Icelandic Summer Beer: The Definitive Guide - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Icelandic Summer Beer: The Definitive Guide

Icelandic Summer Beer: The Definitive Guide

Published July 18, 2016

Photo by
Art Bicnick

It’s summertime in Reykjavík, when temperatures consistently break 15 degrees and the constant sounds of construction have nearly driven you off the deep end. But there’s something else brewing in the Icelandic summer air: the hoppy smell of all the seasonal beers. We’ve taken the liberty of tasting a few of this summer’s offerings so you don’t have to.

Ástríkur from Borg Brugghús

This was the first beer our panel tasted, but the consensus was that it should have been our last. “This would ruin my picnic,” one panellist said. With an 8.5 percent ABV, this beer will put you right to sleep. Ástríkur has a mouthful of flavour that matches its distinctive rainbow label, but it’s not light enough for a summer beer.

Vár Bryggj from Föroya Bjór

While not an Icelandic beer, this seasonal from our cousins in the Faroes earns an honorary spot on this list. Vár Bryggj has a meadowy taste to it, but was generally panned by our judges. “It doesn’t taste like an independent Iceland,” one panellist commented, while others agreed that it tasted pretty Danish.

Icelandic Arctic Berry Ale from Einstök

Upon cracking open a can of this stuff you’ll be overwhelmed by its sticky-sweet smell. “It smells like sherbet,” one panellist said, but we were underwhelmed by its lack of, erm… taste. Ultimately, Einstök’s summer offering is comparable to a fruit tea, which draws you in with the promise of flavour before leaving you high and dry.

Sumar Bjór from Brugghús Steðja

At first we wondered why this classified as a summer beer. There’s nothing special about this India Pale Lager, except for that it’s brewed at a family farm in west Iceland. “It kind of tastes like it was made in a barn,” one of the panellists commented, and compared it to Newcastle Brown Ale.

Boli Keller

Again, we were confused by what made Boli Keller a summer beer. It has a smoky taste, and would taste horrible if it wasn’t cold (which, in our expert estimation, is a necessary feature of a good summer beer). However, the panel agreed this was the first beer they’d drink multiple bottles of, and it would make a great barbecue pairing.

Sólveig from Borg Brugghús

The second summer beer from Borg nearly tore our panel apart. “It tastes like rotten banana—it’s terrible,” one panellist said. It came down to a question of expectations: Sólveig brands itself as a wheat beer, but it’s far too hoppy. If you weren’t told otherwise you might guess it was an IPA, but our panel’s resident IPA expert liked it, so there’s that.

SumarGull

This is your classic no-frills blonde ale, and was generally panned by judges. “Fuck them for making generic beer and trying to sell it to us,” said one panellist. “If you want to drink a lot of something and not deal with the fancy flavours, this is for you.” However, Gull gets points for trying to bridge the gap between the mass market and craft beer lovers.

Sumaröl from Víking

Víking’s summer edition won for, um, actually tasting like a summer beer. Unlike the Einstök ale, Sumaröl’s strawberry taste matches your flavour expectations. “If you were going to take a fucking cooler across Reykjadalur, this is what you’d want to take,” said one panellist, before we disbanded and all trudged over to Vínbuðin to buy a six-pack.

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