Beer Day in Iceland

by Mike Retzlaff

The Icelandic people have an informal celebration on March 1st of every year.  It isn’t an official public holiday but is happily observed by the masses. 

Bjórdagurinn or Beer Day, to the locals, is the date they celebrate the lifting of a 74 year prohibition on beer in Iceland. 

In 1915, prohibition of alcohol beverages was enacted into law in Iceland.  A few years later, Spain threatened to stop buying fish from Iceland if they didn’t buy Spanish wine.  This was potentially devastating to the economy so the Government relented and exempted wine from the banishment list.  In the 1930’s, the ban on distilled spirits was lifted but beer was apparently the drink of the devil and remained on the black list until March 1, 1989.

The first Craft Brewery on the island nation opened in 2006.  Today, there are about 30 small breweries.  The future of beer, as part of the Icelandic culture, is bright.  Most of the beers are completely recognizable by modern norms.  Others are quite innovative brews such as beer made with whale testicles smoked with sheep dung.  Wow! Just like mama used to make.

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