Image for post
Image for post

Why Iceland Banned Beer—But Not Liquor—for Nearly 75 Years

For decades, it was easier to get a bottle of vodka in Iceland than a pint of beer. The reason says more about Iceland’s politics than its temperance movement.

1909

Image for post
Image for post
A (fairly ornate) 19th-century membership certificate to the International Organisation of Good Templars. The organization’s Icelandic arm played a key role in the rise of Prohibition in the country. (Wikimedia Commons)

How an American movement to ban alcohol took hold in Iceland and other European countries

Image for post
Image for post
Spain saw Iceland’s prohibition and decided that couldn’t be, so they forced them to import Spanish wine. (Amy Chen/Unsplash)

How Spain broke Iceland’s attempts to ban alcohol outright

1918

Image for post
Image for post
Some examples of Brennivín bottles. Not introduced until after prohibition of spirits ended in the country, it became the country’s iconic spirit of choice. (Kenn Wilson/Flickr)

Why was most beer banned in Iceland, but not liquor or wine?

Image for post
Image for post
Even today, a popular Icelandic drink involves mixing hard alcohol, usually Brennivín, with near beer, which topped out at 2.5 percent alcohol by volume. (James Brooks/Flickr)
Image for post
Image for post
Víking Beer, which has corporate roots that date to the era immediately after prohibition of spirits ended, is the Budweiser of Iceland, with a market share well above any other brand. (Nora Morgan/Flickr)
Image for post
Image for post
A legit Icelandic craft beer worth writing home about.
Image for post
Image for post

Editor of @readtedium, the dull side of the internet. You may know me from @ShortFormBlog. Subscribe to my thought machine: http://tedium.co/

Sign up for Tedium: The Dull Side of the Internet

By Tedium

A twice-weekly newsletter that hunts for the end of the long tail. Take a look.

By signing up, you will create a Medium account if you don’t already have one. Review our Privacy Policy for more information about our privacy practices.

Check your inbox
Medium sent you an email at to complete your subscription.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store