Iceland is best known for its stunning landscapes, the Blue Lagoon, and opportunities to catch the northern lights; and while those are great reasons to visit, there is yet another less known reason-craft beer. Chances are you have never had a craft beer from Iceland. That’s probably because up until March 1989 beer could not be sold that was stronger than 2.2%, which meant not a lot of people brewed. Since that law was repealed, Iceland has seen an explosion of craft breweries. As promoters of local businesses and of course locally made products, especially craft beer we could not pass up the chance to check out the craft beer scene while we were there. Honestly, I can’t think of a better way to savor Iceland’s stunning landscapes than with tasting craft beer at the local breweries.
Spend your morning as we did driving along the scenic southern coast with stops at world-famous landmarks such as Seljalandanfoss, Skogafoss, and Dyrhólaey. After all that sightseeing you deserve a beer and lunch and there’s no place better to stop than at Smiðjan Brugghús, located in the quaint fishing town of Vik. The brewery serves a wide selection of their craft beer and food. A flight of 4 beers is 1500 Icelandic Krona and when we visited they had 8 options to choose from, ranging from Pale Ale to Stout. Both of us enjoyed the Gose-as sour beer aficionados this one was just what we were looking for.
The small brewery got busy after we arrived. Oddly enough many of the other patrons were there for lunch only, which says something about the quality of the food! The burgers were delicious and they even had a vegan option for Carrie.
After another day exploring the countryside, we stopped in at Ölvisholt Brugghús, a microbrewery located off a dirt road on a farm not far from the town of Selfoss. We had a little trouble locating the exact location, but with some friendly assistance, we found it. Ölvisholt has been around since 2007, which is a long time in the Iceland craft beer scene.
During our brief visit, there were only three options on draft (California Lager, Red Ale, and Porter) which you could have as a flight. Their other beers were available in bottle, of which they have a large selection. You’ll notice immediately the well-designed labels on the bottles, each type of beer with its own unique artistic style. If there’s an award for cool bottle labels it should easily go to Ölvisholt.
While the rustic brewery and tasting room are small in scale, the brewery produces one of the more popular beers, which can easily be found in restaurants, bars, and stores (Vínbúðin) across the country. Ölvisholt exports to the U.S.! Let us know if you’ve seen it available in a bar or store. One downside to the brewery is they don’t serve food, otherwise, it’s the perfect place to enjoy some tasty beer after a day of sightseeing.
Unable to explore more breweries, because we stayed in the south of Iceland and the majority are clustered around Reykjavik and the north of Iceland we did the next best thing and went to a local state-run alcohol shop, known in Icelandic as Vínbúðin. Lucky for us there was one in Hvolsvöllur the town closest to our cottage so we grabbed a selection of craft beer. The two advantages to shopping at a Vínbúðin is: (1) the beer is much cheaper than in bars and restaurants, like a lot cheaper, and (2) they sell single bottles and cans, meaning you can sample a wider selection. We took advantage of this and bought several beers including the popular Einstök (brewery located up north), Segull 67 (also located up north), Sumar Gull (Ölgerðin - Iceland’s oldest brewery located outside of Reykjavik, and Sólveig to enjoy from the comfort of our Airbnb in the middle of Iceland’s countryside. I was such a fan of Einstök (they use glacial waters to make their beer) that I bought a six-pack at the airport, which is a great place to stock up on some of Iceland’s most popular craft beers!
Iceland has undoubtedly become a popular destination and for good reason, but now we’ve given you another reason to visit. The island offers a vast range of craft beer with breweries dotted throughout the countryside, making perfect places to stop and sample some of their finest craft beer. If you are based in Reykjavik, you’ll find several options in and around the city. For those traveling further afield, the north offers a decent selection. Our next visit would definitely be to Iceland’s north.
All Photography by Carrie and Albert Bond