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Are there any microbreweries in Iceland? If so, are any of them in Reykjavik?

What is the most distinct / unique beer from Iceland that one can get at the supermarket?

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As of today (2016), there are several microbreweries operating in Iceland. The micro- and homebrewing scene has been budding nicely in the last few years, the latest player being Segull 67.

The Breweries

In a category of their own are Borg and Einstök. These two operate under the wing of the two "large" local breweries (Egils and Víking), serving as their respective experimental departments.

  • Borg keeps up a steady stream of new beers each year, easily Iceland's most "prolific publisher". They have a steady production of the big-name styles (a lager, an IPA, a porter, etc.), and nearly always one or two beers on limited/temporary release.
  • Einstök produces the country's most widely sold ales, and seasonal varieties.

Other microbreweries are:

  • Bruggsmiðjan. Founded in 2006, they are the oldest microbrewery in Iceland (yup). They produce a line of Czech-style lagers, brand name Kaldi.
  • Gæðingur. Their gig is essentially similar to Borg's - steady production of big name styles, interspersed with experiments.
  • Steðji. Their lineup is a mix of very normal German-style lagers and some truly wacky stuff - for instance, their infamous whale beer, Hvalur.
  • Ölvisholt Brugghús. ÖB is of the more established players, but their beers do not follow a particular trend that I have noticed. If anything, I could say they rely on beers "with a twist" more than the others, not many of their beers fall neatly into a common style.
  • Segull 67. Segull 67 is the newest and by far the smallest operating brewery. They released one beer in 2015, a dark lager.

At the time of writing, this list is exhaustive for operational breweries. In addition, I know of three breweries which will be opening "any day now": Hún/Hann brugghús (in Reykjavík), Austri (in the eastern part of the country) and Hið austfirska bruggfélag (also in the eastern part of the country).

Brewpubs

In addition to the breweries that sell nation-wide, there are a few who focus on their own premises.

  • Bryggjan Brugghús, in Reykjavík near the harbor area. The only brewpub in Reykjavík, and unlike most Icelandic "pubs", also operates an actual restaurant.
  • Brothers Brewery, in Vestmannaeyjar (islands off the south coast). It's the place to get craft beer in Vestmannaeyjar, apparently! Don't know much about it, unfortunately.
  • Bjórsetur Íslands, in Hólar (in the northern part of the country). This tiny establishment is the oldest brewpub by several years. It's basically run as a hobby - open on Fridays only. It is notable for its association with a beer festival (Bjórhátíð á Hólum), held annually at Hólar.

Breweries, brewpubs and planned breweries in Iceland

Microbrews and Craft Beers on Tap

Several bars pride themselves on selling Icelandic micro- and craft brews. These are:

  • Microbar. There are two bars operating under this name, one in downtown Reykjavík, the other in Sauðárkrókur. The one in Reykjavík is the pioneer of the Icelandic craft bar scene. It is owned by the Gæðingur brewery, and appropriately, you can always find Gæðingur beers on tap here (among other local beers)
  • Skúli Craft Bar, in downtown Reykjavík. It is notable for its diverse and rapidly rotating taps. At any given time, about half of them are likely to be connected to local beers. The bar is independent, but beers from Borg brewery are always prominent in their choices.
  • Bjórgarðurinn, in Reykjavík. They have 22 taps, Icelandic craft beers always among them. They serve food other than bar snacks, mostly gourmet sausages that they recommend pairing with particular beers. It is a hotel bar, not associated with a brewery.
  • Kaldi Bar, in downtown Reykjavík. It is not owned by Bruggsmiðjan, but it brands itself as a place where you can get local beer, in particular, Bruggsmiðjan's Kaldi. This is, however, not a place I would call a craft bar that prides itself on a varied selection.
  • R5 Micro Bar, in Akureyri. I have not visited, but it's marketing itself as a craft beer bar. The locals seem impressed!

Micro/Craft beer fans will also want to know of Mikkeller & Friends Reykjavík. Large tap selection there, but no focus on local produce.

Borg and Einstök taps can commonly be found interspersed with the common Egils and Víking taps. Steðji and Ölvisholt beers are only sporadically found on taps.

Many other bars (but definitely not all) have some ambition when it comes to craft beer availability without making a particular deal of it. Hlemmur Square, a hostel/bar near the main bus station, is usually particularly well stocked. But always, ask your bartender!

Selected products

Off the top of my head, here are a few items I consider distinctive - or at least, I have not found anything quite like them abroad.

  • Garún. Imperial stout, more heavy on the licorice than most.
  • Lava. A smoked imperial stout.
  • Snorri. An ale spiced with Icelandic thyme.

And always, keep an eye out for seasonal beers. The breweries usually allow themselves more creative freedom on those products. In 2014, we saw beers like the Einstök Arctic Berry Ale (beer flavored with Icelandic berries), Fenrir (an IPA smoked with sheep dung) and Hvalur (the whale beer mentioned earlier).

General beer buying advisory

You won't buy Icelandic beers in the supermarket. The things that look like beers in those shelves are low-alcohol versions. To buy beers, you must go to one of the state-operated "Wine stores" (Vínbúð). Beware of their opening hours - they are never open after 20:00, on Sundays, or on holidays.

Source: Icelandic beer enthusiast.

  • I very seriously want to try that whale beer! – warren Aug 1 '15 at 14:11
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Yes, there are craft breweries in Iceland. There aren't that many, but with a population of only 300,000 people that's to be expected. The main ones are Einstök, Borg, Gædingur, and Ölvisholt. There's also Stedji and Kaldi, but these are less interesting. I felt Gædingur was a bit variable on quality. Note that none of these produce extreme beers. They focus more on drinkability.

Only Borg is in Reykjavik. I don't know if you can visit the brewery.

You can't buy interesting beer in Icelandic supermarkets, because the alcohol limit is 2.25%. As far as I could tell, only 4 beers were available in supermarkets, all of them pale lagers. You have to go to Vinbudin. There's a branch in the Austurstræti in the city centre, but the one out in the Kringlan shopping center has a bigger selection.

Look for these bars in the Reykjavik city centre: Micro Bar, Cafe Laundromat, K-Bar, and 73. All of them on Austurstræti and Laugarvegur.

Edit: I forgot to say what's the most unique/distinct beer. I'd say Borg Fenrir, which they describe "tadreyktur IPA", meaning IPA smoked in the traditional Icelandic way. That is, it's smoked by burning sheep dung. (Seriously.) The smoke aroma is really unusual, but actually quite nice.

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I don't know which is the most distinct / unique beer, but did find this list of beer in Iceland.

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The only thing I can add to the already given answers is for you to try out Ölvisholt's beer Jólabjór (or Lava if you find it).

Here in Sweden we get the annual Jólabjór at the state-operated monopoly Systembolaget. It's a discrete smoked beer imho.

Jólabjór at Ratebeer

  • For some unfathomable reason, Ölvisholt's Jólabjór is not available locally. Lava is available at most larger "Wine stores" (Vínbúðin), though. – Ernir Mar 31 '16 at 17:58
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I was on a quest to find some hoppy beers in Iceland and here is what I found: Hollie's Hobbies which has a huge selection of Mikeller beers.

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I've had amazing beer from Iceland from a brewery called Einstök. Here is their website: The Einstök Brewery.

The Winter Ale and Pale Ale are one of the best that I've ever had and one of the few that got 5 stars from me on the Untappd App.

Cheers

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