Today marks 26 years since beer was legalized in Iceland.
Iceland was by no means alone in imposing prohibition in the early 20th century—banning the manufacture, sale and consumption of all alcohol—but it was definitely alone in re-legalizing wine and spirits while keeping its ban on beer.
The ban on beer was seen as an olive branch to the temperance movement who saw the low price and great ‘drinkability’ of beer as a recipe for social problems. The (increasingly seen as ridiculous) beer ban would remain in place until 1st March 1989, read more in a blog post here.
Beer no stronger than 2.25% was legal throughout (and remains to this day the only alcohol available for sale in regular food shops) and people took to mixing it with vodka to make a cocktail called bjórlíki ‘like beer’. This is a play on words with smjörlíki, meaning ‘like butter’, which is the Icelandic word for margarine.
Every 1st March since 1989 has been known as Beer Day and is celebrated by many with the enjoyment of several (or more) glasses of beer.
KEX Hostel has been using this time for its annual beer festival, which this year includes most of Iceland’s breweries, as well as special guests from the USA and Denmark. Tickets to the popular festival sold out long ago, but you can get your hands on a nice cold brew at bars and restaurants around the country. Just don’t buy it at a supermarket…