A few of you have been following this blog from its earlier incarnation years and years ago. I even did some brief guest blogging over at Alan’s place. One of the places I covered was Longyearbyen in the Spitzbergen archipelago, halfway between the Northern coast of Norway and the North Pole. Almost two hours flight Oslo- Tromsø, out of the plane to go through Schengen security check, then another hour and a half in the plane.
On my previous visit I went during the dark ages part of the year, when the sun is below the horizon. This year we went in mid February. The sun was not yet back in the town, but it shone for some hours every day, giving quite another perspective on the wild landscape.
There is a long history behind the settlement in Longyearbyen, starting with whalers and trappers, continuing with the time of the great polar explorers and the developement of a mining town. The area was strategically important during the Cold War – now it is a vibrant community with three legs to stand on – coal mining, tourism and research.
There are lots of opportunities for exploring the countryside, but you need to go with an armed guide or be prepared to arm yourself. There have been sightings of polar beers very recently, and they are to be taken seriously.
The highlight of our visit was a dog sled excursion arranged by Svalbard Husky, but there are lots of excursions, both summer and winter.
The last time I was around, the most inteeresting beer available was Goose Island IPA. Have there been any developments?
There is an alcohol monopoly shop in town, Nordpolet, run by the coop supermarket. The beer selection was not up to much, Norwegian macros, Guinness and Corona. The prices are low – but go for a good bottle of wine at duty-free prices instead. Some rare cognacs, too. There is a quota for beer and spirits, but not for table wine, probably a leftover from the mining days.
At the Barentz pub in the Radisson Blu hotel, the beer range was better. Mack pilsener and bayer on tap. Nøgne Ø Wit and Porter in bottles. And, here at the Northernmost bar on the planet, BrewDog Punk IPA and Rip Tide.
They have truly conquered the world.