As we continue to work our way through this year’s impressive selection of Christmas brews, it was time to visit Bjórgarðurinn. Comfortably hidden under the new and impressive Fosshótel Reykjavík, this spacious-yet-comfy location is a mecca for whoever is out of the prowl to taste all that the season has to offer.
And what a task that is. Bjórgarðurinn offers 17 different Christmas beers on tap, and special Christmas sandwiches to follow. As if that was not enough, they do offer a few more ‘regular’ beers, bringing the total of tap beers up to 22—and that’s not counting the bottles.
They are passionate about beer and they’re more than willing to assist us all through the jungle of over 60-holiday beers that are on offer in Iceland this year. After taking my seat, a taster of six beers was quick to appear, and with the great guidance of a dedicated bartender, the tasting commenced.
The first one wasn’t even a Christmas beer. It was a smoked imperial stout at 9,4% volume from Ölvisholt Brewery, called Lava. When I asked why we were starting there, the reply was quick; ‘This one will get your taste buds all fired up. You’ll be ready for anything.’
How very true, this was an excellent opening. The beer was rich and balanced and just the thing you need to remind you how a proper beer tastes before heading out on the great unknown of Beers of Christmas Present.
As the seasonal beers started coming, it was decided to start with Askasleikir, a 5.8% amber ale from the Borg Brugghús brewery named after one of the Yule Lads. Being one of the four standard Christmas brews that Borg sends out this year, it is the lightest and most accessible of the bunch.
It’s mild, but never watery, and there is a faint wheat flavour and a touch of something sweet, likely apricot or peach. A perfect go-to for those who’d rather have something light to wash down their Christmas roast.
The second glass to slide my way was the controversially named Skyld’að vera stólahljóð, also from Borg. It is a ‘T-beer’, an experimental brewing rather than staple inventory. Named as a nod to a recent political scandal, this 5.2% pale ale was a pleasant surprise.
There are some people out there that are not fans of Pale Ales in general, but this beer could very well be a gateway to those beers. Fresh, not bitter, and with a slight touch of citrus smell that I felt translated into the flavour. This light and fun beer is something I would recommend for a good evening out.
Then it was time to kick it up a notch and the 10% Barely wine Giljagaur, another of Borg’s Yule Lad beers, appeared in front of me. I have to admit I’m not a great fan. The aftertaste is nice, but it feels a little bit like unfiltered mead with some beer added.
It was also on the market last year, but I feel that this version is a little bit sweeter. There is a touch of something earthy, pine or wood, but it doesn’t really add to its flavour I feel. Honestly, it’s not something I’d enjoy over the holidays at home. I’d stick to something else.
The last taste form Borg was the third yule lad, Hurðaskellir, this time in the form of an 11,5% imperial porter. I admit it was a bit strong, and the alcohol crept through, but it was so nice. The liquid is a bit dense, and it had the porter-y feel of roasted malts and chocolatey smoothness, but there was a distinct sweetness, perhaps vanilla and a hint of coconut that made it very nice to drink.
This is the one beer you could curl up with under a blanket by the fireside. However, the alcohol percentage is affecting the flavour a faint bit, so there is a small hitch in the smoothness that should not be there.
Next up was Malt Jólabjór from Ölgerðin. At a stable 5,6% it’s named after the national drink of Malt Extrakt on which it is based. Overall this doesn’t taste like beer. It tastes like Malt, the same unalcoholic Malt Icelanders mix with Appelsín for their kids at Christmas. You can buy it in any supermarket.
The beer, however, is sweet, very sweet, and I am told it’s sweeter from the tap than from the bottle. It is only available on tap at Bjórgarðurinn, so you really should go there, and have a taste of Icelandic Christmas, now with added alcohol for your enjoyment.
The last beer I got was from of one of Iceland’s youngest brewers; The Brother’s Brewery in the Westman islands. Leppur, named after one of the less known little siblings of the Yule Lads, is a 6,5% Milk Stout with some serious coffee and cream to it.
Oh, it was good. Comfortably full and rounded with the soft aftertaste form the cream, the coffee-chocolate balance was just right and so soft in texture. It’s a rich beer, but not too rich, and carries some weight to it, but never too much. It’s pretty sweet, and I know some might even say too sweet, but I disagree. It has the sweetness that Christmas needs and the rich warmth that suits the season. A winner. I found my beer.
See Also: Culture Tours in Iceland
If you’re an avid beer far and would like to spend the evening in the company of quality beers, sampling all the holiday season has to offer, Bjórgarðurinn is the place to be. They offer special taster sets of 6, 12 or 22 brands so that you can experience the whole set. Happy hour is every day from 03:00 PM to 07:00 PM.
The staff is happy to recommend what beers suit best to which items of the menu, which is pretty tasty and caters to omnivores, vegetarians and vegans alike. They are also more than willing to assist you in finding your special Christmas spirit in liquid form, so go meet them at Fosshótel Reykjavík, Þórunnartún 1, every day of the week between 03:00 and 01:00 AM.
In the mood for Christmas Beer, or have your own review to share? Have you visited Bjórgaðurinn and want to weigh in? Make sure to leave a comment in the Facebook box below and share your thoughts with us.