SHETLAND’s own almighty Valhalla ales are now being exported to the land of the Vikings to wet thirsty Norwegian throats.
The owner of Britain’s most northerly brewery, Sonny Priest, revealed on Thursday that he had finally broken into the Norwegian market and already sent three shipments of beer across the North Sea.
In conjunction with the Norwegian company ABC Brewery he has also developed a new special brew that goes under the name Vinland Bitter; the first samples of this “Pilsner style’ beer were only brewed a few weeks ago.
Priest said that supplying the Norwegian market is helping him to even out the “huge slump” he experiences every winter when the tourism trade dies away and locals revert to cans.
Priest started brewing beer on his home island of Unst in the late nineties after being made redundant as a fire fighter when the oil industry airstrip in Baltasound closed.
Last year he moved into newly refurbished premises at the former RAF base in nearby Haroldswick, thereby doubling the capacity of his small brewery to 144,000 litres annually.
He said it had been an ambition to do business with Norway for a long time, and now Valhalla ales were available at pubs in Bergen, Oslo and Stavanger.
“We did some work with Norway about four years ago, but this is something regular that we have got set up now. It is small to begin with, but it is picking up,” he said.
He added that the beer was supplied in newly developed plastic kegs that kept the beers fresh until the last drop.
He said he also noticed more difficult trading conditions across the UK as beer lovers tighten their belts and more micro breweries are established, with Shetland’s remoteness becoming a disadvantage rather than a selling point.
“The UK is getting more and more difficult to do business in because there are so many breweries now. This is changing the whole dynamic altogether,” he said.
“People are far more price conscious than they were ever before. The uniqueness of where we brew and what we are doing used to sell our product no problem. That is not the case any longer.
“You have to be competitive on price in the UK. We struggle to do that. We have added cost and now also added ferry fares. The ferry fares are the one thing that can screw up everything for the north isles.”