Ah, Iceland— Vikings, the Aurora Borealis, Björk, fermented shark snacks and a 74-year prohibition on beer that lasted from Jan. 1, 1915 to March, 1, 1989 (also known as “Beer Day”). To be fair though, from 1935-1989 the prohibition was only against “strong beer”, or any beer at or above 2.25% ABV.
Needless to say, the craft beer movement in Iceland was off to a bit of a late start, but is catching up quickly. As of this writing, there are about 14 total breweries in a country of about 330,000 people.
One such brewery is Einstök Ölgerð, or the Einstök Beer Company, located just 60 miles south of the Arctic Circle in the fishing port of Akureyri, Iceland. It’s there, according to the brewery, where the water flows from rain and prehistoric glaciers down the Hlíðarfjall Mountain and through ancient lava fields, delivering the purest water on Earth, and the perfect foundation for brewing deliciously refreshing craft ales.
With production starting in 2011, Einstök (translated as “unique”) now sees distribution in 14 states in the U.S., and is available in 14 countries around the world. So far, the brewery is living up to its slogan of “Drink. Conquer. Repeat.”
The Viking-branded brewery produces beer in a range of styles including a Belgian White, Pale ale, Doppelbock, Wee Heavy, a fruit beer, and a Porter.
Our pick from the lot is Einstök’s multi-award winning Icelandic Toasted Porter, brewed with a slight addition of authentic Icelandic roasted coffee.
The Gist: An absolutely lovely porter with moderate chocolaty-sweet character and medium-high body.
Description: This dark porter develops a thick finger of creamy ochre head that slowly recedes over a cold brew coffee-colored beer, leaving behind swaths of elegant lacing inside the glass. The aroma is suggestive of chocolate wafer cookies, chocolate waffles, light vanilla, Turbinado sugar, molasses, dark wheat bread, red grape skin, purple crayon, and as the name implies, the malt character is more toasted than roasted. The flavor offers impressions of Swiss Miss Coco, praline cookie, and a bit of hazelnut balanced by a medium-low coffee tannic bitterness, with an aftertaste of roasted malt and baker’s chocolate.
How to Say “Cheers” in Icelandic
Skál. Pronounced “Sk-owl”, the word is directly related to the other Scandinavian words for cheers “Skål” (Swedish, Danish and Norwegian). Myth has it that the word “Skål/Skál” as a toast is related to the word “skull” and originates with the Vikings who would supposedly drink mead from the skulls of their enemies. As bad-ass as that might be, it’s not likely the case (spoiler alert: there’s also no evidence that the Vikings wore horned helmets… Sorry Minnesota).
As it turns out, in all Scandinavian languages, the word “Skål/Skál” also means “bowl” (or container) and is etymologically related to the word “shell” more so than “skull”. The “shell” in this case refers to a cup made from a shell, and is derived from the Proto-Germanic word “skelo”. The word first appears in Scottish English, and may have been connected to the visit of King James VI of Scotland to Denmark in 1589. It’s suggested that the word was meant to encourage people to empty (drink) a bowl in somebody’s honor.
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Hi, I’m Dan: Co-Founder and Beer Editor for BeerSyndicate.com, Beer and Drinking Writer, BJCP Beer Judge, Gold Medal-Winning Homebrewer, Beer Reviewer, AHA Member, Beer Traveler, and Shameless Beer Promoter.