Friday, 1 March 2019


A dry spell lasting from New Year’s Day 1915 to this day in 1989, Iceland placed a prohibition on beer for seventy-four years. A 1908 referendum that went into effect seven years later banned all alcoholic beverages outright for the island nation, but under pressure from the Kingdom of Spain, who threatened to stop importing Icelandic fish unless they were allowed to export Spanish wine, caused the Alþingi to relax their strictures a bit and a 1935 plebiscite allowed for the possession, sale and consumption of spirits.
Beer, however, remained excluded in order to appease the powerful temperance lobby, reasoning that beer by dint of its cheapness would result in greater dissolution. By the mid-1980s, the availability of international travel and greater tourism reconnected a generation of Icelanders who had grown up without beer back in touch with it and bars in the country were improvising with an expensive and potentially dangerous mix of non-alcoholic beer (which was legal) stiffened with shots of liquor. The Alþingi finally entertained the question again and lifted prohibition—an event observed annually.