Culture
Art
Great Moments in Icelandic History: Iceland get the beer back

Great Moments in Icelandic History: Iceland get the beer back

Bottoms Up!

Published August 1, 2008

Imagining Reykjavík without beer is like imagining Amsterdam without hash brownies. However, only nineteen years ago (!) it was against the law to sell and buy beer in Iceland. The long, strange saga began in 1908 when Icelanders actually voted for a hardcore, full-alcohol ban. It eventually went into effect in 1915. The island’s sober, teetotaling party didn’t last long until trouble erupted, as Spain put its foot down and declared if Iceland wasn’t going to buy its wine, they weren’t going to buy Iceland’s fish – a potential death knell for the economy. To remedy this, in 1922 prohibition for wine was repealed, and other alcoholic beverages have been legally imported since 1934, yet, bizarrely, beer was exempt. For nearly a century, boozers jonesin’ for a brewski had to smuggle them into the country. It wasn’t until 1988 that a beer-sympathetic parliament finally stepped in; Alþingi voted 13 to 8 to end the ban. The New York Times reported at the time that there was jubilation in the streets as “a dozen beer-lovers flashed victory signs outside Parliament after the results came in.”

When beer was officially legalised on March 1, 1989, it was truly a night to remember, recalls Ölstofan bar owner, Kormákur Geirharðsson. “I remember a lot of drinking and a lot of pissing all night long and the next days, and it [was] not stopping,” said Geirharðsson. “This was the day Icelanders took the step to try to become civilized.  Ölstofan was not open then, but the idea of owning a bar started there.”

According to a report by alcohol studies researcher, Hildigunnur Ólafsdóttir, once the beer ban was lifted, the number of liquor licenses in Reykjavík jumped by 47% in one year. Immediately following the introduction, total alcohol consumption rose by 23% from 1988 to 1989, from 4.48 to 5.51 litres of alcohol per inhabitant 15 years old and over. As of 2007, consumption is up to 7.1 litres of alcohol per capita. Since the repeal of the ban, aside from the bars, beer can be purchased at the state-run alcohol distributor, ÁTVR. Viking is the most popular beer-brand sold there; Thule is second.

To commemorate Iceland’s day of beer freedom in the country, March 1 is considered Beer Day and citizens hoist a brew to spite alcoholic oppression. The legalisation of beer remains a cultural milestone in Iceland and a major seismic shift in the nation’s alcoholic beverage preference, as beer has today become the most popular alcoholic beverage of choice.



Culture
Art
Listicle: A Survival Guide For The Darkest Months

Listicle: A Survival Guide For The Darkest Months

by and

In Reykjavík and beyond, there are some activities that are available only in the winter season. January can be made

Culture
Art
SAD Times: The Effects Of Winter—And How To Fight Back

SAD Times: The Effects Of Winter—And How To Fight Back

by

When I meet working psychologist and PhD student Erla Björnsdóttir, it’s already dark outside. Reykjavík’s streets are becoming treacherous as

Culture
Art
A Tale Of Ice And Fire (But Mostly Wind… And Not Much Sun)

A Tale Of Ice And Fire (But Mostly Wind… And Not Much Sun)

by

Icelanders are obsessed with the weather. That shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s ever been here: the weather

Culture
Art
WHERE WERE WE? WHERE ARE WE? WHERE ARE WE HEADED?

WHERE WERE WE? WHERE ARE WE? WHERE ARE WE HEADED?

by

To mark the beginning of a new year, we posed two questions to dozens of Icelanders, old and new. Representatives

Culture
Art
Eight Inside Tips to Surviving the Icelandic Winter

Eight Inside Tips to Surviving the Icelandic Winter

by

DARK ICELAND can be a total fucker to deal with, all Northern Lights and magical elves aside. So guess what:

Culture
Art
The Feminine Ways

The Feminine Ways

by

At the beginning of a new year, it is absolutely necessary to take an honest inventory of the preceding one’s

Show Me More!