When you visit Iceland you will notice a few things, such as booze being really expensive and yet locals LOVE it. This was not always the case, or even allowed though, which is why there is a beer day in Iceland.
Prohibition in Iceland
When we think of prohibition it usually stirs up thoughts of speakeasy’s in the US to A, or Al Capone rum running, but actually prohibition – as in the illegality of alcohol was a big deal in much of Scandinavia too, with Iceland top of the weird list.
Iceland as a state was formerly part of Denmark before the Nazis rocked in. When they did that the USA and the UK decided to help Iceland by taking to over. A coy move that led to Iceland declaring independence, but one that also still irks the Danish to this day.
Promotion in Iceland actually began in 1915 and remained in place in some way shape, or form until 1989, from whence Beer Day derives.
The severity of the prohibition changed greatly over time though. Initially Iceland voted by referendum in 1908 to ban alcohol which came into affect in 1915. Spain though got pissed and said it would not buy Icelandic fish unless Iceland purchased its wine. This slowly morphed into Iceland legalizing spirits/liquor in 1935.
To read about the Cod Wars click here
The Icelandic Beer Ban
The compromise of 1935 was that while liquor was legalized, beer above 2.25% was not, which kept the temperance people happy, but literally meant you could drink piss weak beer is super string liquor, which had to be purchased from legal liquor stores.
Elements of this ban still exist today, with much like Canada beer and liquor needs to be purchased in special stores, but ironically beer under the 2.25 percent bracket is essentially considered a soft drink.
Of course bartenders got inventive and would mix the piss weak beer with stuff like Brenevin, and people would bring in duty free beer, but it was in essence a bat shit crazy policy.
To read about Brennevin click here
Despite its super strength Brenevin was largely never banned due to its use after eating the stinky Hakarl, officially to kill any remaining poisonous bacteria from Greenlandic shark dish.
To read about Hakarl click here
Beer Day in Iceland
Cool heads would finally prevail on March 1st 1989, which is now celebrated across the nation as Beer Day! And how is it celebrated? By going on a “runtur”, which means pub crawl and can be compared a bit to St Patricks Day, a glorious excuse for everyone to drink far too much.
It is though also seen as huge milestone for the country, both culturally and politically. Beer is now the most popular drink in the country and boy do these guys like a drink!
Want to join us in Iceland? We have a cruise to Greenland which you can check out here.