Bjórgarðurinn (“The Beer Garden”), Iceland’s first self-styled… beer garden, opened for business in Borgartún, 105 Reykjavík, this June. The latest addition to the beer connoisseur explosion that has entrenched Reykjavík of late, Bjórgarðurinn follows fast on the heels of places like Mikkeller & Friends, Skúli Craft Bar, Microbar, Kex and Kaldi. As avid alcohol enthusiasts, we of course went there to test the waters.
Situated by Iceland’s biggest hotel, Fosshótel Reykjavík, Bjórgarðurinn is not the de facto hotel restaurant, but rather occupies a wedge of real estate on the gargantuan hotel’s side. Upon entering the establishment, it becomes clear that this isn’t your granddad’s Biergarten. This one doesn’t come with any long communal tables, outdoor seating areas, or a particular emphasis on German beer or cuisine. What you will find is an upscale gastropub with impressive ceiling height, gargantuan light fixtures, and huge copper beer vats sliced lengthwise and fixed to the wall for decorative purposes.
The proprietors refer to the place as a “Manhattan beer garden”—a concept I‘m not familiar with, but seems to translate to “not-strictly-speaking-a-beer-garden.” However, what it does have in common with a beer garden is lots and lots of beer, and that’s the most important thing. In fact, Bjórgarðurinn features what must be the largest selection of draft beers in Iceland (22 and counting) as well as a handsome selection of bottled pale ales, porters, ciders, lagers, stouts, dunkels, witbear, sours, and wild beers.
Bjórgarðurinn emphasises a hands-on approach from the staff, with the idea being that you volunteer the types of beers you like and they offer suggestions based on your preference. This effort is most noticeable with their food pairings, and Bjórgarðurinn is definitely aiming to further the continental approach of partying, where “going out” also means eating, rather than the classic nationwide beer bong contest Icelanders like to refer to as “Friday night.”
Be advised that you’re more likely to get the full beer recommendation experience in off-peak hours.
The food menu favours the hearty and comforting, offering fish ‘n’ chips, pickles, fries, butter-fried cheese sandwiches, burgers, ribs, and, of course, the sausages. For the time being, they are only running one variety of sausage—however, the toppings vary considerably. You can have your sausage emblazoned with everything from port-stewed dates and shredded duck to grilled peppers and lemongrass mayo. Stand-outs during our visit were the porter pecan pie and the butter-fried cheese sandwich, which consisted of thick slices of buttery sourdough bread filled with smoked Gouda and mozzarella.
While imbibing at Bjórgarðurinn certainly isn’t free, their various deals and rotating offers are worth noting. Also of interest, while not advertised on the menu, is a surprise prix fixe menu, complete with pairings. Well worth inquiring about.
“Hoppy hour” is celebrated daily between 16:30-19:00, bringing a 500 ISK discount on all large draft beers. Also, every Tuesdays is “Trappist Tuesday,” where Trappist beers are paired with a complimentary cheese plate. The staff confirms that there are plans afoot to add special themes for other days of the week, too.
Finally, there’s the paired lunch offer of sausage and beer (2,200 ISK) which includes a free refill of the beer to help you shift the blame to the barman when you accidentally crash the financial market after a wet lunch. The pairing rotates regularly between their sausages and beers, but you can follow updates on the pairing of the week via the Bjórgarðurinn Facebook page.
Oh, and on weekends they have live music, with a focus on jazz and latin jazz. So don’t forget your flat cap and bowtie.
Find Bjórgarðurinn on Þórunnartún 1, 105 Reykjavík. You can check out their website here.