This is the season to be jolly. Not because the Christmas decorations are coming up around the city or because the media keeps telling us we need to buy something outrageous for our loved ones so they won’t leave us. No, this is the season to be jolly over all the delicious Christmas beers that have now become available in bars around the city and the state run alcohol shop: Vínbúðin.
Christmas beer is not an Icelandic invention and to be honest up until recently Iceland wasn’t exactly know for a lot of variety when it came to craft beers or Christmas beers. In our defense beer was banned in Iceland from 1915 to 1989 so its’ no wonder it took us a while to start experimenting with this much beloved beverage. Christmas beers are brewed specially for the Christmas season and they hit the stores on November 15th. They usually start popping up at the bars a few days earlier though. They are usually a little bit darker than the average lager beer, a bit spicier and really really yummy. These are limited edition beers and the Icelandic beers and the Christmas Tuborg always sell out – often well before Christmas.
Today the boyfriend and I went to Vínbúðin and picked up a few local Christmas beers to taste and naturally (more me than the boyfriend though) we decided to share our findings with all of you. Obviously we are no beer experts and I can’t tell you about aroma or body so our review will mostly consist of: Good! Bad! Ugly label!
Bruggsmiðjan is a microbrewery in Árskógssandur North Iceland. Their main beer is Kaldi but all their beers have Kaldi in the name: Jólakaldi, Stinningskaldi and Norðankaldi (to name a few). If I’m the mood for a plain but good lager, Kaldi is usually my first choice. The boyfriend and I visited this small family business a couple of years ago and you should definitely check out their beers.
Jólakaldi is 5.4% and costs 395 ISK at Vínbúðin.
Our thoughts on Jólakaldi
Auður: “This one was my least favorite – very thin (is that a word you use to describe a beer?). Also the ugliest label. ”
The boyfriend: “OK but nothing special. Agree with the ugly label.”
Einstök Seasonal Dopplebock
Einstök is not a micro brewery like the rest of the breweries in this post but a private label partially owned by Viking brewery and some foreigners. They brew my favorite Icelandic beer, Einstök White Ale, but I think they were mainly thought for export. That more or less sums up my knowledge about Einstök.
Einstök Doppelbock is 6.7% and costs 429 ISK in Vínbúðin.
Our thoughts on Eintök Seasonal Dopplebock
Auður: “This one was in my top two – had a hard time deciding which one of the two I liked better. Not very Christmas-y though. Best label – the red nose on the viking is a nice touch”
The Boyfriend: “It smells better than it tastes. You only like it because it tastes of chocolate. The label is bad, to change a viking into Rudolf: Not funny”
Gæðingur is a micro-brewery (it’s tiny really) in Skagafjörður and they offer 5 beers including the Christmas beer. Recently the Christmas Gæðingur was deemed the best Icelandic Christmas beer by DV, one of Iceland’s main newspapers. I never drink it but the boyfriend often drinks their Stout and he really likes it.
Gæðingur Jólabjór is 4.6% and costs 398 ISK in Vínbúðin
Our thoughts on Gæðingur JólabjórAuður: “It’s a little bit too bitter for me but OK. I give them A for effort on the snowflakes in the label but in general I don’t get this lonely guy on the horse . Or is it a donkey?”
The Boyfriend: “Beer after my own taste – definitely the best. The best label also purely based on consistency. Always the same guy and his horse – I like that. He’s obviously a rider from Skagafjörður and it’s not a donkey!.”
Ölvisholt is a micro-brewery in South Iceland that was founded by two neighbors and farmers in 2007. They happen to brew my second favorite Icelandic beer Freyja (I love me some wheat beer) along wit Móri, Lava, Röðull and Skjálfti. The same week Skjálfti was introduced to stores in Sweden the first earthquake in 60 years shook Sweden. Skjálfti, incidentally, means tremble (the Icelandic word for earthquake is jarðskjálfti). True story.
Ölvisholt Jólabjór is 5% and costs 439 ISK in Vínbúðin.
Our thoughts on Ölvisholt Jólabjór
Auður: “One of my two favorites. The most Christmas-y of the bunch. I think I like the Einstök better. Maybe. Do I? A nice label but very safe.”
The boyfriend: “Good taste but not enough taste. Does that make sense? Nice label, simple and safe.
And now for the winner of this impromptu Christmas beer tasting
Well, to make a long story short the boyfriend and I didn’t agree on anything when it came to these beers. They were all good but we both had our favorites. Maybe we should have invited more people to join our panel. It doesn’t really matter who won because it’s all a matter of personal taste in the end. Also, this is just a small sample of the Icelandic Christmas beers this year – just go out and try a few of your own. Which one is your favorite?