Sometimes when you travel, you just get lucky. Such was the case for my husband Jason and me in Reykjavik. We happened to arrive on Menningarnótt, or Culture Night. The celebration included a marathon through the city streets, hundreds of bands playing live on outdoor stages and in bars, and all of it culminated in a huge fireworks display. Stumbling onto Menningarnótt, however, wasn’t the highlight of our stay in Iceland.
What really felt serendipitous was the walk we took through a hidden corner of a park in the late afternoon, in which we came upon a party of the a local homebrewers’ club. They called out to us in English, and invited us to partake in some of their beers. We sampled a Hefeweizen and a bitter, and while the beer was nothing special, for the price—free, in a country where a pint can get pricey—it was fabulous. The company was excellent, too. We talked about everything from beer trends to the resurgence of Paganism in Iceland, and at least one brewer’s desire to die in battle and live on after death in Valhalla.
Somewhere in the middle of all our conversation, one of our new companions explained that what they were doing was not exactly legal. He didn’t mean the party; homebrewing itself is illegal in Iceland. In fact, beer, regardless of who made it, had not been legal in Iceland until 1989, although wine and liquor were above-board. But our new friends seemed unconcerned about being out in the open—or about inviting us into their circle. One couple invited us back to their place for blueberry waffles, but we had to decline, as we had already made other Culture Night plans. Instad, as one does in Iceland, we vowed to meet up at a particular Icelandic death metal show later in the evening.