My trip to Iceland in 2011 was a bit of a whirlwind trip, full of a lot of touring, seeing some pretty wicked things, and eating some “interesting food”. It was so busy in fact that I didn’t have as much time as I would of liked to enjoy the finer things that Iceland has to offer, like their beer. I did however spend one night enjoying it though.
The following are some of my tips on how to enjoy yourself in Iceland, aka have a few drinks, aka get drunk.
1. Buy beer/wine/alcohol at the Duty Free shops in the airport BEFORE you exit the baggage claim area.
As soon as I decided I would go to Iceland I was immediately told by a few people that whatever I do make sure I buy my beer / alcohol at the Duty free in the airport as it is more than twice the cost in the stores in the town as the government taxes by alcohol percentages. Not knowing if I would party the whole time there or if I would have a chance to at all I went straight for the beer and purchased a 6-pack of tall boys for less than 2,000isk which is roughly $16.00 ouch! You can buy one tall boy for $2 to $2.50 Canadian at home (but of course its not Icelandic beer) and this was me buying it where its cheaper, I can’t even imagine what they pay for it in the real stores.
Up until this point, since I was staying in a hotel and not a hostel, I hadn’t really socialized with too many other travelers and then I jumped on a tour bus to the brewery with nine lovely Americans. We arrived at the Ölgerðin brewery (Öl = Ale, gerðin = maker) sat down and were immediately given our first beer called “Gull”. I have been on a many a brewery tour in my life (including the Alexander Keiths brewery tour at least six times) and I know that if you want to get your moneys worth you don’t just sip the beer, you have to be a serious drinker. The minute I finished my beer the girl giving our tour filled me up, while most people were still only half way through their first.
Filming was sadly not allowed on the tour, however she told us the history of beer and alcohol in Iceland (which you can learn more about HERE). The gist of it is Icelanders have only been allowed to have beer since 1989 (after a long, long prohibition) and before then they would put vodka and Brenevin (aka black death) into their near beer to make it more enjoyable. So of course they made us try beer with those in it as well, like they use to.
We were also served straight up shots of the nasty Brenevin. As soon as I got my shot, I knocked it back before everyone else… oops…. the tour guide noticed and said “No we must all drink it together.” and poured me another (darnit) which I gladly shot with them. A few more interesting drinks later and the tour was over and I was good to go.
3. Eat food that comes with obligatory shots
A delicacy in Iceland is fermented shark (Hákarl), (well at least thats what the tourists are told) and its a must for everyone to eat when you visit. The shark comes with an obligatory shot of schnapps aka Brenevin (black death)…. ugh. However this shark was so disgusting I wouldn’t of wanted to chug it down with anything else, the deathly taste of the Brenevin quickly hid the almost-made-me-throw-up-three-times taste that was in my mouth from the ammonia smelling and tasting shark. But it was at least another shot of something. (Success!)
While fact checking for this post I was happy to find out that Gordon Ramsay himself couldn’t even stomach the stuff and found that it is said that “Eating hákarl is often associated with hardiness and strength” and I kept it down! Woot, woot! But I will never ever try that again. NEVER.
4. Meet up with some lovely locals
People in Reykjavik don’t usually go out on the town before 1am and some stay out until 6 or 7am. Crazy I know, but these guys really know how to drink and have a good time. Through twitter I met the lovely Inga and Hjortur a married couple that live in Reykjavik and they invited me out for drinks. At this point I didn’t need much more than one and I finished my night off with them, two of my fellow American friends from the brewery tour and a cold glass of Gull while listening to some lovely Icelandic music at Cafe Rosenberg.
5. Stumble back to your accommodations
The next morning I woke up feeling like black death (go figure), as I shook my fist in the air cursing Brenevin but I think it might of also been the shark, reindeer, foal and puffin that I ate that night, that also may have factored in to the horrible way I felt that morning...
And that is how you get drunk in Iceland. To learn more about my trip watch my video “Travel Yourself Does Iceland“.