Although Christmas beer (jólabjór) has appeared on draft in bars all around Reykjavík, the much-beloved and limited-time holiday brews do not go on sale in local Vínbúðs until this Friday, November 15: Christmas Beer Day.
This year, Vísir reports that there will be 26 varieties of Christmas beer sold, up from the 21 kinds sold last year. Among the new varieties are four Icelandic beers, starting with Thule jólabjór, the release of which also celebrates the brand’s 20 year anniversary, and Borg Brewery’s “smoked gingerbread” beer, Stúfur Nr. 21, which is only 2.26% ABV. (If the latter were just .01 percent weaker, it could actually be sold in grocery stores.) The Gæðingur brewery, which was established in Skagafjörður in 2011, will release two Christmas beers.
Last year, 105,000 liters of Christmas beer were sold in just the first three days of going on sale, an especially impressive quantity given that a total of 460,000 liters of Christmas beer was sold in all of 2011. Christmas beer is hugely popular in Iceland, and can only be sold during a short window of time—from November 15 until the last day of Christmas, on January 5. Increasingly, brewers risk running out of their Christmas beers because they have not made enough to satisfy growing demand. However, brewers must be cautious with their production: any Christmas beer which remains unsold after the sales window closes must be destroyed.