Sunday, 28 July 2013

EUROTRIP - LATVIA

Beer O'Clock on Tour


Latvia was one of the countries I was most excited to visit, beer-wise, as I knew I would be ticking off a country in the European Beer Challenge that has frustrated me with my inability to get it! Choosing which beer to review was almost impossible and you can see which one I chose here.

The beer haul pictured below has 9 beers, but a few more found their way in by the end of the trip. Latvia has a good range of breweries and styles. I'd heard nothing but good things about Latvian beer before venturing to the country and right from my first Latvian beer on the plane to Riga I knew I was in a country which love their beer!

My first Latvian beer!
I'll start my review of Latvian beer right at the beginning of my Latvian beer journey. Lacplesis Ekstra was the beer I had on the plane and a beer that I sampled in all three traditional formats (bottle, can and tap). It's a very drinkable Dortmunder style lager and a beer I can highly recommend even if you aren't a lager lover!

Despite being a made up character, Lacplesis is regarded as a hero in Latvia. His name means "bear slayer" and he even has a public holiday named after him! The Ekstra named after him is a sensational beer and worthy of carrying his name, but the standard Lacplesis is not a good beer by any means! It's a very sweet lager with almost no balancing bitterness, one to avoid!

A seriously drinkable Porter!
I'd really been missing some body in my dark beers, so was thrilled to find out that Latvia's dark beers are all real Porters! Cesu Porteris, pictured right, had a really strong roast flavour and was thick enough without being too thick. It was clearly a versatile Porter as I enjoyed it on a 32 degree afternoon! The can is awesome too!

My favourite Latvian beer was Cesu Nefiltrētais, an unfiltered lager. It was just on a different level to any of the other Latvian lagers. A special mention should also go to Aldaris' Mezpils, which I thought was an exceptional pilsner with plenty of hop bitterness.

Good for the price
If you are in Latvia I would recommend looking out for Uzavas, a very interesting yeasty beer, and the Bauskas Specialais range. Both the Gaisais and Tamsais are excellent. As for beers to avoid; the aforementioned normal Lacplesis and Zelta Check, it looks like cat piss and taste marginally worse!

As in Lithuania Grimbergen was the most widely available of the international beers and I did partake in a Dubbel at a restaurant with no other dark beers. I also got to try another Belarussian beer, Lidskoe Premium. It was a clean pilsner if maybe a little simple. For the price though it would be worth trying 1 or 6.

Latvian beer gets a big tick from me. Overall the quality is excellent with only the odd macro dud. I almost completely ignored the countries biggest brewery Aldaris in this review, but all of their beers are okay, particularly their tap range. That's something else I should mention, Latvian's love their tap beer and the range of beers available on tap is excellent everywhere in Riga and their were a number of other beers I could have mentioned. As a beer holiday destination Latvia would be an awesome place! 4 weeks wouldn't have been enough time to cover all the readily available Latvian beers let alone only 4 days!


Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!

Thursday, 18 July 2013

REVIEW: ALDARIS GAISAIS

European Beer Challenge #50 Latvia


STATS
  • Country: Latvia
  • Style: Euro Pale Lager
  • ABV: 4.8%
  • Serving Type: 500ml Can
  • Price: CHEAP!!!
Back when I started this challenge, never in a thousand years did I think that Latvia would be in the last 5 beers in the challenge! Latvia is admittedly a small country, with a population of around 2 million, but they all drink beer! And lots of it! To put it in perspective Aldaris Brewery alone made over 100 million litres of beer in 2007!

Production has increased even more since the takeover of the brewery by Carlsberg in 2008, however the figures are swallowed up by the global numbers Carlsberg put out. Gaisais mean light beer in Latvian and most of the big breweries have a Gaisais and a Tamsais (dark beer). Aldaris is the biggest producer of beer in Latvia so I'm putting it through it's paces for you.

Remember that I will hopefully be able to re-photograph this when I'm home in about a week so the appearance may change. However, Aldaris Gaisais pours almost perfectly for a Euro Pale Lager. The beer is a beautiful golden straw colour and has a large white bubbly head. There is a good amount of carbonation rising to maintain this head and this contributes to this beer leaving excellent lacing.

The nose has some positive and some negative aspects, however the positives outweigh the negatives in this case. Hops are quite noticeable on the nose and they have citrus and grassy characteristics. The malt base seems clean at first but as the beer warmed it began to smell like a skunked beer. If you drink this beer very quickly, you will not encounter this problem. I would say that Aldaris Gaisais just about breaks even on points for the nose.

I can report that the skunky aroma does not translate over to the taste. Aldaris Gaisais is a fresh tasting lager which may be a tad sweet for some. It has just about enough grassy hops to balance the beer but it's borderline and as the beer warms you lose some of this bitterness and it becomes more difficult to drink. In saying that, if you drink it quickly in the sunshine in Riga it's a very refreshing beer!

Aldaris Gaisais is a really solid lager and one I would happily recommend to friends visiting Latvia (because as hard as you try you can't get it in Australia!). Is it a beer I'd go out of my way to get again? Probably not, but it's certainly a serviceable lager that is versatile, it goes well on it's own & with food & as a session beer. If you are a macro lager fan it would be worth giving it a go, just go in with low expectations and you should be pleasantly surprised.

Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

EUROTRIP - CZECH REPUBLIC

Beer O'Clock on Tour


Prague is the city which sparked my love of beer. My tastes have certainly evolved since then and this time I will be looking to try more than just the pilsner's, for which the country is famous. On this trip to the Czech Republic we ventured further afield than Prague in our search for beer.

Our trip to the supermarket yielded the biggest haul of the trip so far with 13 different beers selected. It was a mix of lagers, both light & dark, some fruit radlers, an absinth beer etc. You may notice a conspicuous lack of Pilsner Urquell from the lineup, that's because we visited the brewery in Plzen which I will elaborate on below.

Staropramen; Prague's Best
Everyone who drinks lager has the Czechs to thank for the beer they drink. Pilsner Urquell was the first beer to use a now common bottom fermenting lager yeast in 1842. In honour of this feat Lizzie and I made the journey 90km's down the freeway from Prague to Plzen, the home of Pilsner Urquell. The brewery tour is fascinating, they still brew some batches of beer in barrels under the brewery and down in the cellars you can taste an Unfiltered Pilsner Urquell! A real highlight!

Back in Prague, at dinner times I normally stick with Staropramen, either light or dark. Staropramen is brewed in Prague and is the most readily available beer. Both the light and the dark (Cerny) are very serviceable beers, while not world beaters both are very drinkable in the hot Prague sun.

One to look out for!
Unlike most of the rest of Europe when you order a dark beer in the Czech Republic you end up (normally) with a Scharzbier. It's one of the styles of beer that really caught my eye when I first started tasting good beer. All the big breweries have one, but if you are after a slightly left field option try the Svijany Knezna; it was my favourite of the 6 or 7 I tried.

One of the things I learnt this time in Prague is that many locals do not order beer by the brand. It's not like back home where you walk into a bar and ask for a Carlton. In Prague they walk in and ask for a 12 or a 13. This number isn't the alcohol content, it's the gravity of the beer (measured in degrees Plato). As most Czech beers are similar they don't care which brand's beer they get they just want the different thickness (and by extrapolation ABV...).

Circle Paddle from Pivovarsky Dum 
That pearl of wisdom came from Tom, our guide on the best beer tour I've ever done! It was a microbrewery tour of Prague where we visited 3 breweries. We visited Pivovarsky Dum, U Medvidku and Il Tri Ruzi. All of them make good beer and have a good selection. Pivovarsky Dum (tasting pictured left) make a few really good fruit beers to go with their more conventional core range.

It's unlike me to give a plug, but I really think this tour is worth it! Tom was able to talk technically to me about beer, while was still able to explain to Lizzie things like gravity of beer, which I have made a complete hash of above! It's a hard thing to explain... Anyway; here's the link. If you love beer, or even if you don't this is a must do tour!

Save your money!!!
I'm going to put Lizzie's thoughts down on the two grapefruit radler's as I thought both were bar too sweet and soft drink-like for me to review. She preferred the Zlatopramen version as it had more citric characteristics which helped to balance out the overriding sweetness. While the Staropramen lacked the bitterness and was unnecessarily sweet and over carbonated.

All Czech beer is of similar quality, is something that is bandied about alot. So the question becomes how to pick the worst of a good bunch. Well in that regard 2 stood out from the pack. Branik, the beer that you see a lot of locals drinking in the street, is an awful lager. While the Absinthe beer is a nice novelty but completely undrinkable, so undrinkable that I poured it out!

The range of easily accessible beers in Prague is by far the most extensive of any country I've been in so far on this trip. I will stress again that I'm buying the beers from supermarket's so to get this much variety in style is impressive. The Czech Republic is probably the ultimate beer destination in the world, with maybe the exception of Munich's Oktoberfest. I can't recommend it highly enough. If you only ever take one piece of advice that I write seriously, go to Prague and drink the beer!

Quite a large range from the Czech Republic
Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!

Sunday, 14 July 2013

EUROTRIP - FRANCE

Beer O'Clock on Tour


Beer O'Clock on Tour moved on to France this week. It was never going to be a big beer drinking few days as we were in Paris to celebrate Lizzie's birthday, and really when in France you should probably drink at least some wine!

With this in mind my haul, which you can see below, was very small. Just 3 French beers, 2 from the same brewery accompannied my beers posted from Luxembourg and the solitary Belgian representative. Leffe was bought purely because I'd never seen it in a can before! Anyway with limited ammunition, here's what I've got.

The national lager.
As usual in these posts I'll start with the national beer, in this case Kronenbourg. I actually quite like Kronenbourg, it's a very drinkable tap lager and is not awful in the can form that I tried in the hotel. Are there better lagers? Absolutely. Can you do worse than Kronenbourg? Alot. In summing it up: Give it a go, you could do much worse!

For example you could have to drink Kronenbourg 1664. At home I think this is a fine beer that I'm more than happy to drink if offered. In France however, it was horrendous. So bad it almost became the first lager poured out on this trip. It was far far too sweet and there was close to no hop presence to balance this out. A really disappointing beer.

Great if you can find it!
Seemingly in every restaurant we went into there was Pelforth Blonde on tap. Naturally I had to give this beer a go; and I'm glad I did! It was probably the best beer I had in France, not that the bar was set very high at all! It's a pale ale, albeit English, and it's considerably better than any other of the readily available options.

Pelforth Brune is nowhere near as easy to get, but I think I liked it more than Pelforth Blonde. I picked up a can of this in the supermarket and was quite impressed when I drank it very late one night after a big wine dinner. It was a smooth dark(ish) beer, which would be good with either food or on it's own.

Canned is better!
As expected the Leffe Blonde in a can was far and away the best beer I had in France. It was certainly the freshest Leffe I've ever had, having only crossed a border rather than an ocean, and was considerably more drinkable, despite the ABV than anything the French could produce.

Possibly the biggest indictment on French beer is that all it's neighbours produce good beer. Even tiny Luxembourg produces a better lager than the French have managed to! You can read more about my review of Bofferding here.

The biggest problem I have with beer in France is that it's so expensive! Compare it to Georgia 3 weeks ago where I could get 15 beers for $10 where as in France it won't buy you one! The next biggest problem is that the beer, or at least the beer I tried, was crap. My advice would be to avoid France if you are after good beers or if you must have beer there bring lots of money or investigate the micro scene more than I did. I'll leave you with one thought though... The wine's very good in France!

A small French haul...

Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!

Thursday, 11 July 2013

REVIEW: BOFFERDING

Updated Bofferding Photo
European Beer Challenge #49 Luxembourg


STATS
  • Country: Luxembourg
  • Style: German Pilsner
  • ABV: 4.8%
  • Serving Type: 330ml Aluminium Bottle
  • Price: Inexpensive
Not since the end of 2011 have there been this many updates in the European Beer Challenge in this sort of time frame. Believe your eyes people, this is new country #3 in the space of a fortnight. Bofferding comes to us straight from the source, so thank you to those involved that helped make this happen.

I initially thought that Luxembourg would be a hard country to get my hands on, purely because it's tiny! With a population of around half a million people, there isn't a great deal of need to produce vast amounts of beer, especially when you are bordered by both Belgium and Germany who both make more beer than your country could possibly ever need! With all this in mind I go into this review with relatively low expectations.

So I tried this in my hotel in Paris before heading out for Lizzie's birthday lunch, if my second one makes it home safely hopefully we improve on the photo. Anyway the beer poured very well with a golden liquid with plenty of carbonation topped by a brilliant white head. The head was 3 or 4 fingers tall and had good retention and excellent lacing. A very impressive start from Bofferding.

I thought this would definitely be a beer to bring out the lager rule on, but I was pleasantly surprised by this one. There's actually an aroma here! It is a faint one but it is certainly appealing. There is some very light grains initially which are complimented nicely by some grassy hops, which provide contrasting bitterness. Hopefully Luxembourg's beer can bring it home with a good taste!

Bofferding really surprised me! It's a lovely, well made lager. It has clean relatively light malts up front which are quickly replaced by surprisingly bitter hops. The hops have a grassy quality to them (Saaz?) and leave the mouth feeling quite oily. Despite this mouthfeel it's very light and has alot of tiny bubbles that help to cleanse the palate and leave you wanting more.

Well done Luxembourg! As macro lagers go this is a very very good example! This beer would appeal to the masses and the slightly more discerning drinker as it has that little bit more complexity than many other macro lagers, with the hops being a standout for me. Was this due to the freshness? I imagine it had something to do with it and I wouldn't be surprised if the aluminium bottle also had something to do with keeping the beer so fresh. I'd certainly recommend you trying this beer if you come across it!

Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!

Monday, 8 July 2013

EUROTRIP - NETHERLANDS

Beer O'Clock on Tour


We arrived in Amsterdam to a cold wet afternoon, just like the one we’d left in Copenhagen. C’mon Europe this is supposed to be our SUMMER holiday! We also arrived to find no fridge where we were staying which would obviously limit what we could do in bottle review form.

With this in mind we visited the supermarket down the road and bought two beers and intended to do something similar each time we went back to the room. It didn’t quite pan out that way as we found a couple of good craft beer venues and decided it would be easiest to try the beers there. With this in mind only 5 beers made it back to the room and some of those were probably ill-advised.

The Iconic Heineken
Much like Carlsberg in Denmark, Heineken is a world renowned brand, arguably the best known brewery in the world. The iconic Heineken green is splashed everywhere in Amsterdam and as the brewery promises the beer tastes pretty much exactly the same on tap in Amsterdam as it does in Melbourne. A very refreshing lager, if a tad sweet for some.

There are a few things that are almost essential on any trip to Amsterdam. One of which is visiting the Heineken Brewery. Located no more than 2km’s from the city centre and with beers included in the price of your ticket it’s a must and gives a fascinating insight into one of the world’s biggest breweries!

Save your money!
Heineken produce more than just the pilsner we all know of. Heineken Oud Bruin made it back to our room and I’m really sorry that it did. This is one of the worst beers I can remember having! At 2.5% it’s far too sweet and almost leaves you feeling sick from this odd caramel taste. It’s definitely one to avoid.

In the Netherlands there is plenty of competition for Heineken in the macro lager field. Both Grolsch and Amstel are readily available, but you can see why Heineken is the number one. Amstel is one of the worst lagers I’ve had in a long time, and if you check out the macro lager section of the blog you’ll see I’ve had some bad ones!

My first Hoppin' Frog!
After dinner one night we decided to pop into Arendsnest, a bar in Amsterdam which serves only Dutch micro (ish) beers. In general I found the Dutch beers to be lacking in real flavour, except for the Maximus Stout 8 which I thought was exceptional! I also thought the bar staff were less than helpful and not through a lack of understanding, just general disinterest.

In stark comparison the next afternoon we walked past BeerTemple, an American craft beer bar owned by the same guy as Arendsnest. The girl behind the bar really knew her stuff and what was initially going to be a one or two beer stop turned into a 4 hour session! Highlights included BrewDog’s Dead Pony Club and Hoppin’ Frog’s Hop Dam, but really everything I had was excellent!

Better than it looks
Both Wieckse beers were nicely constructed beers. Wieckse Witte was the best macro produced beer I tried in the Netherlands. Wieckse Rose is actually a really nice fruit beer that Lizzie and I both enjoyed. It had enough sweetness for Lizzie to like it, while there was just enough bitterness for me. If you are into fruit beers, this is one I would try.

I bought the Leffe to represent the huge number of Belgian beers available in Amsterdam. Almost every bar/restaurant you go into in Amsterdam has more Belgian beers than Dutch beers and look who could blame them! Leffe 9 is the best Leffe I have ever had, it was a simply stunning Belgian Pale Ale and you could hardly tell it had 9% ABV! Buy this beer if you see it!

In summing up Dutch beer, it’s just not very good. All the beers are drinkable but they just don’t have an edge that sets them apart. They all seem like they are copying an American beer but haven’t quite reached the height they were aiming for. Heineken is a drinkable lager, Wieckse Witte isn’t awful but otherwise stick to the Belgian beers that seem to dominant restaurants and bars in Amsterdam.

My Amsterdam finds

Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!

Friday, 5 July 2013

THE SESSION #77

STATS
  • Topic: IPA - What's the Big Deal
  • Session Host: Justin's Brew Reviews
  • Announcement: Here

The Session is a concept that I've followed for a long time but never felt compelled/got around to writing a post. Basically on the first Friday of every month beer bloggers from around the world unite and write a post on a common topic. Find more info here.

Each month a different blogger hosts The Session and basically sets the topic and the collates the results. I'm jumping into this one head on with about an hour to get it in on Friday, wouldn't want my first post on The Session to be late! So without further ado, what is the big deal with IPA?

Indian Pale Ales or IPA's are a foreign concept to most beer drinkers. Until 2 and a half years ago they were a foreign concept to me! I was perfectly happy swimming along on the edge of the craft beer scene, always interested to try new beers that came out at Dan's but not really interested enough/knowledgeable enough to know where to get new more exciting beers. The Purvis Beer came into my life...

A story that has been hashed and re-hashed on this blog was how I found Purvis for the first time by accident. I had to go to the Post Office for work right at the end of the day and parked opposite it, I went inside the Post Office and spent about 20 minutes in the queue thinking how well a beer would go down. Walking back across the road I saw the Purvis Beer sign and the rest is history.

Initially I think like most people I stuck to things I knew, in my case different lagers and ventured into the odd pale ale. Then one day when I went in the guy behind the counter gave me 2 beers and said something along the lines of you've been coming in a lot: try these and tell me what you think. 1 was an Australian micro pale ale that I'd had before, but the other was BrewDog's Punk!

From the first hit of hops on my nose and then on my palate I was hooked. I'm not going to lie, I really struggled through that first can, but for some reason I just wanted more. I was blown away that beer could have that much flavour! From that day forth IPA has been my style of choice, so much so that I've brought 6-pack's of Sierra Nevada Torpedo or HUB IPA to party's (an advantage of which is no-one will steal your beer/you'll know who it was if they do!).

Now that's my journey to loving IPA's and I suppose to a lesser extent all good beer, but I don't think I've answered the question: What's the Big Deal with IPA's? I think the simple answer for that is because I don't know what attracts me to them!

Obviously the hops are a big factor, I love hops in any beer and if they come in a huge IPA that will destroy my palate all the better. Be them in the form of funky Belgian IPA's, crazy American IPA's or even the more mild English IPA's we craft beer lovers will always lap them up when ever a brewery puts out a new one! Is it clever marketing? Is it because hops are addictive? Or is it something entirely different? I think it's a mix of all three.

My blog has seen 32 different IPA's of all shapes and sizes afforded full reviews, (and probably 5 or 6 times that many drunk!) not bad for a blog that basically set out to drink a lager from around 50 countries... I don't think I'll ever fully understand my love of IPA, all I know is that I think that I'll still be spending my money on them for as long as I have money! They've changed me from your slightly more discerning beer drinker into a full-on hop head, and I wouldn't have it any other way!

There we go, it's long and rambling but that's my first attempt at a post for The Session! I actually enjoyed doing it a lot more than I thought I would and I would encourage anyone who's sitting on the fence about doing it to just jump in and do it, it's great fun! As usual any questions about beer or anything for that matter, drop me an email or comment below.

Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!

EUROTRIP - DENMARK

Beer O'Clock on Tour


Next up we made the move to Copenhagen in Denmark. I think it’s probably the most expensive place I've ever been! In saying that the supermarket sells craft beer which is a plus and there are a number of excellent craft beer venues in and around the central part of the city.

Our trip to the supermarket was sooner than anticipated due to a torrential downpour on our way from the train station to our hotel. My selection of 8 beers encompassed the big two Danish lagers & Danish and Norwegian craft beers. 2 IPA’s, 2 wheat beers, the trip’s first stout, an American pale ale and 2 lagers. A pretty diverse selection but are any of them any good?

A serviceable Pils
“Probably the best beer in the world” is a slogan that I think everyone is familiar with. Carlsberg is the national beer of Denmark and one of the world’s most recognisable brands. Unfortunately for Carlsberg this slogan is far from true but it is still a drinkable macro lager. A beer that I think everyone should try even if it’s just to say you have.

Tuborg Classic was the next beer I tried, purely because I’ve had Tuborg Green and enjoyed that so wanted to see how their Pilsner was. The answer; better than I expected with the grassy hops quite prevalent for a macro lager, you could do much worse than this beer if you are a lager drinker in Copenhagen.

Not an IPA...
My first IPA in over 2 weeks was a real let down. Don't get me wrong Ørbæk Bryggeri IPA is a nice beer, only issue is it's not an IPA! This is nothing more than American Pale Ale. Beer style disappointment aside it was very drinkable and at 5% I'd be happy to drink it as a session beer. It reminded me of Stone & Wood Pacific ale, but was a vastly different beer. Confused? So am I, but we'll leave this one here.

The second (well really first) IPA, Økologisk IPA from Herslev, was better although not a lot... I say that but I suspect I was being hyper-critical/drunk at the time I reviewed it. It was an English style IPA, which are never my favourites, and it's hop use was minimal if I'm being kind. Although I do remember finishing this off quite quickly and not being overly disappointed in it, I just don't have the tasting notes to back it up.

Tomahawk Single Hop
My quest to find a good IPA in Copenhagen was finally solved when we stumbled upon the Mikkeller Bar in Vesterbro. To say this was the find of the trip so far would be an understatement! Not only do they serve amazing beers, they are also the cheapest place we found in Copenhagen. Two visits over two days shows how much of a hit this place was with us.

The hardest part of the Mikkeller bar was finding beers that would be palateable to Lizzie’s decidedly hop-phobic tastes. To my absolute astonishment when she tasted my BetelGueuze she announced that she liked it! Further amazed was I when she proceeded to go to the bar, order herself one and finish the whole thing! Who’d have thought?!?

Perfect colour!
Back to the bottled beer and I have to say the rest were significantly better than the two IPA’s preceding these. The Gavno Stout had excellent flavour, but unfortunately the mouthfeel was a little too thin. While the Nørrebro Stuykman Hvede had a really excellent spicy nose and flavour, it's certainly a beer I'd try if you can get your hands on it.

The two Norwegian beers, from Lervig Aktiebryggeri, were both well-constructed examples of their styles. The White Dog (pictured) was one of the best technical Witbiers that I've had in a long time and the Lucky Jack was a very refreshing pale ale with plenty of citrus flavours. This is a beer I'd love to be able to get my hands on again to do a full review with.

So what to say about beer in Copenhagen? It was a bit of a mixed bag, and probably not quite worth the price that many places try and charge. For value for money go to Mikkeller bar where you can get an 0.4L of something good for less than an 0.5L of Carlsberg at a restaurant or pub. As for the bottles, I’m afraid to say but I think it may be better to stick to Norwegian craft beers. The ones I had were just a class above the Danish ones although I will admit my selection probably had something to do with that… Anyway onto the next country!

My Danish (and Norwegian) range
Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!

P.S. I should also have mentioned that we visited Brygerriet Apollo in Copenhagen and had a fantastic steak and their own pilsner, brewed in-house. This was an awesome lunch venue that'd I'd definitely recommend.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

EUROTRIP - LITHUANIA

Beer O'Clock on Tour


From England we moved on to our first country that is actually known for it's beer, Lithuania. The country has a beer history dating back to the 11th century and produces a wide variety of styles of beer. Not just the plain pale lagers I have become accustomed to on my trip so far.

My trip to the supermarket in Lithuania was not for many beers as I had been informed the draught selection in Vilnius was excellent, and who doesn't like draught more than bottles? Anyway I still ended up with 5 beers, including my first beer from Belarus. I got some dirty looks for buying Belorussian beer, as cheap beer from Belarus is threatening the Lithuanian craft beer scene.

Kalnapilis Grand
From what I gathered the two main macro beers in Lithuania are Svyturys Ekstra (which I reviewed almost 2 years ago for the European Beer Challenge) and Kalnapilis Grand. The Svyturys label is easier to find and is at most restaurants and is a good example of a Euro Pale Lager.

The Kalnapilis Grand, pictured left, is harder to find but worth the effort. It more of a Pilsner than a Euro Pale Lager and has a heap of hop bitterness for a lager. Having also tried the Kalnapilis Pilsener on bottle I would say that this is clearly the lager that these guys should, and it would appear have, put their eggs in the basket of. Of the two main Lithuanian lagers this would be the one I would have if given the choice.

Svyturys Baltas with Lemon
Judging by the number of wheat beers in Lithuania I was not surprised to here that Lithuanian wheat is not only some of the world's best but also plentiful. Arguably my most enjoyable beer in Lithuania was Svyturys (pronounced Schver-Tour-ies) Baltas in the Town Hall Square. It was served on draught with a slice of lemon, which added surprisingly well to the flavour.

Of the rest of the wheat beers I sampled I think that Vilkmerges Kvietinis probably took the cake for it's spicy malts and good clove flavour. It really was a brilliantly made wheat beer! I don't drink a heap of Hefeweizen's but this is one that if I could get ahold of I would drink alot of, it's very very drinkable.

Vilnius' only brewery...
Lithuania is also famous for it's dark beers and I've been craving one for a while. First up I tried Utenos Porteris. Utenos is one of the major players on the Lithuanian beer scene and have produced a mass produced Porter as good as I've had. It had a beautifully creamy yet still thin mouthfeel, which is the characteristic I can most easily recall.

Vilniaus Dark is produced by the only brewery in Vilnius. It's made by a micro brewery with very impressive packaging and an equally high quality product. This beer could be my favourite from the trip so far! Shame I only tried this on my last night in Vilnius or I would have drunk alot more!

Of the other bottled beers I sampled Utenos Pilsner was a boring macro pils, while Kalnapilis Original was nowhere near the standard of Kalnapilis Grand. You can read about my first beer from Belarus in the European Beer Challenge here.

It was great being back in a country that really appreciates beer. While Turkish and Georgian lagers were fine (well Turkey's were not so fine...), there is only so much lager I can drink in a row. In Lithuania the lagers were better, the wheat beers were excellent and there were dark beers. It's a shame we didn't have longer there as I would have loved the chance to check out more. It would definitely be a country I could recommend visiting on a "beer holiday".

Limited Lithuanian bottles as Draught range was so good!

Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!