Iceland may not be known for its craft beer, but the country’s selection continues to grow, giving visitors and locals dozens of options for delicious Scandinavian brews.
Whether it’s toasting with bottles under the Northern Lights or enjoying the taps at a Reykjavik bar, the beer scene is alive, well and delicious throughout Iceland. But that wasn’t always the case.
From 1915 to 1989, it was illegal to serve full-strength beer in Iceland. Prohibition laws restricted the sale of real, authentic beer for more than 70 years.
Can you imagine?
No stouts. No IPAs. No porters. No (insert shudder) hefeweizens or wheats.
That’s why, when beer was legalized on March 1, 1989, Icelanders far and wide cracked open a brew to join in the celebration. Dubbed “beer day,” March 1 remains a national holiday that (as you can imagine) continues to be widely celebrated.
So, now that the country has embraced hops and malts, what’s the beer scene like in Iceland?
It’s steadily growing, which is impressive given its late start.
If you’re traveling to Reykjavik, Akureyri or other parts of the country, here’s how you can enjoy Iceland’s up-and-coming (and delicious!) craft beer scene.
Mikkeller and Friends has a variety of Scandinavian and international beers, including some of their own concoctions. Expect a relaxed vibe and some great conversation with the bartenders and fellow beer lovers.
Skuli Craft Bar is a bit fancier than Mikkeller, but still offers an array of craft beers, including several from Iceland.
Micro Bar is more of a hole in the wall (well, in this case, basement). It has a laid-back vibe, with board games, 15 to 20 craft beers and build-your-own flights for checking out the local brews.
Akureyri Backpackers is a hostel, restaurant, tourism office, café and – most importantly – a bar. Since Akureyri is on the smaller side (which is why I love it!), Akureyri Backpackers has become the place to be, be seen and drink beer. The brews aren’t on par with bars in Reykjavik, but you can still find some local and European craft beers on draft and in bottles.
Road tripping across Iceland:
We spent most of our Icelandic vacation road tripping across the country. As you can imagine, the roads are pretty isolated once you get off the Golden Circle (again, why I love it!). But that doesn’t mean you should throw your beer hopes out the window.
Surprisingly, most gas stations throughout Iceland offer a small selection of local craft beers, not to mention decent food. Don’t worry, we didn’t drink while driving; we enjoyed our delicious bottles while gazing up at the stars and, for a few lucky minutes, the Northern Lights.
If you’re looking for a brewery-packed beer trip, Iceland’s not the place for you. The beer scene is modest compared to Belgium or Germany. But little by little, the land of fire and ice is catching up with the international beer craze, so now is as good a time as ever to head over and be part of the movement!