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Icelandic Beer: Our Tastiest Drops

Very few people know how much Icelanders love beer, and that brewing beer has become a much-loved craft here on the island. And it’s not just us locals who love Icelandic beer – you can find our craft beers all across the world today (quite a feat for such a small island).

But whether you just want to taste our various Icelandic beer brands, or actually want to get to know the ins and outs of production by visiting our Iceland breweries – we have those options for you.

Icelandic beer

Beer Culture in Iceland

Although Icelanders absolutely love beer, they are not big drinkers. This is mostly due to the cost of alcohol here on the island. So, even though statistics are showing some extreme increases in alcohol consumption over the past few years, it’s generally believed that it has a lot to do with the increase in visitors to the island. Whereas a total of 4.24 liters of beer were consumed in 2016, it had already increased to 76.02 liters in 2020 and is projected to reach a staggering 27,000 metric tons by 2026.

But whether you believe that the Icelanders are single-handedly responsible for this massive increase or whether the tourists are giving them a good run for their money (quite literally at these prices), beer still dominates the overall alcohol sales here on the island, accounting for more than 77% of all alcohol sales in Iceland. Taking all this into account (whether you are a local or a visitor), there are plenty of beer-themed activities to take on here in Iceland that don’t just consist of drinking:

The Beer Tölt

You can challenge friends and family to a beer tölt. For those who don’t know, the island boasts its own breed of horse called the Icelandic Horse (very original, we know). These horses can perform an extra gait referred to as the tölt.

The tölt is said to be such a smooth ride, since the horse always has one hoof on the ground, that it has inspired a “dare” here on the island. Cue the beer tölt! During a beer tölt, the rider is given a pint of beer and must perform the tölt without spilling a drop.

The Beer Spa

No, this is not a joke – we actually have a beer spa in Iceland. And here, those dreams of you lying in a huge tub of beer can actually come true. A relaxing soak in the beer bath in Iceland is a literal treatment offered here at the beer spa.

But it’s not all just wishful thinking that breathed the beer spa into existence. The various elements of beer such as yeast and hobs, as well as the nutrients found in beer, have actually been proven to benefit one in a variety of ways:

  • It adds a nice gloss to your hair and makes it stronger and healthier.

  • It has skin rejuvenation as a result.

  • It reduces overall stress.

  • It improves circulation.

  • It brings relief to all sorts of back and joint pains.

  • It results in detoxification.

History of Icelandic Beer

But why is beer in Iceland so popular? Well, you appreciate something more after you haven’t had it for a while. What many don’t know is that it was not just the US that faced a season of “drought” due to prohibition. Iceland had to deal with its own prohibition era, which essentially made beer practically non-existent here on the island for most of the 20th century.

This is incredibly surprising (or is it more understandable?) since before that beer was absolutely flowing in local taverns ever since the first Norsemen (aka Vikings) started making and drinking this beverage of the gods.

Icelandic beer brands

Unlike the US, Iceland’s prohibition also doesn’t lie so far back in the past. In fact, the ban was only officially lifted in 1989! The day that the ban was officially lifted is now also celebrated all across the country annually. Iceland’s National Beer Day falls on the 1st of March and gives Germany’s Oktoberfest a good go.

All You Need to Know to Plan a Beer Vacation in Iceland

Planning on diving in head-first with a full-blown beer vacation in Iceland? Or just want to add a few popular beer activities to your trip itinerary? Well, here are a few things you should know:

How Much is a Beer in Iceland?

The cost of beer in Iceland is still relatively low compared to other liquor options on the island. The price of a 500 ml pint of beer in Iceland can range from $7 to $12 depending on the local brew. This is, of course, assuming that you’re drinking at one of the local hangouts. If you just want to keep a couple of beers in the fridge, you’re looking at paying between $3 and $5 per 500 ml beer.

How Does One Save Money on Nights Out in Iceland?

Both locals and visitors use the same tricks of the trade when it comes to saving money on a night out. Firstly, Icelandic people are pros when it comes to the pre-drinking game. Most get together at someone’s house to enjoy the first couple of rounds to keep the costs of drinks during the night out down.

Secondly, Icelanders have happy hours almost diarized. Why pay full price if you can get discounted rates simply by going drinking at a specific place at a specific time?

 most popular beer in iceland

How Do Icelanders Deal with Drinking and Driving?

Very, very harshly is the answer. Driving rules in general are taken extremely seriously here on the island, and any violation of the laws of the road will not be tolerated. So, if you intend to have more than one beer, either go out nearby or grab a taxi. Or simply stick to the home, and turn the pre-drinking session into the main event.

What is the Legal Drinking Age in Iceland?

20. If you are under the age of 20, you are not allowed to buy alcohol of any kind here on the island. Whether it’s at a restaurant, a bar, or at the local liquor store, you will be breaking the law if you buy alcohol if you are under 20 years of age (irrespective of what the laws in your home country may state).

Where Can You Buy Beer in Iceland?

You’ll need to pop into shops called Vinbudin to get your hands on the good stuff. Vinbudin is essentially government-run liquor stores. Alternatively, as we’ve already discussed, you can opt to go to your nearest restaurant, bar, or club to enjoy a drink or two.

Alcohol sales work a little differently to most other places in the world, so you might be in for a bit of a surprise when visiting the island. Places such as the grocery store and other retail outlets are not legally allowed to sell alcohol. You might sometimes find what looks like beer in the grocery store, but it’s not the real deal.

It has an incredibly low alcohol content and many say they actually prefer the taste of a completely non-alcoholic beer compared to these beer abominations. In Iceland, the government is in charge of all alcohol sales.


Can You Buy Beer at Any Time of the Day in Iceland?

You will be able to buy beer at local restaurants, bars, etc. all throughout their operating hours (sometimes till the early morning hours). But if you’d like to buy a couple of beers to keep in the fridge, you’ll need to pop around to the Vinbudin which is generally open from 11:00 to 18:00, Monday to Saturday (but this is in the bigger cities such as Reykjavik).

If you find yourself in smaller towns in the more remote regions of Iceland, you could be looking at a much smaller operating hour window of between 16:00 and 18:00. Irrespective of where you are in the country, no Vinbudin will be open on a Sunday.

The Best Icelandic Beer Brands

Below are some of our most popular beers in Iceland:

Gull Beer

Gull beer in Iceland is one of the oldest beer brands here on the island, operating ever since the beer ban was officially lifted on the 1st of March 1989! Using locally-grown barley and our pure Icelandic water, Gull beer is brewed from pilsner malt in a similar style as pale Munich lagers.

Viking Beer

Viking beer in Iceland is another popular beer on the island and comes in a variety of tasty beer forms such as ales, lagers, and stout. Another reason why Viking Beer and the brewery are so popular is because of the instantly recognizable logo, which makes for pretty epic beer glasses. Collectors from all around the world have been known to search for Viking beer glasses in Iceland.

Einstok Beer

Einstok is another top pick when it comes to beers here on the island, and is renowned for its high-quality production. We’d highly recommend that you try any of their 4 ales; Arctic Pale Ale, Wee Heavy (inspired by Scotland), the White Ale, and the Toasted Porter. Einstok is also famous for its seasonal beers, so be sure to grab them whilst you can, since they usually have limited stock available for a very limited time.

Kaldi Beer

Kaldi beer is also an Icelandic favorite. So much so that the Kaldi Blonde is the most popular beer in Iceland. It is an Icelandic ale that’s made from a roasted malt that goes down smooth with that satisfying bitter finish.

Lava Beer

Lava beer is one of the beers most aptly named when it comes to the Land of Fire and Ice. This is a stout from the popular Olvisholt brewery here on the island, and what makes this beer even more special is that it’s the beer most exported and well-known beyond the Icelandic borders.

The Top 5 Breweries in Iceland

If you would like to visit a brewery in Iceland, the following breweries are renowned here in Iceland:

RVK Brewing Company

RVK Brewing Company is one of our popular Reykjavik breweries and offers up a wide and interesting variety of this much-loved beverage. Here you can purchase anything from an Icelandic IPA and lager to fruit-infused beers and milkshake/beer combos.


Brewdog is not just another one of the Reykjavik breweries that makes all sorts of delicious craft beers, but it’s also a restaurant where you can sit down and enjoy whatever the brewery comes up with along with some delicious Icelandic food. It’s become quite a popular spot and was even awarded the Traveler’s Choice Award in 2020.

Viking Brewery

Why just buy Viking beer when you can visit the very place it’s made? The entrance of Viking Brewery is pretty famous for its gigantic, 2-story, golden beer can that welcomes visitors in to taste Viking Brewery’s variety of ales, lagers, and stouts.

Olvisholt Brewery

Olvisholt Brewery prides itself on its high-quality ingredients and high-quality production. In the brewery’s tasting room, you can experience first-hand why this brand is so beloved here on the island. Just remember to taste their most popular beer brand; Lava beer.

Lady Brewery

Lady Brewery is very special. Not just is this microbrewery’s passion for their craft tangible, but because it’s Iceland’s first lady-run brewery, clearly an underdog of the industry, not just rising to the challenge, but raising the standards of beer here on the island. Lady Brewery’s FIRST LADY IPA is an absolute must-try during your trip.

Icelandic Beer Outside Iceland

As we already mentioned, there are a few beer brands that have already made their way “across the pond” such as Lava Beer. But how else can you get your hands on your new-found favorite Icelandic beer once back home? Well, you can try joining a local beer club. These guys usually give you the opportunity to sample and order beers from across the world and is one way of having your favorite Icelandic beer in the UK for example.

You can also try shopping at a boutique liquor shop that sometimes stocks interesting and popular beers from all over the world. For example, if you’re wondering where to buy Icelandic beer in the USA, a boutique liquor shop such as KOLN Boutique Beer is a good option.

But whether you are in the UK, the US, or any other part of Europe, the easiest and probably the simplest way to find and buy your favorite Icelandic beer is to simply hit your browser, look it up, and buy it online from either the brewery itself or another trusted retailer.

Icelandic Beer; Beers Crossing Borders

We have merely touched on the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Icelandic beer. In this article, we’ve just mentioned the most popular Icelandic beer brands and Iceland breweries, but there are plenty more to discover, and many hidden gems such as Fridheimar that may not be a big-time beer brand, or have a massive brewery, but has the most interesting and tasty tomato beer in Iceland!

So, why not rent a car in Iceland during your trip to the island, and go pick up a few of your favorite Icelandic beers to take home to family and friends? Our beers have already been crossing the borders due to their popularity, so why not spread the word and share the love (of beer, of course).

FAQs about Icelandic beer

What are the most popular Icelandic beers?

The most popular beers in Iceland are Kaldi Blonde, Einstök White Ale, Lava Beer, Skyr Beer, Víking Beer.

What are some of the unique characteristics of Icelandic beer?

Icelandic beer is known for its clean, crisp taste. This is due to the fact that the water used to brew Icelandic beer is very pure. Icelandic beer is also known for its use of local ingredients, such as skyr and smoked malt.

What are some of the best pairings for Icelandic beer?

Icelandic beer can be paired with a variety of foods. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Kaldi Blonde: This beer pairs well with seafood, such as fish and shellfish.

  • Einstök White Ale: This beer pairs well with light fare, such as salads and sandwiches.

  • Lava Beer: This beer pairs well with hearty dishes, such as stews and roasted meats.

  • Skyr Beer: This beer pairs well with desserts, such as ice cream and cheesecake.



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