Microbar is the quintessential stop for beer aficionados in Iceland, offering a wide selection of bitters, lagers and ales that are sure to quench your thirst after a long day exploring the city. Given that its advent, Microbar are currently promoting a new range of festive stock, which Guide to Iceland Now was lucky enough to review for your pleasure.
Microbar | A Beer Lover’s Paradise
Microbar is located on Vesturgata, just besides the current Christmas market and ice rink at Ingólfur Square. Stepping past the seasonally adorned pine tree outside, I couldn’t help but think Microbar seemed a touch hidden away, with no windows looking out to the street, nor any benches outside.
In truth, this only inflamed my enthusiasm toward it; those interested in learning about the depth and concept behind a beer require some peace and quiet, after all.
I walked down the flight of stairs leading to the establishment itself—a wide and open space filled with tables and boardgames, the walls decorated with the art of famed Icelandic cartoonist, Hugleikur Dagsson—and approached the bar to order a sample tray.
My dashingly attired bartender, Viktor, proved both informative and entertaining as he introduced each new beverage, delving into their influences, brewing processes and flavour profiles.
His easy-going temperament is well-suited to a bar such as this, one that priorities a cosiness and sociability, traits found lacking in some of Reykjavík’s more rambunctious public houses. Even the frantic jazz playing on the speakers in the background did little to hamper mellow ambience of Microbar’s interior.
There were seven beers in total to taste test: Jingle Balls, Heims um bjór, Leiðindaskjóða, Rommí Jól, Gingy, Afi Maria and Hóhóhólísjitt. First, let us look to the first three mentioned, all of which are light beer, and therefore the easiest varieties to sip on during an evening out.
The Reviews Are In
Jingle Balls can only be found on tap at Microbar, making this one of the rarest finds amidst Reykjavík’s ever-burgeoning bar scene. It can be bought, both as a single and in bulk, from the state liquor store Vínbúð, however.
See Also: Christmas in Iceland
Poured with an amber shade, this particular beer by Gæðingur Microbrewery is inspired by Danish brewing traditions and boasts a malty, yet mild flavour, perfect for those new to seasonally infused beers.
Created by Ölvisholt Brewery in Selfoss, Heims um bjór is another laid-back choice, one constructed of Belgian yeast, mandarin hops and (according to their press release), a “splash of Christmas magic”.
Heims um bjór has a caramel aftertaste, though is coloured like weak coffee and can again be described as relatively lacklustre in its flavour. That’s not to suggest it is in anyway bad, only that it falls short where other Christmas drinks shine, in strong and instantly recognisable flavours.
Again, one would feel nothing but pleasure quietly sipping a couple of pints of it over quality conversation with friends.
The same price and alcohol content goes for our third beer, Leiðindaskjóða, by the Brothers Brewery. This light, hoppy Red Ale gleams a fierce amber orange when poured in the glass, and offers a refreshing and inoffensive taste.
Finally, we got ourselves to the heavier samples, those darker brews that tip over the 6% mark to provide a stronger, earthier hit to the taste buds.
The first of these was the 8% Rommí Jól, a collaboration between Austri and IDE breweries. This creamy, flavoursome drink is best characterised by the whole case of liquorice that was poured into the batch during the brewing process, as well as the sharp taste of the alcohol that manages to sting its way through. This, no doubt, comes from the rum that was added to the batch during the brewing process.
Near black in colour, Rommí Jól has an endearing, chocolatey aftertaste that makes the drinker yearn for more.
The next beer on our line-up, Gingy (6.3%), was hands down my personal favourite, though it did much to dissuade me from the idea that was I mature enough to adequately review a series of alcoholic beverages.
Why? Because this particular drink was flavoured with vanilla and maple, milkshake and gingerbread, creating that ‘taste of Christmas’ that I had been longing for throughout the tasting experience.
The lactic porter, Afi Maria (6.8%), was next on the schedule. Brewed by the charming KEX Hostel and Brewery, I was disappointed to find Afi Maria was actually the beer I found the least charming.
Its burnt, earthy flavours did little for my palette, and I found its liquorice infusion difficult to place.
See Also: Icelandic Christmas Traditions
Our final sample of the evening, a brown ale, had just spent the last 9 months settling in a woodford barrel. With the highest alcohol content of them all, 8.8%, I was understandably eager to swill the gloriously named Hóhóhólísjitt by Ægir brewery (in English, “Ho Ho Holy Shit”).
Sipping it down, I found the beer smooth, but hard-hitting, offering deep seasonal flavours that lasted long after the final swallow.
Some Merry Final Thoughts
I was, by now, quite tipsy, a state of affairs I hadn’t thought possible given that it was only four in the afternoon. Either way, I compiled my notes over a glass of Gingy (—for a beer that tastes like Haribo, it’s incredibly moreish) and faced the dilemma of either going home or staying out for a few more.
Querying this point with Viktor, he outshined himself by providing a sweet shot of F*ckmaister, a spirit marketed under the slogan “Bad Decisions Make Good Stories”. This, I feared, would seal a night out of drinking, dancing foolishly and, ultimately, feeling sick, the set menu following any good session tasting Christmas booze.
Unfortunately, I’m not as young as I once was. Instead of the F*ckmaister pumping me up for an evening of wild partying in the city, I nursed my final Gingy for another half an hour, then set off for an early night’s kip at home, my stomach humming gently.
This early retirement made me realise that while sampling beer at Microbar could be perceived as the beginnings of an epic night out, it is still an experience in its own right, even if, like me, you don’t count yourself as a beer snob particularly.
If, however, you are keen to get your lips around some of the most authentically Icelandic brews this Christmas, there could be no better place than at Microbar. Skál, and Merry Christmas!
Have you tasted any of the Christmas beers listed above? Which is your favourite drink during the holidays? Have you paid a visit to Microbar in Reykjavík? Make sure to leave your thoughts and queries in the Facebook comments box below.