Hats off to the Faroe Islands

Words seem inadequate to describe the Faroe Islands, such is their grandeur. It is a land of waterfalls, waves, wind and rock. The light changes so frequently that the same view can look endlessly different. Places like Gasadalur (below) reveal themselves regally as the fog rolls away.

51,000 people live on 18 islands in the Atlantic, with Iceland to the north and Shetland to the south. Some of the islands are now linked by tunnels and more are being built. Faroe has an autonomous government and sends representatives to the Danish parliament, though it is not in the EU. It has its own language and bank notes. The capital, Tórshavn, is functional, attractive but not twee.

It has a tiny old town that includes the Parliament and a cluster of highly regarded restaurants.

There are ancient and modern churches to excite the eye.

Many of the buildings are wooden with a grass roof. And every village seems to have superb sporting facilities. “It keeps the young ones out of trouble” the football coach at Runavik told me, who turned out to be Jens Martin Knudsen, the Faroe goalkeeper who famously played in a bobble hat. The hat now resides in the UEFA museum.

Pic: Alchetron.com

New hat

Up on the cliff top is Toftir where Scotland laboured to a draw (twice) in surroundings like no other international stadium.

Naturally football was on the agenda. Bottom of the table EB/Streymur’s website clearly anticipated their defeat v AB. Most of the grounds are in indecently beautiful settings.

What of the beer scene? There are two particularly noteworthy bars. One is Danish, Mikkeler, in this charming 500 year old building.

Mikkeler neatly embellished their standard glass with a hat (are you sensing a theme here?)

The other, Bjorkovin, is Icelandic with beers from Reykjavik’s Borg Brugghus. It is situated near the harbour below a bar called Sirkus. We really liked this place.

One night we were served by Ragnar, a delightful young man who has just made an album with his folk duo, Raske Drenge. Unusually for Faroese folk music they play instruments, in a country with a tradition of unaccompanied singing.

Quality draught beer cost about £8 for half a litre here but if you wanted a bottle of Westvleteren make that £27. Upstairs Sirkus is more mainstream but shares the same Icelandic ownership. There is a thriving music scene on the islands with a great record shop and label.

The Faroese did once vote for independence but didn’t implement it after a change of government. In Bjorkovin the beers we liked best were a superbly balanced double IPA and Ultrun, an easy quaffing, unfined session IPA.

Bars don’t open at lunchtimes and must close by midnight on weekdays but can – and do – stay open till 04.00 on Fridays and Saturdays. Apparently they get busy around 2 when Faroese youth come out but we didn’t put that to the test.

The established brewery is Føroyar Bjor but I found their beers heavily carbonated. It takes some bravery to set up in competition to them, especially in a country where prohibition was lifted as recently as 1992. But ten years ago that is what Okkara Brewery did. It is in the south of Streymor, near Kirkjubøur and it’s hidden ruined medieval cathedral.

We rolled up and met Petur Petersen, the boss and his Chair, Ole Hansen.

Petur is known as Petur Øl (Petur Beer) and everyone knows him. We had tried their excellent Guldhornid, a 5.5% dry hopped IPA in Mikkeler the night before. Here, despite calling unannounced near close of business, we were made to feel most welcome and given samples of Number 2 and Rinkusteinur, a fascinating 5.8% beer. Basalt rocks are heated to 800 degrees then placed in the wort, caramelising the beer and creating a mineral taste. It is a complex beer with a hoppy nose, bitter but with a warming effect.

They are also maturing an 11.5% beer called Number 11 in rum casks but Ole explained why their beers usually did not exceed 5.8%. Anything stronger can only be sold in State monopoly stores, where the government take is 30%.

Peter is a true beer evangelist and has persuaded Atlantic Airways to stock their beer as well as a wide range of other outlets, though the only other place with Guldhornid on draught was in Hotel Tórshavn.

You don’t go to the Faroe Islands just for good beer but you can be sure to find it there all the same.

13 thoughts on “Hats off to the Faroe Islands

  1. A place I’ve always wanted to visit but have been put off by the huge prices to eat and drink! A bit like Iceland in fairness and most of Scandinavia. Funny how we complain at the tax on our beer and yet it’s a mere drop in the ocean compared to these guys!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. “Words seem inadequate to describe the Faroe Islands,”

    Blimey. I go AWOL for a week due to the wife’s crazy catering schedule and you drop off the ends of the earth!

    BTW – Are they called Faroe because they’re so far away?*
    * – meaning it’s a *cough* fair row to get there. 😉

    “51,000 people live on 18 islands in the Atlantic, with Iceland to the north and Shetland to the south.”

    Definitely a bit of a cross between the two.

    “It keeps the young ones out of trouble”

    True the world over that. 🙂

    “in this charming 500 year old building.”

    Sporting a grass roof like most places I see.

    “(are you sensing a theme here?)”

    (slow golf clap)

    “One night we were served by Ragnar, ”

    Was his last name Rothbrok?

    “Quality draught beer cost about £8 for half a litre here”

    Blimey. But then, not much different from Iceland, Norway and all the rest in a way.

    “but if you wanted a bottle of Westvleteren make that £27”

    I didn’t know you could get Westvleteren outside of their abbey!

    “Apparently they get busy around 2 when Faroese youth come out but we didn’t put that to the test.”

    Good move.

    “Basalt rocks are heated to 800 degrees then placed in the wort, caramelising the beer and creating a mineral taste.”

    Interesting.

    “where the government take is 30%.”

    Ouch!

    But then again, it’s illegal to sale any beer in Alabama that has an ABV of 14% or higher. 🙂

    “You don’t go to the Faroe Islands just for good beer but you can be sure to find it there all the same.”

    Indeed. Beer and Vikings do pretty much go hand in hand.

    Cheers

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You get a slow golf clap for “fair row.” You can get Westvleteren but used to have it to collect it from the abbey. Think they have modernised their sales approach. Cheers Russ.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.