Last autumn we had a Scandinavian holiday and spent time in Copenhagen, Stockholm and Iceland. Being a very lazy blogger, I’ve so far only got round to posting about the Danish part of our holiday (although I have had a half-finished Sweden post saved in my drafts for months!) but with the opening of the glorious Mikkeller in Reykjavik, now seems a good time to blog about some of Iceland’s other beery delights.
Iceland’s beer scene isn’t as developed as some other countries (well, beer was banned until 1989 so they’ve got some catching up to do) but there are a number of breweries and a decent number of bars especially in Reykjavik. There’s also an Icelandic beers badge on Untappd (the delightfully named Brew Lagoon).
The most well-known Icelandic brewery outside of the island is probably Einstok – some of their beers are usually available in Booths.
We spent a few days in Reykjavik then hired a car and drove the south of the island to Vik, before heading back to the airport via the Blue Lagoon. Here are some of my recommendations for places you should visit in Iceland for beer:
A good place to start, because this is where most visitors will arrive. It’s about 40 minutes away from Reykjavik (the capital does have its own airport but it’s mainly for domestic flights) and there are frequent bus services. But the most important thing to note is the duty free shop. It is also tax free, so prices can be about 15% cheaper than anywhere else on the island. The shops are on both sides – when we landed the shop at arrivals was full of Icelanders stocking up. and we got some to drink in the hotel (Einstok Arctic Berry Ale, it was lovely). Not beer-related but another useful tip – if you go to the Blue Lagoon (more on than that later), they have a large shop at departures selling the products which are on sale at the Lagoon’s gift shop but at a much cheaper price.
Alcohol is not on sale in regular shops, you can only buy it at the state-owned off licence chain Vinbudin. It has about 50 shops across the island. We didn’t go to any during our visit – we didn’t spot any when we were in Reykjavik and although we spotted one while we were driving through a town (I can’t remember which one), it had very limited opening hours, so I’d recommend buying beer at the airport if you’re not planning on going out too much.
Micro Bar was our drinking establishment of choice while we were in Reykjavik.
It’s located within a hotel, so has a mix of clientele and definitely had the best selection out of all the places we visited. It has a number of beers on keg, as well as a huge list of bottles – but be prepared to pay for it!
Prices for the keg options weren’t too bad but some of the bottles were on the steep side so we stayed away from these. The draught beers seemed to change quite regularly so if you’re in the city for a fair amount of time there should be something new for you to try. They also do flights if you’re keen to sample everything.
This was the first venue we visited in Reykjavik and we had dinner here on the first evening. The bar itself is quite large with plenty of seating, and the majority of the visitors seemed to be locals.
It had Einstok, Viking and Thule on draught – these are the three brands which pop up pretty much anywhere you are. Viking and Thule are OK, but I definitely prefer Einstok. And while we were there, it was happy hour and it was two for one on pints. I’ve just had a look at the prices on their website, it’s about £4.80 for a pint normally, so can’t complain for the price!
The food was excellent too – I can’t remember what he had, but here’s Ross’:
And I went for fish and chips (excuse the blurry pic!):
Ölstofa Kormáks og Skjaldar
Located on a little side street off a street with many bars/cafes, this is a cosy little spot. It’s known for Brio, its own beer which has scooped a number of prizes – although I didn’t try it (I went for a wheat beer by Borg Brugghús instead). It seems more the type of places where locals would drink rather than tourists, and had the vibe of being more of a community place instead of a cool craft bar.
I’ve got to mention the Blue Lagoon. The guidebooks say it’s touristy, and it is, but we both enjoyed ourselves while there. It did wonders for my ezcema and it was lovely to swim round in the warm water (it was raining while we were there, but this didn’t detract from our enjoyable – in fact it made it a bit better because it was noticeably quieter). You’re given a wristband which is used to open and close your locker and to pay for anything while you’re in there. This is particularly useful as there is a bar in the water! It’s not got a huge range, but there is beer which is nice. There’s something very satisfying about enjoying a pint while relaxing in warm water. Two non-beer tips – 1. you can buy face masks at the bar but there are tubs of it for free around the lagoon and 2. you can take phones/cameras in with you but it just means you’ll have to keep one arm up in the air, so don’t bother!
We decided to do the Blue Lagoon at the end of our trip, and is it in the middle of nowhere. The town of Grindavik is about a 10 minute drive away (we found it as we needed to put fuel in the hire car before returning it), and the Blue Lagoon does have a hotel. But there is also the Northern Light Inn which is about a 3 minute drive away from the lagoon. We stayed here and loved it! It’s got a restaurant and honesty bar so you can get some decent booze (bottles of Einstok and wine mainly), and also provides useful services including free transfers to the Blue Lagoon and the airport as well as a Northern Lights wake up call. It wasn’t cheap but our hire car company (Blue Car Rental) gave us the option of returning the car at the Blue Lagoon so the free airport transfer made it a good deal for us.
So there are some of my tips for enjoying Iceland if you’re a beer lover. It’s by no means an exhaustive list but I hope it helps someone out! Before we visited, I didn’t know what to expect from the beer scene in Iceland – especially after being spoiled by Copenhagen. But there are some very good bars and amazing beer (the lovely water probably helps) so although it can be a bit pricey, it’s definitely worth it. As proof of this, we’re planning on going back this year to see more of the island and obviously visit the new Mikkeller bar!
To finish off, here’s an image of one of the most fantastic places we visited – Jökulsárlón. It had a real ethereal feel to it and is somewhere that really has to be seen to be believed!