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A Guide to Icelandic Craft Brews

Okay, I’ll come clean! I’m a craft beer snob. This confession is precisely why I needed to share a guide to Iceland craft beer with you. Ahh, that feels good to say out loud!

How crazy does this sound? Beer containing more than 2.25% alcohol by volume (ABV) has only been legal in Iceland for 30 years. 30 years. We’re talking 1989, people!

A ban on all alcohol was instituted in 1915 and over the years was lifted for spirits. But it wasn’t until March 1, 1989 that beer could be brewed and sold in Iceland (if it was higher than 2.25% ABV).  

In recent years the Iceland craft beer scene has exploded. Though not a complete guide with every beer or brewery in the country (yet), it is sure to make you very, very hoppy. 

Full disclosure: I needed help to write this post. Fortunately my husband is crazy about beer, so he proof-read this post to ensure I didn’t incorrectly describe styles. Oh, and he took notes like a champ on Untappd during our travels, because #priorities.

REYKJAVIK 

BORG BRUGGHÚS

Borg Brugghús, established in 2010, styles itself as a “progressive craft brewery.” Borg is one of the most widely available craft beer and a variety can be found in cans and bottles at duty-free. On our first trip to Iceland we were introduced to their beers when we took in a few hours at Skúli Craft Bar in Reykjavik.  Many of their beers incorporate traditional Icelandic cultural traits (such as being smoked over sheep’s’ dung).  

LADY BREWERY

The signature micro-brew of Lady Brewery, First Lady is a light-colored IPA. It’s easy to drink, light, and holds a citrusy, floral aroma.  This brew will not disappoint.

Also, I dare you read this story about the brewery in the Reykjavik Grapevine and not fall in love with these beer witches.  I felt empowered from simply reading about the brewery’s start by a pair of intrepid women. First Lady is an IPA you want to seek out in Iceland and it’s certainly a game of hide and seek. We found First Lady in Egilsstaðir at the Askur Taproom.  

First Lady is “I” in the flight from Askur Taproom

MALBYGG

If you are a lover of New England style pale ales, you should wet your lips with Kisi from Malbygg. Juicy hop flavors intoxicate your palette. You’ll be so enamored with its smooth mouth feel and no bitter aftertaste, that before you know it you’ll reach the bottom of the glass and want more.

WEST FJORDS

DOKKAN BRUGGHÚS –  ÍSAFJÖRÐUR

One of the newest breweries in Iceland is located in the de-facto capital of the West Fjords, Ísafjörður.  We were so excited to try the Dokkan Pale Ale at the cozy cafe, Húsið. At 5.1%, the beer was a fantastic and easy drinker. Its golden-yellow color paired excellent with their pizza and fish soup. The pale ale was not overly citrusy and maintained a slight bitterness.  We were disappointed that we didn’t have as more time in Ísafjörður and were unable to visit the newly open brew house.  Hope you are able to check it out and try their new brews

RELATED: West Fjords Travel Guide

EAST ICELAND

AUSTRI BRUGGHÚS – EGILSSTAÐIR

Austri is a brewery that you need to visit when you travel to Iceland. This Egilsstaðir brewery prides itself on the ways in which it focuses on “local.” Many of the additional flavoring ingredients are local (such as the wasabi and pine needles). Also, the beers are named for mountains in the eastern region.  So cool!

Inside the brewery is the Askur Taproom.  Completely unassuming, the taproom is situated in a small “strip mall” with an auto part store next door. It’s around the corner from the road that you would take if you are hopping off Ring Road to visit the quaint town of Seyðisfjörður and its iconic light blue church. The small, but lively space is not only occupied by taps of Austri and other Icelandic brews, but its brewmaster, Friðrik.

Thank you Friðrik for showing my husband around. If our trip to Iceland had sucked this moment would have salvaged it. Instead, this moment reigns supreme in a mountain of amazing memories.

BELJANDI BRUGGHÚS – BREIÐDALSVÍK

Looking for another brewery in East Iceland?  Follow the road to fishing village of Breiðdalsvík, where you can enjoy four on tap in the old slaughterhouse.  Spadi, an American IPA comes in at 6% alcohol. This strong citrus and hoppy brew boasts a straw yellow color, and flows down smooth.  If you are looking for a damn good beer, look no further.  We think it’s best enjoyed on the brugghús patio, overlooking the water while you are engaged in conversation with locals.  And if you get hungry, pop over to the hotel across the street and get some traditional lamb strew to go. You don’t want to miss the experience of listening to a range of eclectic folk music, while you savor these beers alongside savory Icelandic dishes, and laugh at your friends playing pool. 

SOUTH

ÖLVISHOLT BRUGGHÚS – SELFOSS

This microbrewery, located near Selfoss on an old dairy farm, has been crafting beer recipes since 2007. Lava Smoked Imperial Stout stands out amongst the brewery’s offerings, gaining inspiration from Hekla, a fiery volcano that can be seen from the brew house. This full-bodied, pitch black beer conjures up images of cooled lava rocks that populate the island.  With a roasted malt, the aroma of smoke and chocolate is strong with a slight sweetness. Unlike many smoked stouts, Lava will not leave you wishing your head was catching water from Seljalandsfoss.

BREWERIES WE MISSED (BUT YOU SHOULDN’T)

REYKJAVIK

NORTH

SOUTH

WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT BEER IN ICELAND

Skál!

Have a beer lover in your life? Maybe it’s even you! Pin this post so you can plan accordingly on your way to taste your way through Iceland craft beer.

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