Icelandic Beer Made From Smoked Whale Testicles
Beer, Bizarre, Fin Whale, Iceland
Draft Magazine interviews Dagbjartur ArilÃusson, owner of the SteÃ°ji microbrewery in Iceland.
You … brew beer made from fin whale testiclesâ€¦
We started last year with our first whale beer, Hvalur 1. The health department didnâ€™t want us to produce it at first, but we were allowed to. The beer used whale meal as an ingredient, and it was something new for Iceland. It sold out almost immediately. This year, for Hvalur 2, we wanted to keep the concept, but use a different whale ingredient. We decided to use fin whale [Balaenoptera physalus -JDZ] testicles.
How, exactly, do you brew with whale testicles?
We get the testicles frozen from the whaling company, and we have a licensed butcher chop it up for us to use. The testicles are cured according to an old Icelandic tradition. The testicles are salted, and then smoked with sheep dung. A whole testicle is used in every brewing cycle, and then the beer is filtered and pasteurized. We put a lot of effort into this, and itâ€™s a long process.
Whatâ€™s the beerâ€™s connection to Icelandâ€™s annual food festival, Thorrablot?
We wanted to create a true Thorrablot atmosphere that celebrates traditional Icelandic food. Every winter, Icelanders gather to eat traditional food that sustained our ancestors for generations. This is very popular here in the countryside, and we wanted the beer to be released at the same time of the festival. The dishes we eat include boiled sheep heads, liver sausage, ram testicles, fermented shark, wind-dried fish, smoked lamb meat, and blood pudding. We thought that Hvalur 2 would fit in well with Thorrablot by using an ingredient that is a little different.
Does the criticism from whale conservationists bother you?
It actually brings more attention to the beer, which is a positive thing. Most of the protests come from people outside of Iceland. People have to remember that the fin whale is not endangered in the North Atlantic, and Iceland is known for sustainable fishing and setting quotas for our whale hunt. Thereâ€™s actually a lot of demand for our beer to be exported, but there are laws that limit which countries can import it because of anti-whaling laws. The beer will sell out in Iceland, and people from other countries want a taste.