This is the Christmas Brew time of the year

There’s only a month left until Christmas so everything is covered in Christmas lights and fake (well, for now) snow in Iceland. Even my favourite retro radio station has morphed into a 24/7 holiday cheer monster, so no more cruising to cheesy 80’s Madonna songs, thank you very much, Christmas.

But of course, there are numerous advantages to the holiday season, and one of them is CHRISTMAS BEER.

You know that the time has come, when you have to search for a parking space in front of the liquor store, and the queues are zigzagging between the shelves, filled with people hanging on to their red-labeled bottles. Endless amounts of specially brewed awesomeness is coming to the Vinbúdin this time of the year, and we were eager to try and describe as much as we can to yours truly. I got some precious help from my Icelandic and Czech companions, I do not think I would have been able to make this journey on my own.

So here it goes, sorry if our highly sophisticated style is somehow fading on the way.

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Ölvisholt Brugghús: Jóli

We were expecting a lot from this one, as the gingerbread man seems really happy on the label, and we were certainly not disappointed. Gingerbread men don’t lie.

Nice, deep brown colour, smells like cinnamon and well, Christmas. The head is basically non-existent. The ginger, cinnamon and negull (whatever the hell is this, because not even my viking did not know) undertones are very delicious. Quite high in alcohol (6,3%), so be careful with gulping it all the way down with your first rush of enthusiasm.

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Föroya Bjór: Jóla Bryggj

Brought to us by our cousins from the Faroe Islands, we supposed this beer to be very exotic, but we were a bit disappointed not smelling the Christmas right away. Small, quickly disappearing head, light golden brownish colour. For the second smelling, I have to admit, it smells like those banana chocolates that resemble tasteless foam. Nothing special, disappointment no. 1.

Gæðingur: Jólabjór

Excitingly different bottle, promising label. Foamy, compared to the already tasted two beers. Not really Christmassy, no holiday taste, actually not different from the regular one, but not bad. Easy drinking, not too high on alcohol (4,6%).

Stedji: Jólabjór

Slightly black metal design. I jumped into this with doubts, as it has liqorice in it. Well, I don’t really know why I’m surprised, everything has liquorice in them in Iceland. It’s very „hobbsy” according to the boys, with a slight liqorice taste in the back of your tongue (someone is really pro here).

(We’ve just thought it started snowing already. No, it didn’t.)

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Viking: Jólabjór

-Oh lord, this one is in a CAN.

-This is going to be disgusting.

-CAN I skip this?

Still, the best head we had tonight and the most Christmassy design, going to serve its purpose as a Christmas decoration in the kitchen. Although, it smells sour and tastes like can. Not really disappointing, we knew it was going to be bad.

Royal: Xmas

Danish, and there is glucose syrup in it. WHY. And mais. Double WHY.

Colour is the colour of piss after a night of heavy drinking.

I’ll just let the pictures talk for themselves.

 

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Egils: Malt Jólabjór

Icelanders have an obsession with malt. Malt extract is a really sweet, refreshing beverage (where did this word come from?). At Christmas time they usually serve it mixed with Appelsín, which is basically the Icelandic Fanta, that makes it even more sweeter. However, Jólabjór is even better, as it also has alcohol, 5.6%, so you don’t even realize that you are getting drunk from something this awsome. Malt is all we need in the holiday season.

(We are listening to Cher.)

Egils: Jóla Gull

No heads going on lately, but there’s a head of Santa Claus on the bottle. Tastes like fruity chewing gum.

JólaKaldi

Kaldi has always been our favourite Icelandic beer, so the stakes are really high here. In the summer we had a pilgrimage to the North just to visit the small family brewery and taste as many beers there as possible. We ended up hitchhiking to the next town in the pouring rain with still full beer glasses. It was a day to remember.

Pleasant, burnt caramel smell, pleasant caramel taste.

Fuck, this is good.

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Tuborg: Christmas Brew

Iceland’s favourite Christmas beer, although it’s Danish. There’s liquorice, it explains everything.

‘There’s nothing to disturb me, but nothing to surprise me’ – David.

‘It’s fine’ -Gudjón.

‘I’m just waiting for my Einstök’ – Dóra.

Thule: Jólabjór

This is crap. We didn’t even open it. Save it for when it doesn’t matter.

Okay, we did open it, and as we had previously supposed, it was bad. The design is the same as of Tuborg, maybe to lure people to mix the two up, and end up going home with this one.

Einstök: Icelandic Dopplebock

Saving the best for last. It wasn’t a really fair game as we already know Einstök would win. And it really did. Beautiful head, beautiful dark brown colour, deep, aromatic taste. This is the beginning of a new love at 1 in the morning.

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Iceland Airwaves 2014

…and finally it was time for our favorite music festival of the year. We started the countdown back in August when we bought the tickets, and time passed by so quickly, it became November in what it feels like a heartbeat. Those four days went by even faster, so it’s good we have some pictures as proof, otherwise it would seem like a not-so-surreal hallucination.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/betkavass/

The first Iceland Airwaves was held exactly in 1999 and took place in a cool airplane hangar at Reykjavik Airport. Since the first time it has grown out the hangar and spread all over town: cafes, pubs, stores, hostels and even the street have turned into a concert place. With its off-venue schedule the festival has something for those as well who don’t have a ticket. With approximately 9,000 other festival goers and who knows how many off-venue attendees Airwaves turns Reykjavik to one enormous party-town for a few days each year, where the visitors can bump into an interesting performance at every corner.

We had a blast with our friends Topas and Captain Morgan and although we didn’t make it to all the concerts we wanted to (decided to surrender before Caribou when we saw that people were standing in line from the Art Museum to the Bæjarins Beztu hot dog stand and went to check some local bands instead) we had an amazing time together.

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…and then we were three.

Good news everyone! There’s the three of us now (no, not because somebody got pregnant). Welcome Dora, who’s just as enthusiastic about our beloved island as we are.

A few weeks ago we managed to finally see each other in real life again, we had a blast and agreed to join our forces and have a beautiful, intercontinental online threesome working on the page.

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Happy Birthday, Icelandic!

The Day of the Icelandic Language (Dagur Íslenskar Tungu) is celebrated each year on 16 November, which is also the birthday of the famous and beloved Icelandic poet Jónas Hallgrímsson. In his poetry he often mentioned Iceland, its landscapes, people, and his deep love for the country. Every year, the Jónas Hallgrímsson Award is given to someone who has contributed to the language.

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Although it still seems to be Mission Impossible to learn the language, we’re all in love with every consonant, vowel and sound of it. Also it’s a good opportunity to celebrate, so if anyone is in the mood today, raise your glasses to Icelandic. *clink*

A (very) short history of the Icelandic Language

Iceland was first settled in the 9th century by Norwegians, so at this time the same language was spoken in Iceland and Norway as well. No significant changes occurred in the vocabulary till the 11th century, the introduction of Christianity, when new religious concepts were introduced requiring new names in the language. These words were mostly taken from other Scandinavian languages. Icelandic also has some loanwords from English, French, Low German, Danish and German. The modern Icelandic alphabet has developed from a standard established by a Danish linguist in the 19th century.

The pronunciation of the language has changed a lot since the old days, but the written version has not changed much in the past thousand years. It means that modern speakers can understand sagas and Eddas written hundreds of years ago! (With the help of some footnotes and modern spelling, but still, an impressive thing.)

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How many words are in Icelandic and how many of them are used?

As I was studying for my exams, an interesting question popped into my head and gave me a pretty good excuse to procrastinate for a while.

Of course it’s borderline impossible to count all the words in a language. There are new ones invented every day, some of them don’t even make it to the official dictionaries. The words that never appear in print are called “augnablikssamsetningar” which means that they were “assembled in a moment”. There are also some archaic words that haven’t been used for centuries, but nevertheless, they are part of the vocabulary.

For new concepts and ideas Icelanders rather introduce new compound words instead of using the foreign equivalent. Icelandic is a North-Germanic language and like other Germanic languages it has the tendency to be compounded. This is how words like “vaðlaheiðarvegavinnuverkfærageymsluskúraútidyralyklakippuhringur (a ring on a key chain for the main door of a tool storage shed used by road workers on (the hill) Vaðlaheiði”)” are created.

About ten years ago a research was conducted on determining the number of words in written Icelandic. This study includes all words that appeared in print between 1540 and the mid-eighties and helps to give an estimated number of words occurring in the language. If we consider that quite a lot of words have been created since – just think of the new compound words, slang, technological vocabulary etc. – the study might be a bit obsolete but still, this is the only official source we have. And it contains 610,000 words of which about 519,000 were compound words, half of them only occurring only once in the source documents. That’s quite a lot, isn’t it?

If you feel like, share with us why you like/don’t like Icelandic, we would be happy to hear other opinions besides ours. Have a nice Sunday everyone!