18 May 2009

Beer Diary #14 - Mike - A Crash Course In Icelandic (Craft?) Beer

When traveling through Iceland (at least up the Ring Road from Reykjavík to Akureyri), you won't notice any beer advertisements - really you won't notice much of any advertisement. But roll through any of the towns or cities along the way, and you'll see bars featuring outside advertisement for beers from Viking, Turborg, Guinness, and Gull.

We've tried those beers, and found them all pretty forgettable (think "American Lager"). When we stumbled across a liquor store in Akureyri (Iceland's "Cultural Center"), I stepped inside to see what other Icelandic options were available.

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Jokull Bjor - Nose of grapes, with a hint of grain, and maybe a little malt. Not much going on here, and I've drank less-clear water. Basically your typical American lager. Except made in Iceland. 5% ABV. 261 Kronur/$2.03.

Olvishold Brugghus Skjalfti - Surprise! A little bit of floral hop in the nose, a slightly darker than water body, and... it's an American Pale Ale! Not a particularly great APA, but there's a little something going on here to keep you interested. Definitely a step up. 5% ABV. 270 Kronur/$2.10.

Gullfoss - Grainy/skunky nose, a sweet malty flavor, a little bit fuller than the Jokull Bjor, but a very similar beer. My friend said it reminded him of the skunkiness of Red Stripe - a beer I'm not familiar with. I'd say it's just another clear Icelandic lager. 5% ABV. 279 Kronur/$2.17.

Kaldi - Apparently (from what I've read), Kaldi is produced by Iceland's first microbrewery. A golden colored body supports a tiny bit of head. The nose is a hint of banana, but there's a bitter element in addition to the banana in the front - maybe a little peppery - and perhaps a hint of the sulfur that comes out in any water out of an Icelandic tap. This one's got a little more character than the Gullfoss and Jokull Bjor, and that's definitely a good thing. 5% ABV. 277 Kronur/$2.15.

Olvisholt Brugghus Mori - A dark copper color, with a bit of lacing, even on my plastic tasting glass. Nose of butterscotch, and a nice full body and flavor... one we had a hard time pinpointing. Maybe there's a little chocolate there. Light Tootsie Roll, maybe? Balanced with a hop element - this makes for a decent American-style Amber. The one beeradvocate review is pretty dead on, apart from the A- score... I'd say it's a solid B. 5.5% ABV. 391 Kronur/$3.04.

Islenskur Urvals Stout (Viking Olgerd Akureyri) - Hard to say what part of the words on the label are the brewery - but the word "stout" is the only one that really matters. A deeeep dark brown color, nose of smoke and bbq sauce, a hint of coffee - and a flavor that follows the nose. Same roasty elements, with a tiny hint of chocolate, and maybe a little coconut in the finish. Light bodied. I've had enough beer, even in four ounce samples. 282 Kronur/$2.19.

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So if you find yourself in Iceland, you've got at least three fair beer options: Olvishold Brugghus Skjalfti, Olvisholt Brugghus Mori, and Islenskur Urvals Stout. All three have enough character to keep your craft beer palate occupied.

And if you find yourself in Akureyri, a word of advice: Watch out for parking tickets. Better yet, just keep going. There's plenty to see in Iceland, and I'd say Akureyri ain't it.

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Want more info on Icelandic Beer? We've got an interview with brewer Valgeir Valgeirsson of Ölvisholt Brugghús on the other side of this link.


  1. We were going to post something like this about our time in Germany. Instead we tried all 10 breweries in Bamberg and all the Oktoberfest breweries in Munich.

    I think I need to stick to wine coolers for a few days.

  2. I was in Iceland in May as well and discovered the Mori and another great beer from Ölvisholt Brugghús, the Lava. It was terrific.

  3. I had Lava while in Reykjavik, and I'll agree that it's pretty great. Hopefully you saw our interview with Valgeir Valgeirsson of Ölvisholt Brugghús?