Hardly anyone can say they’ve been to an authentic Icelandic farmhouse brewery. Including me. But I’ve come closer than most. While staying at Hotel Rangá in desolate South Iceland, which awesomely had as large a selection of national craft brews as you’re likely to find (one on draft, 11 in bottles), my family humored my pursuits by turning down a rocky road but quit apparently before the last bend in the road. Ölvisholt Brugghús is housed in a former dairy farm and their beers are straightforward and solid. The most exotic among them is Lava, an Imperial Smoked Stout that’s actually the only import available so far. Alas, I didn’t get to ask if the malt is smoked in-house or if a traditional Bamberger malt is imported since Iceland was virtually deforested.
I don’t know what the entire tree population stands at today, but it can’t be much more or less than the human population of 320,000. Want an even more interesting statistic? Iceland suffered under prohibition for 75 years ending comparatively recently in 1989 (low-alcohol beers were allowed back in 1935). The day it was repealed, March 1, is still celebrated as Iceland Beer Day so if you’re going to plan a visit, do it then!
The capital of Reykjavik is a hip little town and establishments like The Icelandic Bar serve only their domestic brews. As for pairings, I recommend Ölvisholt Móri (red ale) with Reindeer Carpaccio and Ölvisholt Lava with smoked puffin, but the best pairing with the national dish—“rotten shark,” not a misnomer—is any beer you want, minus the fermented shark.