Published September 7, 2020
Ölverk Pizza & Brewery beckons you in. The Hveragerði hotspot—the chef-d’oeuvre of Laufey Sif Lárusdóttir, her partner and brewmaster Elvar Þrastarson, and their third owner Ragnar—is warm, cosy, inviting, and filled-to-the-brim with the wafting scents of freshly baked pizza. You really couldn’t ask for a better place to eat and drink.The restaurant—chock full of beautiful Instagram-worthy murals by Elín Elísabet, Rán Flygenring and more—brews their beer on-site using geothermal energy and directly in view of patrons. That means you can enjoy a delicious pizza while at the same time watching Elvar, accompanied occasionally by his energetic kids, make some ale right in front of your eyes.
But the appeal of Ölverk goes far beyond their atmosphere. Just try their offerings and it’ll be instantly clear why the three-year-old spot has such a devoted cult following. To be blunt, they make a damn good pie and pint.
Kiwi pizza? It’s a (delicious) thing
The hallmark of Ölverk is that of their imagination. Along with traditional pizza toppings like pepperoni, ham, and pepper cheese, the eatery makes a conscious effort to serve up some more unusual combinations. And when we say unusual, we mean it.
Laufey laughs when asked about their more eclectic offerings, immediately citing a pizza that as she describes it, “broke the internet.”
“We do a pizza of the month and just after COVID we were sitting here minding our slow business—one fourth of the town was in quarantine—and we wanted to do something special,” she explains, a big smile on her face. “So we put together pizza that had white sauce, brie cheese, ham, coconut flakes, and kiwi fruit.” She grins, acknowledging the sheer cheek of it. “Yes, we did that. It was definitely unique!”
Laufey also references their vegan pizzas, which employ ingredients like seaweed. But, as she emphasises, these pizzas aren’t made for spectacle. For Ölverk, it’s always about the taste, and if kiwi fruit is necessary to up the flavour of their pizza, so be it.
Skyr beer? It’s also a (delicious) thing
And don’t worry—Ölverk’s beers aren’t immune to the immense creativity of Elvar and Laufey. In fact, they are just as innovative.
“Our first beer launch was in October, 2017. It was a German-style kölsch, a basic blonde beer that was refreshing, not too hoppy and not too sweet. Since then, we’ve probably made around 150 variations of beer,” she says. “We like to throw in something special. We use Icelandic skyr, birch branches, wood logs, pizza bottoms and more. We can get flavour out of anything so the sky is the limit, but it has to click. It has to taste good. That’s the most important thing.”
The sour beers—made with the aforementioned traditional Icelandic skyr—are a favourite of Laufey’s. “We do lots of variations, such as a pistachio skyr sour,” she reminiscences.
Their Twitter Glitter beer is another unique offering. “It’s a pale ale with edible glitter in it,” Laufey explains. “It twirls in the glass. We’ve made a few different flavours like mango and raspberry.”
A succulent experience
Right now, along with continually upping their pizza-and-beer-game, Ölverk will soon start canning their beer. They recently acquired a canning machine from the states and in the near feature, people can expect to find Ölverk beers in the main liquor shops in the country and hopefully—at some point—directly from the Ölverk brewery.
“We are big lobbyists for Icelandic craft breweries being able to sell their own beer directly to the customer on their premises as well as equal opportunity for Icelandic beer companies being allowed to sell their products online to Icelanders just as foreign companies are allowed to sell and ship their beer to Icelanders,” Laufey explains. “We are not allowed to sell and ship from Hveragerði to Akureyri but selling from Denmark to Iceland is totally fine. It’s discrimination.”
Hopefully the laws will soon change, but in the meantime, they’ll continue to create new topping combinations, brew delicious beer, and—if that’s not enough—make their tasty hot chili sauces using locally-grown chilis.
They’ve also beautiful re-made their set-up to work during this COVID pandemic. Tables have been moved to fit the two-metre distance requirement and have also been given a little pizzazz. “We’ve introduced these VIP tables,” Laufey says, gesturing to a beautifully decorated table accented with succulents and other beautiful greenery. “Instead of having sad blank tables, we decided to bring some joy.”
And if there’s one word to describe Ölverk, she’s found it. While you might think that Ölverk only sells pizza and beer, the establishment does offer one thing for free: Joy.