Peas on Earth: Iceland’s veggie beer a Christmas hit

Brewmaster Valgeir Valgeirsson (right) and an employee pose with cans of ‘Ora jolabjor’, or Ora Christmas Beer. — AFP pic
Brewmaster Valgeir Valgeirsson (right) and an employee pose with cans of ‘Ora jolabjor’, or Ora Christmas Beer. — AFP pic

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REYKJAVIK, Dec 5 — A Christmas beer made from green peas and marinated red cabbage has become a festive hit in Iceland, flying off the shelves within hours.

Made by a small Reykjavik brewery, the recipe for “Ora Jolabjor” — Ora Christmas Beer — is inspired by Iceland’s Christmas dinner.

The nation’s Yuletide feast typically features peas and red cabbage alongside smoked leg of lamb and caramelised potatoes.

The new ale, which has 5.2-per cent alcohol content, is the brainchild of Valgeir Valgeirsson, a master brewer at RVK Brewing.

He has made a name for himself in past years by developing popular Christmas beers made from algae, Christmas tree trunks and even dried fish.

The fish beer “was strange,” the 41-year-old brewer with a salt-and-pepper beard admitted.

This time around, the peas and cabbage were mixed with malt, hops and cloves.

Valgeirsson’s brewery has an annual capacity of just 50,000 litres (13,200 US gallons) — a drop in the ocean compared to the output of international beer conglomerates.

He whipped up 6,000 litres of his latest concoction, which were then sold online at Iceland’s state-run alcohol monopoly Vinbudin.

The first batch of 6,000 cans sold out within hours, and have been replaced by another 18,000.

Iceland is a country of 370,000 people. 

Valgeirsson said the idea began fermenting in his mind six months ago after he got a call suggesting a tie-up with Ora, Iceland’s biggest food manufacturer, for a Christmas beer. 

“The challenge was something that I was seeking,” he told AFP.

The beer can actually resembles Ora’s packaging for its tins of peas and red cabbage. 

While it may not sound appetising as a beverage, the combination of peas and cabbage is highly symbolic for Icelanders.

The tradition of eating the two side dishes at Christmas dates back to the days when fresh produce was hard to come by in winter.

Valgeirsson’s unusual combination of ingredients has spurred a wave of curiosity.

“I was surprised by how good it tasted and how pleasant it was,” said Hedinn Unnsteinsson, a 51-year-old government advisor, who admitted that the beer did have a pronounced smell.

Niels Bjarki Finsen compared it to an English bitter ale and said he had expected the veggie ingredients to have a more distinctive taste.

Thorsteinn Tomas Broddason, who works in finance, joked that he expected more strange flavours in years to come.

“Hoping for the cod liver oil beer next year!” — AFP

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