Graff Brygghus & Norwegian Breweries: Brewing Above the Arctic Circle

Portland Exports Brewery System, Culture, & Beer Names to Norwegian Breweries

Tromso, Norway – Steeped in beer brewing tradition, Norwegian breweries have become a bright light in the north for craft beer lovers.  Not surprisingly, Norway has a rich and wild history of brewing and drinking beer.  Too far north for grapes, the ancient Norse would not be vanquished in their desire for heady drink.  Likely on a raid of their fairer neighbors, the Vikings discovered beer which they imported to their homeland as far back as 1000 AD.  Eventually Norsemen began to develop strong traditions and customs tied to its consumption.  So serious were the Vikings about their adopted drink that it was considered a crime not to participate in the public drinking rituals or in brewing beer.

In times gone by, traditional porters were brewed for Norwegian weddings, christenings, and funerals by farms throughout the country.  By law, every farm was required to brew beer, and at Christmas the quantity of grain that went into the grist had to be equal to the combined weight of the farmer and his wife.  To fail in this responsibility was to risk having your farm and possessions confiscated and divided between the state and the church.   In extreme cases, “lawbreakers” could find themselves deported to Iceland (ouch!). Out of these strong traditions surrounding beer and community, Norwegian breweries have become the craft beer destination in Northern Europe.  Today, Norway boasts over 80 craft breweries with many brewing traditional recipes while incorporating American Pacific Northwest, British, and European brewing styles.

“…we have developed our business around the amazing beer scene in Portland, so a brewery supplied by a Portland company fit perfectly for us.”

Portland Kettle Works (PKW), manufacturers of American brewing equipment in Portland Oregon, has been expanding within the European market.  One example of this global expansion is the installation of a 7-barrel (8.2 hl) brewery system (pictured above) in Tromso Norway located 200 miles (350 km) above the Arctic Circle. Thad Fisco, owner of Portland Kettle Works, traveled to Tromso to complete the installation of the PKW brewing system at Graff Brygghus (Norwegian for “brewhouse”) in late August 2015.

Graff Brewery - 200 Miles Above the Arctic Circle

Together, Graff and PKW built on Norwegian beer heritage with the same strong sense of brotherhood found both in Norway as well as the Portland beer scene.  Martin Amundsen and Marius Graff setup their brewery and taproom in a fully renovated character building that has been in the Amundsen family for 3 generations.  After three months of renovations, the first brew through their new PKW brewery system was the well-received Portland Pale Ale. “So much of what we are doing is about the connection with Portland” says Amundsen.  Graff concurs: “My dream is to have an article written about our brewery by The Oregonian… I would frame it and put it on the wall.”

In order to find the perfect brewery system, Graff spent a month in Portland Oregon brewing on systems supplied by several manufacturers before giving Portland Kettle Works the nod.   During his research, Graff brewed with several local favorites including Buoy Beer Company in Astoria, Coalition, BTU Brasserie, and Kells.  In Graff’s own words: “we wanted a brew system from the United States because the most innovation in the market is American, and we have developed our business around the amazing beer scene in Portland, so a brewery supplied by a Portland company fit perfectly for us.”

Since then, Graff Brygghus, as with many Norwegian breweries, has become a popular local destination.  Aiding the popularity, Tromso is home to a university and Norway has a drinking age of 18 years. Additionally, with 3 months of midnight sun and 3 months of northern lights, Tromso is a popular destination for thirsty tourists.  “Graff Brygghus is perfectly positioned to rock the craft beer scene in Tromso and Northern Norway” says Fisco; “their PKW brewing equipment is going to allow these guys to make a clean, perfect product with creative recipes that were not previously available to Norwegian breweries.”

Update: Graff Brygghus continues to grow and has just reserved their second order of brewery tanks from PKW.  Congratulations Marius and Martin!  Skål!

Graff Brewery's Brewer & CEO

Marius Graff (L), Head Brewer & Martin Amundsen (R), CEO, Graff Brygghus

Photography by: Torgrim Rath Olsen/Nordlys LAB

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