James Beard Publication of the Year 2017

Come for the Iceberg‑Spotting, Stay for the Iceberg Beer

Photo by: Bruce N. Meyer

Come for the Iceberg‑Spotting, Stay for the Iceberg Beer

Iceberg Beer in Newfoundland

They call the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador Iceberg Alley, the place where ocean currents deposit icebergs that have broken off in Greenland and floated for two or three years before arriving on the North American continent. Something about the ocean currents and other forces of nature bring them closer to shore in early summer than at any other time of the year.

We thought it would be interesting to see a bunch of icebergs up close—you know, before they all melt. And since we would be on shore for the most part, there would be no risk of a Titanic-like disaster.

The Iceberg Finder app tracks the daily movement of icebergs so that people can follow them and spot them from the shore, so we rented a car and drove around the back roads and into the little coastal towns of Newfoundland. That’s how we found Quidi Vidi, a former fishing village with weather-worn, rickety-looking buildings near St. John’s, now also home to a special microbrewery of the same name.

Quidi Vidi’s best-known brew is its Iceberg Beer, a lager that comes in beautiful cobalt-blue bottles. Its unique ingredient is the melted water from the icebergs that break up and float ashore here in small “bergy bits”—which is actually the term used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

A cottage industry has developed around this iceberg ice. Barge operators collect the bergy bits, which are melted into fresh, clean, natural water. Locals walk the shore with coolers to pick up the ice for their home freezers; some restaurants in St. John’s serve it in their drinks.

And of course, when it comes to brewing beer, it’s the water that makes the difference. This iceberg water was once snow that fell in Greenland as long as 25,000 years ago. Naturally, Iceberg Beer was the lightest, freshest, cleanest beer I’d ever tasted.

Quidi Vidi produces about 80,000 dozen bottles a year, but sometimes they have a hard time getting enough bottles, because they are so pretty that no one wants to recycle them. And neither did we. We rinsed out our bottles and packed them away in our luggage for a beautiful souvenir.

You should visit, too. Iceberg Beer is only available in Newfoundland.

Quidi Vidi
35 Barrows Rd, St. John’s, NL A1A 1G8, Canada
10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday; free tours from noon – 4 p.m.

Up Next

Neighbor vs. Neighbor on Little Bay Islands

Featured City Guides