When one thinks of beer loving nations, Lithuania certainly doesn’t come to mind…but it should. As I found on my beer tour with Vilnius in Love, Lithuania’s passion for beer is up there with the best. So move over Belgium, step aside Bavaria, and check yourself Czech Republic, there is a new beer destination out there…and it’s got some pretty great stories to share.
Vilnius in Love with Beer
My night discovering this new (to me) beer nation began with meeting our Vilnius in Love tour guides. Kristina and Mikas, Lithuanian re-immigrants, were eager to share their homelands obsession with beer. Originally from Vilnius, their parents immigrated to Canada when they were both teenagers. After several years in Toronto they have made their way home in search of their roots…and better beer. As we walked to our first stop on this Vilnius in Love beer tour we passed through Vingis Park. Mikas was quick to point out that everything on this Vilnius in Love tour was related to beer, including our surroundings. Vingis Park was once home to hundreds of teenagers drinking on the weekends. With Lithuania’s acceptance into the EU came tougher laws and a ban on open liquor in public. Bambalyne, our third stop on the Vilnius in Love beer tour pays homage to this once popular pastime. With Bambalyne literally meaning plastic bottle, it has become the new go to for young beer lovers.
Mikas was also quick to point out that the beer on this Vilnius in Love tour was not true craft beer, rather home brew. Making beer at home is common in Lithuania and is made in small batches. The bar we were heading to is known to get some of the best small batch beer in Vilnius. At Snekutis, an old garage that was a bottle depot during Soviet times, we got to sample what makes Lithuanian beer unique. The first round was a flat brew made from yeast centuries old. Known as “live beer,” it’s not fully fermented which means it continues to do so in your stomach. This unpasteurized and unfiltered beer literally keeps brewing in your gut, giving you some serious bang for your buck…or euros.
What makes Lithuania Beer Crazy
When asked why some beer in Lithuania is served this way, Kristina got into some of Lithuania’s beer eccentric tendencies…and they’re pretty great. Example:
- Priorites? During a war with Sweden a small village in Lithuania was burned to the ground. The first thing rebuilt wasn’t the church, it was the brewery.
- Beer DJ? At weddings there used to be someone that kept the parties going. Not dancing? Have some stronger beer. Too drunk? Something light. Amazing
- Beer venturous? Lithuanians love to substitute hops when they can. We sampled Heather Flower beer, beer with peas, and beer with raspberry stems – all because Lithuanians are adventurous by nature.
- Beer God? In Vilnius, you can even find a shrine to Ragutis, the pagan God of beer!
And why the unfiltered brew? Beer was historically made for funerals meaning it had to last a good 3 to 4 days for the burial and subsequent wake. Suddenly my request for a pig roast and keg of beer at my own funeral had me believing that there must be Lithuanian blood in my veins.
Lithuania’s adventurous nature came to light at the second last stop on this Vilnius in Love beer tour – Busi Trecias. Although the small brewery has been making two kinds of beer for 20 years (dark and light) it has only recently become one of the city’s busiest bars. With the addition of beer cocktails to the menu came a flood of college kids. This was clear as we made our way through the packed building to get a peek at the brewery in the back.
After the tour we sampled some of the beer with the syrups that make the local kids go crazy. Call me a purist, but this added sugar seems wrong to me. This reminded me of college kids drinking beer and Sprite in Germany – shocking as there are actual laws on their beer. Although another reason why Lithuanian beer culture is unique, I happily stuck with the “dark” beer paired with fried bread, a traditional Lithuanian bar snack.
The Beer that Keeps Giving
Our time discovering Lithuanian beer culture with Vilnius in Love “technically” concluded with a stop at a beer house. The still fermenting beer in our guts had other plans though as Kristina and Mikas took us barhopping into the early hours. By this point, the night became fuzzy but can say that Vilnius in Love is a great way to see the city and understand why beer plays such a huge role in their culture. Mikas and Kristina are knowledgeable and likeable guides that are also great storytellers.
Even better, they are excellent drinking buddies!
Vilnius in Love Good to Know
Tour Cost: Beer & Beer tour is 80 EUR for a group up to 10!
Includes: Great guides and good times.
Don’t Miss: Unfiltered brew and fried bread!
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Although I was provided a complimentary tour with Vilnius in Love,
the experience, opinions, and one-too-many pints are my own.