Although beer and ale have been brewed in Iceland for a long time, beer production was limited during the 20th century, as beer was illegal in Iceland until 1989! Icelanders have more than made up for lost time and the growth in recent years has been amazing. In just a few years, we’ve seen many great breweries emerge, filled with ambition and ingenuity, and beer is now the most popular alcoholic beverage in Iceland. It’s no wonder, as Icelandic beer is delicious, in no small part thanks to the Icelandic water; renowned for its purity and quality.
These are our favourites, don’t leave Reykjavík without stopping by a pub or a bar and tasting at least one (or all) of them!
Víking Classic is a Vienna style beer with golden amber colour and taste of roasted malt. It has a good body and medium bitterness with balancing sweetness and a hint of caramel.
This Classic type of beer has become one of the best sellers on draught in Iceland in one year. Víking Classic is available in draught, bottles and cans and is part of the Víking beer family which is the most popular beer brand in Iceland.
Brío uses German hops, giving a very distinctive taste and a sweet aroma. Along with the hops, it uses Pilsen malt and under-fermentation yeast.
Bríó is the first beer produced by Borg Brugghús, a brewery that now produces several popular beers all year round along with seasonal beers for summer, Christmas and Easter. Bríó is a pilsner, a style of beer named after the city of Pilsen in the Czech Republic. This style of brewing first emerged in the middle of the 19th century and immediately became so popular that the majority of beer drunk today is in some way derived from the original pilsner. Brío, which has won many awards and prizes over the years, was originally brewed as the House Beer for Ölstofan and is available in liquor stores around the country as well as most bars in town.
Kaldi is a very mild and comfortable pilsner, dry, fresh, slightly bitter, with notes of roasted barley and hops, and has 5% ABV. You might detect a hint of sweetness as well.
The Brewery on Árskógssandur was the first microbrewery that opened in Iceland, back in 2006. Their first product, Kaldi, definitely paved the way for the rest of them. The regular Kaldi is a pure pilsner, with all the ingredients, except the Icelandic water, coming from the Czech Republic. Even their Brewmaster is Czech! Kaldi is the most sold bottled beer in Iceland today and has been tremendously well received. Following its success, the brewery opened Kaldi bar in the centre of Reykjavík, where all the varieties of Kaldi beer are available. Kaldi bar is of course the best place to get Kaldi, but it’s available in other bars as well and in bottles in the liquor stores.
A dark pilsner, it‘s similar to the regular Kaldi, but the main difference is the use of burnt malt, which provides the beautiful, distinctive dark colour and deepens the flavour.
Most Icelanders are used to drinking light lagers and are even a bit wary of dark beers, at least until they taste Kaldi Dark. As mentioned – the Kaldi beers are brewed by Czech traditions, dated from 1842. Kaldi Dark is brewed using 3 different types of Czech hops. Kaldi Dark is unpasteurized with no added sugar or preservatives. You can get Kaldi Dark in all liquor stores as some bars, but of course, the best place to get it is at the aforementioned Kaldi bar at downtown Reykjavík.
Einstök Toasted Porter
With clear notes of toffee and dark chocolate, this Porter is roasty and rich, offering a medium body that is robust, yet smooth on the palate. Toasted and chocolate malts give it a sinister black color, but its easy-to-drink taste will have you believing that there’s no need to be afraid of the dark anymore.
Einstök White Ale
A clean and crisp start with a smooth mouthfeel thanks to the oats, citrus and spice round out a refreshing finish.
Einstök beer is brewed up north, just 60 miles south of the Arctic Circle, not that you would guess it when you taste this summery, citrusy white ale. It has the complex flavours of a classic witbier, all brewed with pure Icelandic water for a cool smoothness that is deliciously refreshing. Don’t forget to ask for a slice of orange!
The aroma of fresh citrus fruits, especially grapefruit, can also be found in the flavour, along with a strong bitterness that makes you crave another sip.
Úlfur was the first Icelandic IPA (India Pale Ale) on the market. It’s of the same calibre as the best produced on the West Coast of the Unites States and surprised many Icelanders with its distinct flavour and aroma. Only American hops are used in the beer and the hops are added when boiled and after fermentation, a so called “dry hopping” technique. Icelanders took to the beer immediately and it has helped clear the way for smaller breweries to try new things.
Lava is a pitch black Ale, with its colour coming from dark-roasted malt, burnt in a similar way as coffee beans.
The brew master’s goal was to create a distinctive beer and the result was a beer that is unique in the Icelandic beer scene and quite possibly globally as well. Lava is like a good wine – it improves with age, reaching optimal quality after 3 years of storage in a cold place. Lava is a very smoked Imperial Stout, and considered by beer connoisseurs as one of the best Icelandic beers. It has received many international awards, including a gold medal at the “United States Open Beer Championship” – where it competed against over 1650 beers. Lava is available at the bigger liquor stores as well as on draught at speciality beer bars such as MicroBar.
Gæðingur Pale Ale
The Pale Ale from Gæðingur is a mixture of American and British Pale Ale. It’s ABV is quite low, at 4,5%, but it has the body of a much bigger beer. Bitterness and hops describe it aptly.
Gæðingur Pale Ale is unfiltered, so it has some residue at the bottom of the bottle. The Pale Ale is the beer that cemented Gæðingur as a quality Microbrewery and is available at most liquor stores, as well as on draught at beer bars.
This is the first Icelandic summer beer, a Belgian style White Ale spiced up with coriander and orange peel. This beer is only available for limited time from first day of summer until end of July. It can be found in Vinbudin (monopoly stores) and on draught in the special bars in down town Reykjavik.
PáskaBock is a German Bock style beer with Munich malt as base malt, adding caramel and chocolate malt for enhanced sweetness. It has dark brown colour and taste of sweet caramel, smooth fullness, chocolate and long aftertaste. Has been ranked highest in most of blind tastings in Iceland since first introduced.
Víking Páskabjór is the most popular Easter beer in Iceland. This Dunkel style beer was first produced in 1990. It is different from many otherdark lager beers due to the fact that the 3 types of dark malt have bigger role then the hops. The beer has good filling, medium bitterness and roasty tones with distinct flavor of chocolate, coffee and caramel.
Víking Christmas Beer
Víking Christmas beer has been the best seller in Iceland for many years. This Marzen Vienna style beer was first introduced in 1990. It has golden amber colour and taste notes of malt, burnt sugar and caramel. The brewing takes longer time due to low heat secondary fermentation after main fermentation is finished. Due to this method the beer has better balance and body.
JólaBock is a traditional Bock style beer brewed primarily with Munich malt. It has dark red-brown color with rich malt flavor and hint of caramel and chocolate aftertaste. Has been ranked one of the best Christmas beer available in Iceland since introduced. You should be able to find JólaBock on draught in special beer bars in Iceland and all better bars should have it available in bottles. A Christmas spirit in a bottle.
This limited-edition winter brew is worth the wait. Malted barley and chocolate tones define the traditional style, while the robust aroma and long, mellow finish will make this the perfect companion for your holiday adventures. Einstök DoppelBock is the seasonal beer from this unique brewery in Iceland which is now the biggest exporter of speciality beer from the country. You should also be able to find this specialty beer in UK and USA along with the other three variants from Einstök; White Ale, Pale Ale and Toasted Porter.