Hit Icelandic Christmas Beer Brews Peas and Goodwill

ORA Christmas beer, or ORA jólabjór in Icelandic, has been an immediate hit, flying off the shelves faster than eight tiny reindeer pulling Santa’s sleigh.

Valgeir Valgeirsson

Icelanders take their Christmas beers seriously and this year, to stand out in the flood of Christmas beers, RVK Brewery, a small brewery located in Reykjavík, made a brew using two staples of Icelandic Christmas dinner, green peas and red cabbage.

In addition to green peas and red cabbage, the typical feast includes smoked leg of lamb (hangikjöt) and caramelized potatoes.

An Immediate Success
For this special brew, the peas and cabbage were mixed with malt, hops and cloves.
RVK brewery has an annual capacity of just 50,000 litres (13,200 US gallons) – which is isn’t very much in comparison to the output of international beer conglomerates. Only 6,000 litres of the Christmas brew (with 5.2-percent alcohol content) were produced and then sold online by Iceland’s sole purveyor of alcoholic beverages, state-run store Vínbudin.

Within hours, the first batch of 6,000 cans sold out and have since been replaced by another 18,000 in a country of just 370,000 people.

Inside RVK Brewery

The festive new ale is the culmination of two brilliant minds coming together. RVK master brewer, Valgeir Valgeirsson wanted to create a bold new flavor and Reykjavík advertising agency Pipar\TBWA was working on refreshing a classic Icelandic brand, ORA.

Valgeir Valgeirsson is known for developing popular Christmas beers in recent years, including ones made from algae, Christmas tree trunks and another Icelandic staple, dried fish.

The Origin Story
He began concocting the idea for the peas and cabbage beer months ago after receiving a proposal from Pipar\TBWA suggesting RVK Brewery team up with ORA, Iceland’s largest food manufacturer, to produce a Christmas beer. And according to Valgeir, it was a challenge he simply could not refuse.

To make the combination of flavors and brands complete the beer can itself is made to resemble the iconic packaging of ORA’s canned peas and red cabbage. While this particular combination of flavors may not sound appetizing as a beverage, it is one that holds a special place in the cultural heart of Icelanders.

In the days when fresh produce was difficult to come by in Iceland, ORA’s green peas and red cabbage were foods Icelanders could rely on being available for Christmas dinner, no matter what. And so was born a long lasting tradition that is now connected with another, Christmas beer.