If you’ve got a few years’ history with the local craft scene, you’ve probably shared a beer with Aly Hartwig whether you know it or not.
Maybe she poured you a pint and you talked suds back in 2012, during her time as a beertender at Brewer’s Republic (which is how I met her). Or perhaps you enjoyed a beer she helped create at Monument’s Pikes Peak Brewing Co., where she worked for almost two years starting in July 2013.
Or maybe it was through Brewers Broads, the region’s first beer group for women. Or the sold-out 2014 mini-beer fest she founded and organized to celebrate Colorado Springs Craft Week.
Since The Gazette caught up with Hartwig for a summer 2014 profile, she’s added a few more bullet points — and major air miles — to her bio. Those adds include prestigious industry scholarships, an internship at Chicago’s Goose Island Beer Co., and her current gig as brewer and barrel manager at Borg Brugghús brewery in Reykjavik, Iceland.
She also celebrated her 28th birthday.
Hartwig left her gig as the Springs area’s youngest professional brewer, at Pikes Peak Brewing Co., in 2015 for a three-month internship at Goose Island, a temporary assignment that ended up lasting the better part of a year. She then returned to Colorado and ultimately landed at Aurora’s Dry Dock Brewing Co.
That’s where she was when she was awarded the 2017 Glen Hay Falconer Foundation Siebel Brewing Scholarship, which included three months in Chicago at the World Brewing Academy and three months in Germany, as well as an International Diploma in Brewing Technology.
In less time than it takes some barrel-aged imperial stouts to mature, Hartwig has gone from front of the bar on the Front Range to international craft-creator with a CV that’s barleywine-dense. I heard her speak as part of a panel on women in brewing at February’s Rocky Mountain Brewing Symposium at University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. Last week she talked with me by phone from Iceland to answer a few questions about how she got to where she’s at, and what craft brewing is like in the land of fire and ice.
Q: How did you go from Germany to Iceland?
A: I had come to Iceland as a tourist, and just fell in love with the country, the way of life. ... While I was in Germany, I started applying for positions here and chatting with different breweries. I got the job and moved here in March 2018, so I’ve been here almost exactly a year. Iceland had beer prohibition until 1989, so they were a really late bloomer as far as their beer culture. But they have great support for the new craft breweries popping up everywhere and there’s a lot of support from beer drinkers.
Q: What’s big in Reykjavik?
A: I’ve never seen a culture so crazy about hazy IPAs. Walk into a bar and over half the taps are IPAs. Icelanders tend to walk into a bar and say, “What IPAs do you have on tap?”
Q: What’s craft beer awareness, overall, like in Iceland? Are they still catching up?
A: They’re definitely keeping track of what’s going on the world of craft beer, and not just in Iceland. A lot of Icelanders, with all the time they have off, they’re so close to U.S. and to Europe, they travel quite a bit so they’re drinking pilsners in Germany, lambics in Belgium and New England IPAs in New England. I just didn’t see that in the U.S.: people coming in and just knowing right off the bat what they wanted.
Q: Any interesting or unusual ingredients you’ve worked with or want to use brewing in Iceland?
A: Iceland isn’t necessarily the best climate to be growing things, so farming is mostly done in greenhouses. There are no Palisade peaches or Pueblo chiles. What they do have is a lot of great things you can forage that grow wild. I would say that March isn’t the best time of year to be foraging, but there’s always something. Some of the ingredients are really exciting and I definitely want to explore using them in a beer.
I really enjoy birch. I’ve had some great birch spirits made here in Iceland and I would really like to explore using that in a beer.
Q: Come again about that “beer brewing being illegal in Iceland before” 1989 thing. That doesn’t seem ... right?
A: Homebrewing is actually still illegal here. But even before beer was made legal ... people were making beer, moonshine, wine at home ... and some of these farm breweries would be open to tourists if they were there and they were brewing. But as far as taprooms go, there was no official place to visit. Now, more and more, breweries here are exploring this taproom thing. Reykjavik got its first brewery taproom last year. The beer industry is at a very exciting point right now.