Brewing in Iceland is blossoming and offers many choices to thirsty beer fans. Here are some of the country’s best craft beer bars.
Beer was not always welcome in the land of fire and ice. In an effort to control the sobriety of foreign visitors and its own youth, Iceland deemed alcohol illegal in 1915. Thirsty Icelanders changed this restriction in 1922 and 1935 by opening up the sale of wine and specific spirits. But beer would not get its day until the first of March, 1989.
Iceland is also an alcohol free beer lovers’ Nirvana. The loosened restrictions to the alcohol law allowed for the production of brewed beverages under the limit of 2.25 percent alcohol by volume. The result is an abundance of low or alcohol-free beer options. Today, it is commonplace to spot a local grabbing a zero or low percent ABV beer at the convenience store with their evening take away.
Today, there are dozens of new breweries and beer-centric watering holes scattered around Iceland. Rather than list these spots in “best of” order, we decided to choose four favorites from Reykjavik and six establishments outside the capital. The breweries and bars outside of Reykjavik are listed in order, following the ring road around the country, heading southeast.
There is no denying the worldwide presence of BrewDog. Almost every European capital has a tasting room from the bad boy brewers of Scotland. Reykjavik is no different. At this location, the brewery serves more than 10 BrewDog beers and offers tap space to local, guest breweries like Borg Brugghús and Spuni. BrewDog specializes in high ABV beers and IPAs of all sub-styles. AF options include BrewDog, Borg, and Mikkeller.
Frakkastígur 8, 101 Reykjavík
The Einstök Bar
Even though Einstök is not brewed in the capital, it makes sense to have a tasting room here. The Einstök Bar offers the brand’s signature lineup along with some brews by the country’s most worldwide-recognized label unavailable outside of Iceland. The Einstök Bar is a cozy respite for beer fans on the often-busy Laugavegur. The most popular Einstök beers are the White Ale, the triple-hopped Artic Pale Ale, and the seasonal Winter Ale.
Laugavegur 10, 101 Reykjavík
RVK Brewing Company
Walking around the back of the RVK Brewing Company building allows beer travelers to find the brewery’s taproom. Beer flights allow drinkers to sample the 10 beers on tap, ranging from an Irish dry stout to a session IPA. The most popular beer at RVK is Hlemmur New England IPA loaded with Centennial and Mosaic hops. Sours, Belgians, and seasonal brews can be found in bottles and cans. RVK beers are found throughout the capital in bars and restaurants.
Skipholt 31, 105 Reykjavík
Located only a 20-minute walk from the Reykjavik Zoo and the Grasagarður Botanical Garden, Malbygg Taproom is in an area of the capitol city less frequented by beer tourists. The taproom pours several varieties of IPAs, DIPAs, and fruited sours Thursday through Saturday. Hoppy beers are the focus here, but the Bjössi Bolla will appeal to dark beer fans and those with mellow tastes will enjoy Kisi pale ale.
Skútuvogur 1H, 104 Reykjavík
The Brothers Brewery
The typical tourist is not going to stumble across The Brothers Brewery. Located on the island of Heimaey, four miles south of the Icelandic coast, this brewery is the only game in town for fresh-brewed beer. The brewery has been a welcome addition to this lively island since 2016 and today produces a wide range of styles. Brothers Brewery is one of only a few breweries in Iceland producing sours and saisons.
Bárustígur 7, 900 Vestmannaeyjabær
El Grillö Bar
Kaffi Lára and the El Grillö Bar serves as the place for local nightlife, a great burger joint, and a gem for beer fans looking for one-of-a-kind brews. There is only one brew made here, El Grillö lager, named for the scuttled oil ship laying at the bottom of the fjord just outside. This brew is reminiscent of an old-world style, crisp, malty, and slightly hopped. Note: this place is seasonal and closes for winter.
Norðurgötu 3, 710 Seyðisfjörður
The town of Egilsstaðir sits on the banks of the Lagarfljót River and is a popular stop for visitors driving the ring road. Stepping into Askur Taproom, visitors may find locals and tourists sharing downtime over a board game and a pint of craft beer. Opened in 2018, Askur has the unique position of sharing a building with Austri Brewery, maker of one potent brew, Skessa, a wasabi-infused DIPA.
Fagradalsbraut 25, 700 Egilsstaðir
Einstök Brewer’s Lounge
Akureyri, called the capital of the north, is where Einstök is brewed, and visitors can enjoy a couple of cold beers at the Einstök Brewer’s Lounge. The Brewer’s Lounge is a cozy little tasting room offering flights and full pours on the second floor above a separate bottle shop. The brewery itself is not too far away, and there’s a great photo opportunity beside a giant Viking beer can.
Kaupvangsstræti 23, 600 Akureyri
Bruggsmiðjan Kaldi Brewery
The north of Iceland is dominated by the fishing industry, so it makes sense Bruggsmiðjan Kaldi Brewery was started by a fisherman and his wife. Opened in 2006, Kaldi was the first small brewery in Iceland. Tapping into the natural resource of mountain spring water, the Kaldi line includes 12 styles. Just a short drive from the brewery, the brewers also own Bjórböðin, a restaurant and beer spa where travelers can soak in a beer bath.
Öldugata 22, 621 Litli-Árskógssandur
The town of Ísafjörður is surrounded by the natural wonder of Iceland’s Westfjords and the small city of 2,736 residents is home to Dokkan Brugghús. Dokkan beers are created with lava rock-filtered water from the mountains of Vestfjörður. The lineup includes pale, amber, and dark varieties as well as an IPA and a lager. All brewing, canning, and tapping takes place on the premises with classic Westfjord views.
Sindragata 14, 400 Ísafjörður