Icelandic Culture: Beer Drinking Culture (LISTEN)

We’ve had a great time covering Iceland Airwaves and discovering and reporting on Icelandic culture. Here’s an Icelandic cultural interview culled from our time there. Be sure to stay tuned for our final radio documentary, which will air on WCRX-FM 88.1. Visit our Iceland Airwaves blog to read/hear more from our time in Iceland.

Written and produced by Delaney Morris and Dan Hibbitts.

Prohibition in Iceland has a long history. This began in the year 1915 and up until 1921 all alcohol was banned in the country. In 1921 Spain, a major export country for Icelandic fish, decided that if Iceland was not going to import their red wine that they would no longer be doing business with one another. So Iceland decided to lift the ban on certain alcohols, and Steini Stéfansson, General Manager of Microbar in Reykjavík gave an explanation for why beer was not included.

And the general population of Iceland believed the same for many years however, Stéfansson believes that the general public opinion has changed within the last decade.

Iceland’s beer culture did not begin when prohibition ended. There was actually a time within the ban that beer was still being produced. One of the companies who was a part of this production was Ölgerðin. Arni Theodorlong and Valgeir Valgeirsson, both of whom are Brewmasters at Borg, explain.

While foreigners were able to enjoy the fruits of Icelandic breweries, island natives were forced to become crafty and create their own beer-like alternative. Geoffery of Prikid followed by Steini Stéfansson speak about this strange concoction.

When the prohibition of beer was lifted and Icelanders no longer had to drink that which they created themselves, lagers became the drink of choice. Ólafur Ágústsson, food and beverage manager at the KEX Hostel discusses how Icelanders are still struggling to open up to a larger variety of drinks.

Iceland’s beer culture has a long way to go, however with influence from the United States it won’t be long before Icelanders as a whole is able to catch up to their American counterparts.


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