Skúli Craft Bar is without a doubt the flagship of Reykjavík’s craft beer establishments and the perfect spot to start your afternoon or evening in downtown Reykjavík. There, you can choose from 14 of the very best draft beers in Iceland or a massive selection of premium bottled craft brews from across the world.
I arrived at Skúli with my partner in crime, Atli Þór Matthíasson, who reluctantly agreed to take a short break from his ongoing campaign against bullying in Reykjavík’s elementary schools. Our mission for the night? To sample some of the very best Christmas beers on offer in Iceland.
Skúli Craft Bar centres on award-winning beers from Borg brewery and boasts a warm and relaxed atmosphere that attracts both foreign visitors and local regulars. The modest, warm interior is complete with a beautiful wooden long-bar, behind which you will find the friendly and sophisticated people that make Skúli one of Reykjavík’s most sought out choices.
Skúli’s bartenders are, in fact, renowned for being walking beer-encyclopedias who always take good care of their patrons and are happy to recommend drinks to those who aren’t familiar with the Icelandic beers they offer.
Our guide for the night was Kjartan Yngvi Björnsson, an established, award-winning writer of children’s books, who loves beer so much that he spends his off-time contributing to Reykjavík’s finest craft beer establishment.
The first beer Kjartan served us of was Jólakisi (7%), a Christmas Pale Ale produced by Malbygg, a new but powerful addition to Reykjavík’s craft scene.
Malbygg focus primarily on IPA, hazy NEIPA, imperial stout and sour beer, with their entire production on keg or can only.
This dry double hopped IPA, with a distinct taste of pineapple, peach and mango, made for the perfect start to the evening, its freshness and lightness gave the taste buds the perfect warm-up for a night of drinking.
The weight of the bitter aftertaste balanced perfectly with the fruity lightness that stayed with each sip despite the brew’s relatively high alcohol volume.
After Jólakisi, Atli and I were ready for ‘Djús Kristur’ (5.5%), a kettle sour with mandarine and Madagascar vanilla, specially brewed for Skúli Craft Bar by the Malbygg brewery.
Djús Kristur proved to be an open invitation to a feast of citrusy flavours with moderate bitterness that was sideswiped by a sour tang that stayed to the end—the vanilla against the sour driving home an underlying malt sweetness that faded to a nice, dry finish.
The Djús Kristur has a tone and flavour that is uniquely its own, but such an imposing beer needs not be sampled more than once in a single evening.
The third beer of the night was Askasleikir (5.8%), a Belgian Style Amber/Red Ale out of Borg Brugghús, a young and progressive Reykjavík craft beer brewery.
Having received numerous awards at some of the world’s most prestigious brew competitions, Borg Brugghús take pride in being a progressive operation that incorporates Icelandic cultural traits and local ingredients to its brews.
Named after the 6th of Iceland’s 13 Yule Lads, Askasleikir is brewed from selected yeasts, hops and a touch of ash. Its taste is sweet, rich and heavy, yielding a delicious balance between apricot citrus and roasted barley which gave the brew a sweet caramel aroma.
Although Askasleikir is delicious, it is a demanding drink that commands respect.
Would you like to try something classic, or would you like something weird? Kjartan asked before pouring us the next one. Weird, Atli and I replied and were immediately served a aour ale, from To Øl, a young Danish Brewery that is taking the world by storm.
To Øl produce a wide array of different craft beers—some potent and provocative, others fresh and floral—that push the boundaries of beer-crafting.
Kjartan served us ‘One Ton of Christmas’ (8.1%), a traditional Berliner Weisse packed with classic Danish ingredients like cherries, redcurrant, and prunes.
The finished product was a fruity, tart brew, that took us to the limits of what constitutes a beer. Atli and I agreed that this was definitely not a beer we would ever have to order again, but we were pleased to have tried it that one time.
The closing act was ‘Hurðaskellir’ (11,5%), appropriately named after Iceland’s door-slamming Yule Lad.
Also brewed by Borg Brugghús, this Imperial Porter is matured in rye whiskey barrels for seven months before hitting us with a bang.
It poured thick, black and oily, with a steady cream-tan head; the dark, malty aroma an inviting cross between vanilla and whiskey, the mouthfeel smooth and super creamy, and a taste that was balanced yet almost overwhelming.
This was the last of the night’s Christmas beers, and easy to pair with a much-needed cup of strong black coffee, which Kjartan gladly poured us before seeing us off.
Should you be looking for an authentic local beer experience, drop by at Skúli’s and join a crowd that is there for the relaxed vibe, excellent services and second to none beer selection.
Opening Hours: Every day, 15:00 – 23:00