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Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Iceland - Vinbud

I've found it readers! Beer central in Iceland. The government shops that sell beer over 2.25% ABV are called Vinbud [Vínbúð] and this is the local one. It's next to an English pub called "The English Pub" (see what they did there?) and it's about five minutes from the hotel. It turns out that 60% of Icelandic people don't want to buy strong alcohol in the supermarket, so it's all relegated to these little shops. No signs overhead, age restrictions on the door, reduced opening hours ... it's like they don't want you to drink or something!

Alcohol obsessed? No. Beer obsessed? Maybe. I'll be there tomorrow.

5 comments:

The Beer Nut said...

Did you know there's an Icelandic beer blog in English?

Malted Thoughts.

Mark said...

Top stuff, thanks for the link, hadn't seen it until now. Will have a look through it. :)

Scyrene said...

I was going to say, on the previous entry, there *is* good beer in Iceland! I was there in February, and lucky enough for my visit to coincide with the annual traditional food and drink festival (Þorrablót).

The supermarkets are indeed (as some suggested) only allowed to sell beer below a certain abv (around 2.5% I think). The Vínbúð prices are higher, but it's still cheaper than drinking out. I have to say, the special festival beers were all similar, but good. Golden, full, smooth. Nothing exciting, but much nicer than the standard stuff. Sadly, as in much of Scandinavia, decades of crippling taxes and a draconian attitude to alcohol have destroyed any interesting brewing traditions that existed, and discouraged much of a revival.

Given the movement in the UK towards higher alcohol prices on the grounds of health and combatting antisocial behaviour, I think we need to see the Scandinavians as cautionary examples. They still drink a lot, but much of it is generic, and they pay more for it. The worst of all worlds.

Mark said...

Interesting point about the link between the UK and Scandinavia. I don't really know enough about the history of Iceland ... I assume the attitude towards alcohol must come from somewhere.

What breweries did you try? I found some good stuff there, but learnt when I got back that the brewery had gone out of business.

Scyrene said...

Alas, I wasn't taking notes. I've only started doing that systematically for beer recently. Still, I certainly tried every special bottled local beer they had, maybe 7 or 8, and a few of the regular ones in cans, so I probably had at least one from each brewery. As I say, the quality was consistent but not outstanding.

Regarding their history, all I can say is there seems to be a correlation with northerly peoples (Scandinavians, the peoples of the British Isles, Russians, etc) and heavy drinking, or perhaps I should say, drinking to get drunk. I think the laws changed back when temperance was all the rage, at the end of the 19th century through to the World Wars. Only much more recently, with the lifting of trade barriers, and in some cases accession to the EU, have things moved back a bit. Despite the extra taxes, from what I've seen and read, drunken behaviour is still much more prevalent than in Southern Europe (a generalisation), although binging has taken off in places like Spain recently.