How to get drunk in Iceland

Cailin drinking on a beer tour in Iceland - How to get drunk in Iceland

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.

Taste the Saga Brewery Tour at Olgerdin Brewery in Iceland - How to Get Drunk in Iceland

2. Take the Grayline Iceland Excursions “Taste the Saga” brewery tour.

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

Hákarl fermented Icelandic shark - How to get drunk in Iceland

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“.

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  • Reply
    October 7, 2012 at 5:45 pm

    I’ll be flying to Iceland in about 10 days, and will be there for about a week. I definitely found this post to be very helpful :-)

  • Reply
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  • Reply
    Brooke, WhyGo Australia
    April 29, 2011 at 10:13 pm

    Why would you ever ever ever ever eat fermented shark. I’m dry heaving just thinking about it.

    • Reply
      April 29, 2011 at 10:15 pm

      hahaha Brooke! Well its not like it had maggots or mold on it – its basically “cured” but the shark is so inedible other wise that fermenting it is the only way to eat it! :)

      • Reply
        September 5, 2011 at 4:38 pm

        Wham bam thank you, ma’am, my questions are anserwed!

  • Reply
    Taste the Saga Brewery Tour & History of beer in Iceland | Cailin Travels
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  • Reply
    Seattle Dredge
    April 26, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    amazing! I will definitely keep these things in mind, thanks for the tips :)

    • Reply
      April 28, 2011 at 1:21 am

      Not a problem! By the time I stop posting about my trip I am sure you will know so much you won’t even have to go! haha

  • Reply
    April 25, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    You’re a true pro, and I’m honored to have gone out drinking with you on two continents… so far.

    • Reply
      April 28, 2011 at 1:19 am

      haha so true! and I am honored to have gone drinking with you! Lets make it 3 continents already?

  • Reply
    April 24, 2011 at 10:56 pm

    We bought our alcohol in the duty free shop before exiting too! Funny!

    • Reply
      April 28, 2011 at 1:16 am

      The lady at the Duty Free shop wanted to I.D. me she thought I was 18! Feels nice with my 27th birthday coming up (yuck)haha

  • Reply
    April 24, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    Haha… LOVE the title!

    • Reply
      April 28, 2011 at 1:15 am

      hahaha thanks Cam!!

  • Reply
    Lawrence Garcia
    April 22, 2011 at 7:18 am

    Thank you for sharing this information with us, I am planning to go to Iceland and have a great time there and of course I am a beer drinker so this information really helped me a lot since their liquor is quite expensive. By the way any particular place/pub that you would recommend? Thanks again and keep it up!

    • Reply
      April 28, 2011 at 1:14 am

      Thanks Lawrence I’m glad I could help!
      I didn’t go to too many bars/pubs when I was there however the Iceland Bar seemed like a great place and I heard some awesome live music at a place called Rosenbergs I believe :)

  • Reply
    April 20, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    This is great! I’m headed for Iceland on May 8th and this was a concern as I do enjoy the sauce. Looking forward to reading your other articles.

    • Reply
      April 28, 2011 at 1:13 am

      I’m glad I could help Jonathan! Make sure you also go on the Taste the Saga brewery tour operated by Iceland Excursions, so awesome!
      I tend to enjoy the sauce a little too often… haha stay tuned for my new post about the brewery tour.

  • Reply
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  • Reply
    April 18, 2011 at 9:31 am

    I am so proud of you for trying the shark. Next up, seal flipper pie?

    • Reply
      April 18, 2011 at 9:50 pm

      @Candice and bet I would eat 100 seal flipper pies before I ever even thought about eating that shark again!!

  • Reply
    April 17, 2011 at 11:49 pm

    haha! Love this. I didn’t drink much in Iceland, mostly because it was SO expensive, I was out in the country a lot and the beer there kind of blows. I did have one big night out in Reykjavik and although I’m not sure how much i spent I’m pretty sure it was massive.

    • Reply
      April 18, 2011 at 9:50 pm

      @Steph, that was my one big night out in Reykjavik too!! Unfortunately its not just the alcohol that is expensive there, even with their economic crisis and all :(
      I will definitely go back in the summer time at some point! :)

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