Sagas & Suds: Beers of Iceland

Iceland: a land of vast and unspoiled beauty, where the people are as rugged and sturdy as the land itself. First populated in the 9th century by the Norse, Iceland has always had a special fondness for fermented beverages; celebrating summer’s midnight sun and keeping warm during winter’s endless night.

I recently had the opportunity to take a trip to Reykjavik, Iceland for work and set out to sample and learn about as many Icelandic beers as I could get my hands on. There are actually quite a few breweries and beers native to Iceland, as the perfectly-pure, glacier-fed water is a boon to brewers worldwide. I’m focusing only on the beers I personally sampled, as there are far too many to list otherwise, and I’m including quotes from the breweries themselves, where possible. From seasonal craft ales to mass-produced light lagers, Iceland has something for everyone. Skál!

But before we begin, let’s get in the mood:

Ölvisholt Brugghús

Skjálfti – Euro Lager

Skjálfti Lager

A golden beer with light to medium body and a good balance between malt and hops. A hint of caramel and sweetness in the flavor and medium bitter finish. On the nose aroma hops are dominant, mainly citrus and pine notes, with a slight sweetness from the malts.

Skjálfti is fairly malty and has an interesting caramel flavor–almost like they started with a Vienna/Munich lager and added a bunch of crystal malt. Better than your standard mass lager.

Einstök Olgerđ

Icelandic Pale Ale – “American” Pale Ale

Einstok Pale Ale

American and Bavarian craft come together with the finest Icelandic water to create the Viking version of the Pale Ale, where robust hoppiness meets smooth malty undertones. Cascade hops give it the American character, while Northern Brewer hops add just enough bitterness to make this Ale refreshingly Icelandic.

My Icelandic friend was pretty excited about the Einstök Pale Ale, and with good reason: Einstök shows definite mastery over what is traditionally a very American style. Overall it’s a very nice pale with a good amount of malt and a very smooth bitter finish. You can taste the Cascade.


Kaldi – Pilsner

Kaldi lager

Kaldi beer, is brewed by Czech tradition since 1842. The aim of the beer was to create a meticulous beer with great taste in which the target would therefore only mature people. It is ýmilsegt that makes Cold separate and different from conventional beer. It is used only the best ingredients available. It was also chosen to have him as healthy as fresh as possible. Therefore, the Kaldi unpasteurized, no added sugar and no preservatives.

Pretty standard pilsner, Kaldi in Icelandic means “cold one.” I imagine it’s Strong Bad’s favorite.

Borg Brugghús

Snorri – Icelandic Common

Snorri Nr. 10

Snorri’s national beer. It is made from domestic barley and spiced with an Icelandic organic thyme. Snorri is a complex and not all he seems. He ósíaður, slightly cloudy, but still light the colors. The smell indicates that the pound is heavy in Prose, while another turns the tasting, it is light on him and freshness come first.

I was really excited to discover Snorri, which defies categorization; I’d call it Iceland Common. It had a crisp, lagerey bite to it and a bit of ale fruitiness combined with some sage-like light herbal notes. I’d buy this beer again in a heartbeat if could find it.

Úlfur India Pale Ale – IPA

Ulfur Nr. 3 IPA

Wolf IPA shows an affinity with the best produced in the western United States and will undoubtedly many Icelanders a surprise in terms of taste and smell. The smell of fresh citrus fruit, especially greipaldini, which is also present in taste and powerful rancor makes you yearning for another sip.

Úlfur means wolf in Icelandic, and this beer bears that name well–it’s got some teeth to it! Good amount of maltiness and a strong, hoppy bite. Floral aroma through the roof!

Sumarliði Hveitibjór – Wheat Beer

Sumarliði Hveitibjór Nr. 11

The first German wheat beer produced and sold in Iceland. This prestigious and enjoyable beer style can be traced back to Bavaria, where beer called this kind of Hefeweizen and enjoys immense popularity. For some time, the chief Aristocrats exclusive production of beer. She stopped for a while but was revived in the last quarter of the 20th century. Thankfully!

Sumarliði wasn’t a big hit among my coworkers; I think Iceland hasn’t had a lot of experience with wheat beers. There was a curious nuttiness to it: in my notes I wrote, “peanuts?”

Viking Ölgerd

Viking Classic – Vienna Lager

Viking Classic Vienna Lager

The Viking brand is essentially the Budweiser of Iceland. The beers tend not to be too offensive or too interesting. The Viking Classic, I think, is the most interesting of the bunch. Not a bad Vienna lager, and if I had to choose from most mass-produced lagers I’d probably choose this.

– Derek

About Derek Springer

Derek is a contributor to Bierkast, a homebrewer, and a general beer-enthusiast. Beer snobbery especially bums him out and he thinks there is a time and place for any beer. Otherwise, he enjoys making and drinking uncommon styles and sampling as many beers as possible. Follow him @derekspringer or his homebrewing exploits @FiveBlades.

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  1. MMorse:

    Makes me want to leave the county and visit Iceland.

  2. Kip:

    I also want to try the Snorri

  3. Christmas:

    I really need to find a way to import Kaldi into the U.S. Any suggestions?

  4. HeartIPAs:

    Thanks for the info, you helped me know what to look for! Cheers! Love the Wolf IPA!

  5. Michael B:

    Any luck finding the Snorri in the US? I just got back from Iceland and am kicking myself in the foot for not buying any at the airport!

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