REYKJAVIK, Iceland — Icelanders can drink whiskey, vodka, wine and Brennivin, the national spirit also called "Black Death." Beer, however, is illegal.
The reasons for the ban, which came at the start of the century, have been lost over the years. Now, though most Icelanders have developed a taste for it via a black market, a small but influential abstinence movement argues that beer leads young people to stronger drinks and legalization would increase the nation's total alcoholic consumption.
Prime Minister Steingrimur Hermansson raised the possibility of legalizing the sale of beer last year as a partial solution to Iceland's economic problems. Taxes on legal sales, Hermansson said, could cut the budget deficit more than $21 million.
The issue was taken up recently in the Althing, the North Atlantic island's 1,055-year-old Parliament, but the legalization of beer was lost amid bureaucratic maneuvering.