A century ago, Iceland banned all alcoholic drinks. Within a decade, red wine had been legalised, followed by spirits in the 1930s. But full-strength beer remained off-limits until 1 March 1989. Megan Lane asks why it took so long for the amber nectar to come in from the Icelandic cold.

When the mercury hovers below zero, a cold beer is not the first drink that springs to mind. A warming shot of schnapps might be more appropriate.

But on 1 March 1989 – when the top temperature in Iceland was -5C (23F) – beer was exactly what drinkers had in mind. It was the first time in 74 years they’d had a chance to legally order beer. And order it they did, in rowdy scenes televised live on national television.


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