When word got out that a new beer spa had opened in the North of Iceland, people had very strong opinions about it.
We mostly had questions. Do you get drunk if you lie in it long enough? Does it have any visible benefits for your skin? When someone finally asked “can you get yeast infection from it,” we decided to put an end to the speculation and check the spa out in person.
It’s been raining for 30 days in Reykjavík when we travel up to Bjórböðin, located a half hour drive from Akureyri. I desperately need to be pampered, and as I put on my soft white robe I’m ready for anything.
Down the rabbit hole
Beer heaven, I gather, lies behind a series of opaque glass doors, each one leading to a different private tub whose bizarre contents you can enjoy alone or in company and, preferably, naked.
“You will stay in the bath for 25 minutes,” the lady explains. “And don’t worry, you won’t get drunk,” she adds, anticipating my question. “The beer is so young that it’s not alcoholic yet.”
But I’ve already stopped listening. A cloud of sparkly foam has bloomed in the wooden bathtub, and it’s so lush that the only thing I can do is slip out of my robe and dive in at once.
The tub welcomes me like a warm hug. It takes a while for the sizzling foam to dissipate, unveiling a nebulous, amber liquid infused with all sorts of herbs. An empty glass sits suggestively under a tap, there to remind me that a river of beer is at hand to quench my thirst—free of charge, of course.
Sliding back and forth in the beer, I can feel a coarse residue resembling clay gathering at the bottom of the tub. I slather it all over my legs, and as I plunge my hair into the water for an impromptu mask. I feel lightheaded already. I lay back and finally relax.
In a warm cocoon
The 25 minutes pass too quickly. I slide back into my robe and I follow the lady upstairs to a dimly lit lounge lined with reclinable chairs.
I pick one in a far, hidden corner, and the lady follows me to tuck me in. In this warm cocoon, under the soft haze of a single lightbulb, my muscles are relaxed and my head feels cloudy. I hear droplets of water running slowly above me, but they get further and further away as I slip down into the soft embrace of Morpheus.
Au revoir, beer baths
It’s a different kind of inebriation, this intoxicated feeling. After the nap, my pores sizzle with pleasure under the Northern sun, and while my skin feels smooth and soft, the biggest surprise is my hair: my usually coarse Southern frizz has become beautiful, bouncy waves.
As we leave, I look back longingly at the outdoor pool at the edge of the cliff, and the chain of snowy mountains stretching away peacefully on the other side of the sparkly sea. Au revoir, Bjórböðin: I shall miss you indeed.