauty of the island country. Currently home to just nine breweries, the beer scene is working hard to keep up the demand and grow brands all around the island. But while their brew scene might be small, there are a few breweries that certainly do stand out.

Located in northern Iceland, Kaldi Brewery opened up its world famous Beer Spa. You get to soak in a wooden tub full of beer; malts, hops, and grains. And yes, they can dry hop it for you. All while enjoying an endless supply of Kaldi beer from the self-serve tap within arms reach of the tub.

Stedji Brewery has also put itself on the map. A few years back they made a widely controversial beer that included whale fin. Not to rest on their laurels, they set out to “one up” themselves. This year they released a sheep manure smoked whale testicle beer. AKA, a sheep shit smoked whale ball beer…

Overall Iceland was a beautiful country whose citizens (and brewers) were extremely welcoming. Of course, we are partial after the owner of Gaedingur invited us into his home for a fresh, home-cooked lamb lunch.

While in Iceland we learned that the hardest part of barrel aging beer in Iceland is the freight. Many breweries struggle to afford just one pallet of barrels onto the island. but this is where our global-centric world headquarters comes in handy again; We have the closest United States port to Iceland. Our logistics through Barrels Direct and Eimskip will allow River Drive to supply Icelandic brewers with barrels from all over the world without breaking the bank, and assuring the highest quality, consistency, and control. Stay tuned for more Icelandic Beer!

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