December is a time to celebrate, not just spending time with your family and wishing for peace on earth. It is also the Christmas beer season which many Icelanders wait for in anticipation.
Since the beer was allowed in Iceland on 1. March 1989, Icelanders have embraced the golden beverage. But that does not mean they were beer connoisseurs, oh no. It was not until 2006 the first craft-brewery was established in Iceland. However, Icelanders are known for being quick to adopt the newest trends, and there are 21 craft breweries all over the country.
How many Christmas beers are there?
The only place to buy regular beer is in the state-run liquor store Vínbúðin. The beers in regular supermarkets are all below 2,25%. On the liquor store’s website, you can find 112 Christmas beer entries, and 81 of them are from Iceland. That means it is almost a full-time job to try them all!
This year, the most interesting beer is most definitely the ORA jólabjór from RVK Brewery. ORA is an Icelandic food company specialising in canned goods, including green peas and red cabbage, which is essential with hangikjöt (smoked lamb) and glazed ham during Christmas. For many, it must be from ORA. Otherwise, it is not Christmas (think the canned cranberry sauce with your Thanksgiving dinner).
The taste of the ORA jólabjór is definitely an acquired taste and not for everyone. But you can find everything from Christmas Ales to Stouts to IPAs and lagers on the list of Icelandic Christmas beers. Jólakisi by Malbygg is a good IPA to try as well as Þriðji í jólum Belgian tripel from Böl. For a more traditional lager, you can try JólaGull. However, the most fun is the Egils Malt Jólabjór which you can blend with Appelsín to get a grown-up version of the typical Icelandic Christmas beverage (malt og appelsín)
With this large selection of Icelandic Christmas beers to choose from (and all the other beers as well!), we won’t fault you for not knowing where to begin. But we know where you can start; our Reykjavík Beer Tour and Bar Crawl. In it, we will visit three great bars in Reykjavík where you will get to taste 10 Icelandic craft beers (or five snaps) from all around Iceland.