Despite Iceland’s rocky relationship with alcohol in the last century, a strong brewing culture has arisen. For one thing, Iceland has many of the necessary ingredients to brew beer, and they’re of the highest quality.
Apparently, the decades-long ban on beer in the country didn’t dampen the locals’ liking for the drink. If anything, it may have increased it. Let’s take a look at breweries in Iceland and where you can see some for yourself.
How many Breweries are there in Iceland?
There are thirty breweries in Iceland; that’s a lot for an island with less than half a million people. Amazingly, all of these microbreweries have been established from 2006 onwards.
Beer with a 2.25%+ alcohol content was banned in Iceland for 74 years, with the ban ending in 1989. The restriction was lifted on the 1st of March, so this day is now known as “Beer Day” in the country. Undoubtedly, Icelandic beer was being made during this time, but only in underground operations. Now that it’s legal and there’s a market for locally produced beer, craft breweries have sprung up across the country.
Beer is actually the most-consumed alcoholic drink in Iceland, so the breweries are definitely not short of customers. Let’s take a look at some of the best breweries in Iceland you can visit for yourself.
Top Iceland Breweries and taprooms
Other than at the breweries themselves and bars, you can only buy beer from select stores in Iceland. The government controls the sale of alcohol and runs the chain known as Vínbúðin. These beer stores can be found in every town around the country. The legal drinking age in Iceland is 20, so you must be at least 20 to join a brewery tour.
1. Bruggsmiðjan Kaldi
This was Iceland’s first microbrewery, opened in 2006 by a husband and wife in Árskógssandur, north Iceland. The first beer they produced, Kaldi Blonde, is the best-selling bottled beer in the country. Árskógssandur is far from any big settlements, with pure water to brew with. Their closest big town is Akureyri, 35 km to the south.
If you’re driving with your rental car along the north coast, a visit to this village is not to be missed. For ISK 2000 per person, you can tour the Kaldi brewery and learn its backstory. You’ll get to taste many of their beers and can take your Kaldi beer glass home with you. Kaldi is regarded as one of the best craft beers in Iceland.
This Icelandic brewery is located near Selfoss in the south of Iceland, about 85 km from Reykjavík. What started out as a farm developed into a microbrewery in 2007, when two farmers decided to change everything.
They sell both year-round beers and seasonal beers, many of which are named after figures from Norse mythology. For ISK 3500, you can take a tour of their famous brewery. You will be shown the brewing process and, of course, have the option to sample some beers. Ölvisholt run their tours on Friday evenings; you can find booking information here.
This brewery is found in Hveragerði, 45 km from the capital. They’re famous for using geothermal energy to power their brewery, and for their fantastic pizzas. While you’re there, you can combine a pizza feast with a brewery tour, so you’re full of knowledge and food. Book yourself onto a tour here.
You’ll have the chance to taste four of their beers on the tour and learn how they started in 2017. This small town is actually located on the Golden Circle, Iceland’s most famous road trip route.
4. Einstök Brewer’s Lounge
While this is not the brewer’s brewery itself, it’s still a spot where you can sample and learn. Einstök is Iceland’s number one craft beer, brewed in Akureyri in north Iceland. Their ales are very popular, and many contain chocolate malt or Icelandic roots and berries. In their Brewer’s Lounge, you can discover more about the ingredients, their origins, and how they combine into Einstök. Visit Einstok official site to find the Lounge when you’re passing through Akureyri.
5. Kex Brewing
Kex is a hostel/bar downtown, and is one of the more well-known breweries in Reykjavík. While it’s not possible to visit their brewery, you can sample their beers by visiting the hostel.
The Kex Brewing group hosts the Icelandic Beer Festival, which takes place every year at the end of February. The festival began in 2012 and generally runs for four days. It’s grown to be about much more than beer; there’s live music and food is served that compliments the drinks. Of course, you can also sample the beer of all the breweries that take part.
If you’re in Iceland in February, check out the festival and celebrate the legalization of beer with the locals. Unfortunately, the festival has not run for the last two years, but things are looking positive for 2022.
6.The Beer Spa
This is a unique experience: a beer bath! In north Iceland, in the small community of Árskógssandur, you will find Bjórböðin, where you can bathe in hot beer. This might sound unusual, but it actually has many health benefits, including cleansing both the hair and skin.
The “bathwater” is a mixture of beer, water, hops and yeast, but bathing in it won’t make you drunk. Each of the seven baths are in a private room, and they’re large enough for two people. You can either go on your own or with a partner; note, the beer in the bath is not drinkable. There is, however, a beer draft next to every tub to supply you with beer while you bathe. You’ll be allotted 25 minutes in the wooden tub, after which you’ll move to a relaxation room for 25 minutes. There aren’t many places in the world you can try this, so why not do it while you’re in Iceland?
Icelandic beer tasting experience
Breweries in Iceland are now very much a part of the country's culture, and it continues to grow in popularity. Most locals prefer to buy beer that is locally produced rather than imported beer. Additionally, tourists are always keen to sample local cuisine. Take a few brewery tours on your road trip around Iceland and find your favorite Icelandic beer!