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BEER GUIDE Powered By Docstoc
					Summer 2010
version 2.1


 All 15 Latvian breweries
 with 80+ beers

                                                                                                      Part I. General Information

    I love good beer,                                                                                  “Latvian” beer style.................................................................................................... 4
                                                                                                       Best regarded Latvian breweries.............................................................................. 5
    however, I have noticed a complete absence of a detailed and up-to-date source of in-              A short history of Latvian beer................................................................................ 6
    formation regarding Latvian beers and breweries in English. I feel quite disappointed              Jāņi - the ultimate Latvian beer holiday.................................................................. 10
    when I see tourists buying beers with the most colourful labels and presumably thinking            Date of foundation of still existing Latvian breweries.......................................... 12
    that these would be the best representatives of the Latvian brewing tradition. I can well
    imagine their disappointment afterwards.                                                           Market share of Latvian breweries........................................................................... 14
                                                                                                       Latvian beer - the best beer there is?....................................................................... 16
    This guide has been intended as quick help for those who are short on time, but would              How is the guide organised?..................................................................................... 17
    like try the best Latvian breweries have to offer. In this second edition I have corrected
    some of the errors of the first edition, added pictures and expanded on more interesting
    subjects. From now on, the guide will be updated constantly, there will be no new edi-            Part II. The Breweries
    tions as such.                                                                                     Abula (Brenguļu)....................................................................................................... 18
                                                                                                       Aldaris......................................................................................................................... 22
    And on a side note, there is no paid advertising in any form here, I have written all of this
    as a part of the rather time consuming hobby. I hope you will enjoy it.                            Bauskas........................................................................................................................ 28
                                                                                                       Brālis............................................................................................................................ 30
    Cheers!                                                                                            Brūveris....................................................................................................................... 34
                                                                                                       Cēsu............................................................................................................................. 38
                                                                                                      Krāslavas...................................................................................................................... 40
                                                                                                       LIDO........................................................................................................................... 42
                                                                                                       Līvu/Lāčplēša............................................................................................................. 46
                                                                                                      Madonas...................................................................................................................... 50
    Latvijā, tāpat kā visur pasaulē, pastāv dažādi ceļveži. Domāju, ka visai loģiski būtu, ja
    tāds taptu arī attiecībā uz alu, turklāt redzot, ka ārzemju tūristi dzer gaišas krāsas ūdeni      Piebalgas...................................................................................................................... 52
    ar alus garšu, visuresošās reklāmas un pietiekoši pievilcīgās etiķetes iespaidā uzskatot to       Rēzeknes...................................................................................................................... 54
    par Latvijas aldaru domas augstāko lidojumu, man galvā rosās visai nelabas domas.                 Tērvetes........................................................................................................................ 56

    Gribu tikai piebilst, ka viss te aprakstītais ir mans personīgais un bieži subjektīvais viedok-   Užavas.......................................................................................................................... 60
    lis. Vienam garšo viens alus, citam - cits, tas ir tikai normāli. Pieļauju, ka manam viedoklim    Valmiermuižas............................................................................................................ 64
    pietrūkst nacionālpatriotisms, bet akls patriotisms lielās devās, pilnīgi bez jebkādas kriti-
    kas, nekad nav bijis veselīgs.                                                                    Part III. Practical Information
    Šādam pasākumam latviešu valodā diemžēl neredzu jēgu, Latvijā ir maz alus darītavu,                Excursions to Latvian breweries.............................................................................. 68
    turklāt lielākā daļa Latvijas iedzīvotāju tās tāpat pazīst un katram jau sen ir savs iecīnītais    5 beers to bring home from Latvia.......................................................................... 70
    alus. Vairāk informācijas latviešu valodā par alu var lasīt manā blogā                 Beer wars 2010 - Aldaris and Lāčplēsis/Līvu......................................................... 72
                                                                                                       Where to get beer - some advice on best locations............................................... 74
    Atis (Dzeru alu)
                                                                                                       Latvian beer vocabulary............................................................................................ 78
                                                                                                       Copyright, disclaimer and contact information.................................................... 79

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I. General information.                                                                                                                                                   

     “Latvian” beer style                                                                           Best regarded Latvian breweries
     With regards to Latvian beer, it is quite similar to average European lagers. There is no      During April and May a survey was conducted by asking 350 Latvian beer
     distinct Latvian beer style, but usually plain and bittery pale lagers and overly sweet        drinkers to evaluate the Latvian breweries and beers they produce. Of course, it is no
     dunkels are considered to carry Latvian characteristics. Dominant sweetness in beer is         easy and highly subjective task, as everyone has its favourites. The results obtained are
     not considered as a flaw by many of Latvian beer drinkers, even opposite is often true -       used later throughout the guide to serve as a guidance to help describe both breweries
     although the sweetness masks the flavour deficiencies, it helps to hide the alcohol as well.   and beers as they at least provide some glimpses what beer savy locals consider to be as
     This from the point of view of a beer drinker for whom the overall aim of the evening is       the best Latvian brews.
     to get totally drunk, greatly increases drinkability.
                                                                                                    The score is plain and simple: 5 is maximum, 1 is minimum.
     If there was once a significant German influence to Latvian beers, especially during the
     19th century, it disappeared almost completely already by the end of the 1920s. As the
     G. Mīlbergs, Member of the Saeima (Latvian Parliament) mentions in the newspaper                           1.                        Tērvetes                4.51
     in 1932 - “Czechoslovak beer is at least three times cheaper and better than Latvian beer”.
     Sadly, there have not been as many changes as one could have expected since.

     Currently the only clearly distinguishable German roots can be found in beers whose                        2.                        Užavas                  4.39
     recipes and equipment has been imported from Germany and Austria in the 1990s and
     2000s, such as LIDO, Užavas, Brūvera, Valmiermuižas and partly Abula (Brenguļu).
                                                                                                                3.                        Abula (Brenguļu) 4.21
     There is one pleasant exception - Baltic Porter that is produced with lager yeast in this
     region. Although the style did not originate in the Baltic States, Baltic Porter was highly
     regarded in the Russian Empire (as the name of a similar style - Russian Imperial Stout
     style suggests) to which Latvia belonged during these times. There are pitiable remnants                                             Bauskas                 4.07
     of this industry remaining in the region, but one or two occasional Baltic Porters are still                                         Valmiermuižas           4.06
     produced in Latvia.
                                                                                                                                          Piebalgas               3.90
     There is no tradition of bottle-conditioning beers and 99% of Latvian beer (except for                                               LIDO                    3.57
     one or two Hefeweizens) are lagers. Almost all bottled beer is filtered, only two unfiltered
                                                                                                                                          Brālis                  3.16
     and bottled seasonals (both by Brālis) can be found. Of course, there are a couple more
     of unfiltered beers available on-tap, but to much smaller extent than one would desire.                                              Brūveris                3.09
                                                                                                                                          Krāslavas               2.86
     With regards to beer ingredients, everything from yeast to grain (except, of course for
     water), is imported as there is no commercial maltster in Latvia. With some exceptions                                               Madonas                 2.83
     during the Soviet time it has been mostly like this for the last century, but most of the                                            Rēzeknes                2.80
     breweries do not want to admit this fact to the public as they often market their beer as
                                                                                                                                          Cēsu                    2.55
     a very traditional drink.
                                                                                                                                          Aldaris                 2.50
                                                                                                                                          Lāčplēsis/Līvu          2.36

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I. General information                                                                                                                                                           

                                                                                                       that time) and a cartel of five largest Latvian brewers that resulted in high prices - from
     A short history of Latvian beer                                                                   double to triple compared to those e.g. in Germany during that time. It meant that aver-
                                                                                                       age worker simply could not afford to drink commercial beer and spirits provided much
     Latvians tend to pride themselves as a beer drinking and brewing nation with beer as              better price/drunkness ratio. This is verified by the official statistics that shows that in
     the national drink and so on and so forth; they are no different from any other European          1927 only 3.5 liters!!! of beer annually per person were consumed (15 - 25 times less
     nation in this aspect. In addition, the Latvian and Lithuanian word alus is amongst some          than in pre-war years) in Latvia. There is no doubt the actual consumption was many
     of the most ancient words meaning beer in Indo-European languages. Unfortunately                  times greater, as most of the beer was produced by homebrewing. Still, the government
     the grim reality as well as the recent history clearly shows that Latvians during the last        policies during the 1920s can be considered as the most severe blow to the Latvian beer
     couple of centuries have also shown quite a keen interest in spirits and the production           industry (surpassing even changes caused by the both World Wars) that caused most
     and consumption of vodka in Latvia (in the terms of absolute alcohol) has exceeded that           of the smaller breweries to close and paved the way to mass-produced and boring beer.
     of the beer for the last 200 years.
                                                                                                       During the course of subsequent Soviet and German occupations from 1940 till 1945
                                                                                                       many changes occurred - nationalisation of breweries, centralisation, introduction
                                                                                                       of common standards and recipes. Most of the breweries brew more or less the same
                                                                                                       brands of beer - Rīgas, Marta, Žiguļu, later Senču (Ancestor) was introduced. It would
                                                                                                       be unfair to say that the beer was below standards - some of it was good, most - not that
                                                                                                       drinkable and frequently spoiled and sour, but as there was no access to imported brews
                                                                             Former Aizpute            and even the domestic produce was often in very short supply, there were not too many
                                                                             Castle pub.               comments heard. You were lucky enough to get any beer at all.
                                                                             Aizpute, a town
                                                                             of 5500 in central
                                                                             Kurzeme, it
                                                                             boasted at least
                                                                             30 pubs during
                                                                             the second part
                                                                             of 19th century.
                                                                             Now there are

     Beer, for sure, was important - in the 19th century there were several hundred small and      Former Aizpute
     more than 60 larger breweries in Latvia, producing beer both for the local population as              brewery.
     well as export to the vast Russian Empire. Things went pretty well until the First World     Established in the
     War that saw most of the breweries closed and their equipment was “evacuated” to Rus-         19th century, the
     sia in order to avoid it falling into German hands. Of course, most of the equipment was        brewery finally
     never returned from the Soviet Russia.                                                       ceased operations
                                                                                                  during the 1950s.
     Things started to improve again in 1920 - immediately after the independence was
     gained. About 100 breweries re-opened, the future started to look bright, despite the
     loss of the largest export market - Russia. Unfortunately this lasted only till 1925 when         In the 90ies, just after the USSR collapsed and the Soviet occupation was over, the Latvi-
     new anti-alcohol measures were passed that saw 70% of the breweries closing during the            an beer industry was not in a good shape - there were several inefficient, previously state
     following years and the total output dropping by almost 40%. Although these laws were             owned breweries. Of course, they all could be bought cheaply (that is, from the Western
     repelled in a few years time, commercial production of the beer was further hampered              point of view, local companies did not have neither too much money, nor too much ac-
     by extortionate import tax, incredibly high excise duties (the highest in Europe during           cess to loans and other industries, such as looting scrap metal, were more profitable).
                                                                                                       Many of the largest breweries landed in the hands of Scandinavians in a result, such as
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I. General information                                                                                                                                                             

     Carlsberg, Harboe and Olvi. From those few who were still owned by the locals, all, but             labels are the same (just translated) for otherwise seemingly different beers from differ-
     three, went under during the course of next 5-15 years.                                             ent breweries. In general, I would suggest keeping away from their products except for
                                                                                                         select beers, such as Aldara Porteris.
     Nowadays the situation is similar to the most of the developed world - roughly 85% of
     the market is possessed by gargantuan international brewers while the rest is shared                Small breweries
     by imports and smaller local breweries. It is also worth noting that the ABV of Latvian
     beers has gone up from about 4% during the 20s to about 5.5% nowadays.                              With smaller breweries it is a different story, as very diverse quality beers can be expect-
                                                                                                         ed from these brewers. Sometimes it is good, sometimes not that all right. A common
     None of the Latvian beer ingredients, but water originates in Latvia. Only barley for               practice for some small brewers involves selling the same beer with different names or
     Tērvetes brewery is a notable exception, although it also partly comes from Lithuania.              using one beer as a ‘base’ and introducing small tweaks (such as extra carbonation) to
     Malt for the rest of the breweries is imported mostly from Lithuania and a couple of oth-           obtain a ‘different’ beer, so the range of beers can appear larger than it actually is. Often
     er European countries. Hops are mostly purchased in the Western Europe - the Latvian                some of the smaller breweries go bust, during the last years it has happened to Gulbenes,
     climate is not well suited for growing them, although many homebrewers use Latvian                  Lodiņa, Latgales and previously to many others.
     wild hops and achieve rather good results.
                                                                                                         In general, most of the smaller breweries are not doing well as the most, but few have
     Of course, homebrew has always co-existed along its commercial relatives. Most of the               been on decline for the couple of years and I believe it is mostly due to bad management
     Latvian homebrew is made using rather old and time-tested methods, so the final result              practices. Latvians seem to embrace ‘hit and run’ tactics - at first a fair quality beer is
     can be murky brown/yellow liquid, not too pleasant for the eyes, but sweet and quite                introduced, but after the demand increases, the owner immediately puts a ridiculous
     high in alcohol, one should expect between 7- 10% ABV. Most of the traditional home-                surcharge, possibly even sells a beer brewed elsewhere under its name that leads to in-
     brewers remaining today can be found in Latgale region, but only a few of them brew                 evitable quality issues.
     regularly, most opt for the largest holidays once or twice per year. Sadly, but it could be
     expected that these brewing traditions will be almost extinct within a decade or two.               Unfortunately it does not seem that all brewers are seriously involved in any long-term
                                                                                                         planning, some just go with flow, blaming everyone else, mostly government and home-
     The current affairs                                                                                 brewers for their own faults.

     There is a clear distinction between small and large breweries, as the Latvian legislation
     grants a 50% discount from the excise tax for breweries brewing less than 5 million l
     annually. Exactly this exemption was the main reason why three largest brewers left the        Lodiņa Brewery in
     Society of Latvian Brewers to found their own Association of Latvian Brewers. Neither          Bauska.
     of these associations with fancy names is doing anything to promote beer, except for           Lodiņa brewery,
     occasional rants towards homebrewers that are blamed for proving cover to illegally            operating from 1873
     imported alcohol. It is interesting to note that three most recent Latvian breweries have      - 1950s was opened
     become members of these associations.                                                          again in 2004 in the
                                                                                                    historic buildings
     Large breweries                                                                                under a new owener-
                                                                                                    ship and with lots of
     There are 3 large breweries in Latvia, all owned by large Scandinavian breweries, the          promises. It managed
     biggest of them Carlsberg. All operate under the same principle as large international         to last just for under 5
     breweries all over the world, producing mostly low quality bland lagers. Some of the           years. There are plen-
     “Latvian” beers are not produced in Latvia at all, they can be imported from either Lithu-     ty of similar stories
     ania or Estonia where they are produced in sister breweries and vice versa. It is quite        in Latvia - Gulbene,
     easy to imagine that it is far more profitable to brew large batches and distribute them all   Vārpa, Kimmel, just
     across the Baltic States than to brew smaller and more diverse beers. Sometimes even the       to name a few.

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I. General information                                                                                                                                                                    

    Jāņi - the ultimate Latvian beer holiday

    There is a holiday and then there is Jāņi - certainly the largest and by far most signifi-
    cant Latvian holiday. It is supposed to be set around the summer solstice, but is actually
    celebrated a day or two afterwards - on the evening of 23 June (it is called called Līgo
    evening) and 24 June when it is called Jāņi (it is no coincidence that Jānis is also the most
    popular Latvian male name).

    Jāņi is an official 2 day holiday that is often extended, e.g. there are 3 official holidays in
    2010 + a weekend, so it makes five days of uninterrupted celebration in total. Jāņi are
    based solely on ancient pagan traditions that pre-date the introduction of Christianity
    during the 12th century and 700 years of forced Christianity could not make a differ-
    ence. Although some loose mention of St.John can be found around this time even
    seemingly devout Latvian Christians seem not to mind actively taking part in the pagan            Traditional style homebrewing
    celebrations. During Jāņi most people try to leave the city, therefore Riga (as well as           After mashing (on the left - it takes some effort to mix the malt with water in the large wooden bar-
    other larger towns) might look like it was hit by a deadly virus as there is almost no one        rel all through) the wort is being transferred to lauter tun (it is filled only partly in the picture on the
    around, so certainly is not a good idea to make a pub crawl during this time.                     right) where it rests for up to one hour before it is sparged and filtered through juniper branches, but
                                                                                                      also straw may be used. According to more traditional approach, the wort is not boiled (only hops,
    Most of the traditional Jāņi traditions and their true meaning have not survived, except          usually Latvian wild varieties, are boiled separately), but goes straight to the fermenation vessel.
    for food consumption habits, bonfires and careless mating. One of the main traditions
    is to consume as much as beer as possible, eat cheese, sit by the bonfire (as well as to               enough stock. During the 23 June, just before the main celebration kicks in, one can be
    jump over it), sing and possibly look for and affair during the short night. The part                  sure that almost not a drop of beer remains in the maturing tanks of the small breweries.
    with regards to the beer is always succesfully realised to the full extent. The police and
    emergency services would easily testify to that as a large number of accidents almost all              Although it might seem a golden time for everyone in the beer industry, Jāņi also has
    caused by drunk driving take place around Jāņi.                                                        its negative sides that are felt mostly by consumers. Brewers are very tempted to mature
                                                                                                           their beers just for a couple of days less than they should and to perform other opera-
    Jāņi is also the time to taste the real Latvian homebrew. There are many especially elderly            tions that enable breweries to produce more beer and help to cope with demand. Even
    farmers who brew only once a year - just before Jāņi to provide refreshments for the cel-              so, during the last years, aided by the financial crisis brewers have realised that abusing
    ebration, using decades old techniques, old wooden barrels and other interesting pieces                the trust of their customers for a short-term profit may have negative consequences in
    of equipment that might as well belong in the museum.                                                  the long-term and such a behaviour has become much rarer now.

    Sometimes this traditional beer is good, but very often it can be treacherous. It can be               On the other maybe one should not worry about quality issues around Jāņi too much as
    made from homemade malt, wild hops, bread yeast and is often not matured enough.                       for getting drunk also simple drinks are more than sufficient.
    A popular wisdom is that 1 or 2 days of fermentation more than enough, and sugar can
    been added generously to aid a swift formation of alcohol. The result can be quite varied
    and unpredictable.

    Jāņi is easily also the most important time of the year for any Latvian brewery, as a
    significant part of the total yearly production (the demand is at least triple if compared
    to any other month) is sold just within a few days, often at elevated prices. Retail stores
    may place orders as early as several weeks in advance, sometimes pre-paying to ensure

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I. General information                                                                                                                                                

                                                                  Date of foundation of still existing Latvian breweries

                                                                                   Abula (Brenguļu)
                              dubious claims
                               back to 1865

                                               Lāčplēša                                                                               Brūveris                    Madonas
                                            brewery closed,
                                             brand merged
                                           with Līvu in 2008
                                                                                                                       Bauskas                        Līvu

                dubious claims
                 back to 1590                                                                                                Krāslavas
                                                                                                        Tērvetes                                     LIDO
    Although some (Aldaris and Cēsu) often state that these breweries were founded earlier than 20th century, these
    claims can be easily dismissed as mostly marketing fairy tales. It has to be noted that Aldaris, Cēsu and Lāčplēša all
    do not even operate in the historical buildings and have changed their ownership and management completely for
    several times during the 90ies.

    The only truly historical brewery, operating in the historical premises and under the successive management is Brenguļu brewery, followed by Tērvetes and
    Bauskas, all founded during the Soviet times. The rest of the breweries are relatively new operations.

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I. General information                                                                                                                                          

                                                 1 bottle = 1% of the Latvian market share in 2009= 1,4 million litres of beer

    It is possible to see quite clearly who is the king here.                                              The smallest 7 breweries combined together (below) barely make
                                                                                                           up to 1% of the total Latvian beer market, but some of their beers
    As noted before, 85% of the market belongs to the Scandinavians,                                       are considered to be the best.
    while the remaining 15% take care of the rest.

                                                                                                                       Brenguļu                            LIDO
                            Cēsu Alus                                                                                  0.1 million liters                  0.2 million liters
                            36 million liters

                                                                                                                       Brūveris                            Madonas
                            Lāčplēsis/Līvu                                                                             0.4 million liters                  0.1 million liters
                            27 million liters

                                                                                                                       Krāslavas                           Rēzeknes
                                                                                                                       0.09 million liters                 0.1 million liters
                            60 million liters

                                                                                                                                             0.2 million liters

                                                                                                                       3.1 million liters

                            2.8 million liters                                                                         Brālis
                                                                                                                       1.3 million liters

                            4.3 million liters                                                                         Užavas
                                                                                                                       1.2 million liters

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I. General information                                                                                                                                                            

    Latvian beer - the best beer there is?                                                         How is the guide organised?
    Latvians, just as almost any European nation take pride in their beer. There are enough        It is no easy task to provide a good overall information about the breweries, especially
    breweries to chose from and everyone (including me, of course) have their favourites.          to someone who has not heard neither anything about the brewery, nor the beer that it
    On the other hand, many Latvians, just as almost any other nation, despite constant            produces. It also has to be taken into account that Latvian breweries rarely make such
    bickering about the decline of the beer industry, do not take the the criticism from out-      information public.
    side too well.
                                                                                                   I went for some basic facts, accompanied by short stories and some notes about their
    It is difficult to describe the Latvian beer industry on objective terms. First, despite be-   beers, for some they are longer, for some - somewhat shorter. You will find a box like this
    ing a small-scale homebrewer, I have never studied brewing other than reading a couple         on the main page of each brewery:
    of books and subscribing to beer magazines and my day-job does not involve any beer
    related matters. Secondly, I am a Latvian; in Latvia everyone knows each other and the                          Annual volume (thousand hl)*                        155
    least thing you want to do is to say anything even remotely bad in the public about some-                       Rank                                                 2
    one you might encounter sooner or later.
                                                                                                                    Beers (bottled)                                     4
    However, I do not think sweet lies are the best option. Many of the Latvian tourist guides
    would not agree, most probably because they do not care. Or their advertisers prefer that                       Beers (draught only)                               none
                                                                                                                    Rated overall**                                 2 of 15 (89)
    It should also be mentioned in the beginning that it would be impossible to judge the                       * estimate for 2009 ** 2010 survey by
    current selection of Latvian beer entirely by the same standards as American or British
    craft beers; unfortunately many of the Latvian brews still have a long way to go.              As noted, annual volumes are estimates only, as most Latvian breweries like to avoid
                                                                                                   publishing any data of this kind. More information on ratings you can find a few pages
    This is accompanied by almost extreme reluctance from the side of Latvian breweries to         earlier.
    try brewing anything else than standard European pale and dark lagers. Unfortunately
    it seems there is a also a certain lack of qualified Latvian brewers - it is no secret that    In addition all the beers have been rated to some extent. Although in the previous edi-
    almost all new Latvian beers that have been introduced since 1990 have been either             tion my personal rating for each and every beer was added, this time I have combined
    bought abroad or have been introduced under the supervision of foreign, mostly Ger-            my thoughts with the opinion of almost 400 readers of my blog to evaluate which are
    man, brewers.                                                                                  the best brews. I did not feel any need to include some of the average and below aver-
                                                                                                   age beers, in most cases they are not worth drinking and only a serious ‘ticker might be
    Of course, not everything is very gloomy, as the situation is improving steadily, there        interested.
    are some nice beers to be found therefore I hope you would be able to bring home some
    pleasant memories about the Latvian beer.
                                                                                                                            It is suggested you try this beer. It is also one of the most
                                                                                                                            favourite brews of many and it may represent some of the
                                                                                                                            better traditions of Latvian brewing

                                                                                                                            The beer is good, it would be a good idea to try it

                                                                                                                            This beer is quite suitable for drinking

 16                                                                                                                                                                                                17

                                                                                                     brewery to buy the fresh produce on the spot, but their beer is widely available on-tap

                          Abula (Brenguļu)                                                           also in Riga and other large Latvian towns.

                                                                                                     In my opinion, Brenguļu beer represents some of the most common features that would
                                                                                                     characterise a typical and slightly older tradition of Latvian beer – dominated by rath-
     no website                                                         Brenguļi, Beverīnas novads   er sweet malt, but quite drinkable. Brenguļu beer is sometimes blamed for producing
                                                                                                     amazing headaches and sickness the next morning if consumed in large volumes, but
                  Annual volume (thousand hl)*                             1.1                       one should not expect that excessive drinking would bring any health benefits anyway.
                  Rank                                                     12
                  Beers (bottled)
                  Beers (draught only)                                      2
                  Rated overall**                                        3 of 15
              * estimate for 2009 ** 2010 survey by

                         Gaišais                                  5.5% Pale Lager
                         Tumšais                                  4.7% Munich Dunkel
 Their beer is known by two names, it is the most commonly called as Brenguļu (after the
 village where the brewery is located) yet the brewery still often refers to itself as Abula,
 its legal name. It is often true that many Latvians know this brewery only by the name
 Brenguļu, so be sure to use the latter when asking someone where to get it.

 Abula is a tiny establishment that could be regarded as the most well-known of Latvian
 nano breweries. None their beers are not bottled, but during the last couple of years
 they have become increasingly more and more available on-tap in Riga and elsewhere in
 Latvia, mostly the pale version.

 Abula brewery was started in 1969 by a local collective farm and produced just one sort
 of beer for several decades. The beer was never inteneded for a large-scale production
 and it was mainly sold to thirsty locals. In 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union,          The building of Abula brewery
 the brewery and the small hydropower plant on Abula river (both are located in the                  The building of the brewery is located on the dam of Abula river, just before it flows into
 same building) was privatised by the Freivaldu family who continued brewing and with                Gauja river. Tha same building also houses a small-scale hydropower plant.
 a help of a German brewer expanded the selection of beers available to two, so now there
 both a pale and a dark lager is available. Just until recently the brewery used only locally
 grown grain from the neighbouring farmers, but cheaper and easily available Lithuanian
 malt from Vikingmalt has taken a firm hold also in the Brenguļu brewery, just like in all

 Only the family members are employed in the brewery and, as far as I am aware of, there
 are no plans for large expansions in sight. Nowadays many beer drinkers still visit the

18                                                                                                                                                                                                 19
II. Breweries. Abula (Brenguļu)                                                                                                                                             

    Abula (Brenguļu) Gaišais (ABV 5.5%, Pale Lager)                                                         Abula (Brenguļu) Tumšais (ABV 4.7%, Munich Dunkel)
    This is not the original beer as Abula Gaišais (Pale) was developed later in the 90s,           The original beer that for long time was known to mainly locals, but its fame spread fast
    before that only its dark brother was brewed. The beer is neither filtered nor pasteur-         soon after the Soviet Union collapsed and
    ised, it is not bottled as well, so it would be difficult to bring to back home. Try visiting
    Miestins ( to buy this beer in plastic bottle that will hold for a couple of        Tumšais is murky dark brown with thin, almost non-existent lacing and full of very small
    days. Also quite many bars in Riga carry this beer on-tap as well.                              carbonation bubbles. Aroma reminds of sweetish straw, slightly reminds of a farmhouse.

    Abula Gaišais pours yellow golden with a small and foamy head that fades rather soon,           Taste is malty sweetness, quite similar to the Pale with more alcohol leaving a thick layer
    aroma is faint, almost non-existent.                                                            of sugary coating. Mouthfeel is thick and even slightly creamy, certainly not loaded with
                                                                                                    carbonation. Despite the ever present sweetness it suprisingly has a very good drink-
    Taste is sweet. Almost a blow of sweetness that lets out some minor herbal bitterness           ability.
    after a while, but sweetness certainly dominates; but it is not cloying. At the end of the
    glass notes of alcohol and faint yeasty flavours can be felt as well, overall the taste does    Brenguļu Tumšais is a dark country brew at its best, especially if compared to its direct
    not seem to be a very pleasant experi-                                                          competitors - Madonas and Krāslavas
    ence.                                                                                           and a golden standard for many Abula
                                                                                                    fans out there.
    If one wants to know what a traditional
    Latvian miestiņš or a homebrew is, after
    trying Abula and Krāslavas beers - both
    Pale and Dark, quite good impression
    could be formed.

    One more disadvantage is that the qual-
    ity of Abula/Berguļu beer is not consist-
    ent, its taste can be rather varied from
    time to time and it often feels that the
    beer has not been matured enough. It
    is not that I always enjoy such games,
    especially taking into account its rather
    elevated price and restricted availability.

 20                                                                                                                                                                                           21

                                                 Aldaris                                                        Aldaris is the biggest Latvian brewery, owned by Carlsberg and currently controls about
                                                                                                                50% the Latvian market - its market share has remained steady from the beginning of
                                                                                                                1990ies and there is no doubt it will continue this way. Carlsberg is clearly the biggest
                                                                                                                player also in the Baltic beer market and it churns out the same typical standard Euro-                                                                       Rīga, Tvaika iela 44      pean lagers as in the rest of Carlsberg’s plants all over the world.

                      Annual volume (hl)*                                       591                             Although Aldaris boasts that it was established as early as in 1865, it all really started in
                                                                                                                1937 when the authoritarian regime of Kārlis Ulmanis decided to finish with the beer
                      Rank                                                       1
                                                                                                                cartel that controlled most of the Latvian beer and was partly responsible for the high
                      Beers (bottled)                                                                           beer prices. Latvijas Kredītbanka, operating under the State protection and using sus-
                                                                                                                pect methods acquired Iļģuciema brewery and several others and purchased state-of-
                      Beers (draught only)                                       1                              the-art brewing equipment to provide cheap beer for the thirsty masses. The brewery
                                                                                                                remained almost intact during the Second World War, produced loads of beer for both
                      Rated overall**                                        14 of 15                           German and Soviet soldiers. During the Soviet times Aldaris still remained as the largest
                  * estimate for 2009 ** 2010 survey by                                             brewery in the Latvia and was one of the showcase breweries of the Soviet Union. It was
                                                                                                                bought in 1993 by Finnish Pripps (later sold to Carlsberg) that simultaneously acquired
                                                                                                                the largest breweries in all three Baltic countries and merged some of their operations.
                             Porteris                                 6.8% Baltic Porter
                             Zelta                                    5.2% Pale Lager                           All of the current beers were introduced in the mid-nineties and the offer has remained
                                                                                                                almost constant since. It has to be noted that no one missed the Soviet brews too much
                             Zelta Black                              4.2% Schwarzbier
                                                                                                                - although the recipes were not bad, often the beer turned sour within days as the most
                             Latvijas Sevišķais                       5.0% Märzen                               workers could care less about the quality of brew they produced. Aldaris, taking the
                             Euro                                     4.7% Pale Lager                           best from the Western brewing traditions, also is one of the few Latvian brewers to use
                             Euro Strong                              7.0% Strong Lager                         adjucts, such as corn, but usually is too shy to admit this fact to the public. It, in par with
                                                                                                                other large Latvian breweries does not reveal the listing of ingredients on the label.
                             Luksus                                   5.2% Dortmunder/Export
             avoid!!!        Apinītis Gaišais                         4.7% Pale Lager
             avoid!!!        Apinītis Stiprais                        7.0% Strong Lager
                             Gaišais                                  5.0% Pale Lager
                             Stiprais                                 6.5% Strong Lager
                             Pilzenes                                 4.2% Pilsener
                             Kviešu*                                  4.8% Hefeweizen                         The main entrance to
                             Ziemassvētku                             5.8% Herbed/Spiced beer                       Aldaris brewery
                                                                                                               Several old and partly
                             Senais***                                5.0% Pale Lager                        unused buildings of the
                             Dūmaku***                                5.0% Pale Lager                        former Waldshlosschen
          * draught only                                                                                     are visible in the neigh-
          ** seasonal                                                                                         bourhood. All brewing
          *** limited edition                                                                                  operations are carried
                                                                                                             out in the more recent

22                                                                                                                                                                                                            23
II. Breweries. Aldaris                                                                                                                                                            

    In general, it will be impossible to miss Aldaris products while in Latvia. It has enough                                   Aldaris in the World Beer Cup
    funds to provide for ample advertising and promotion, but despite this, many Latvian
    beer lovers reject most of Aldaris beers and call it names and I do not think it is fair. In         Aldaris is the only Latvian brewery that takes part in the World Beer Cup on a regular
    my opinion, the quality and taste of Aldaris beers surpasses that of Līvu/Lāčplēša and               basis since the end of the 90ies. It has had success, mostly with Aldaris Luksus, but is
    Cēsu, but has a long way to go to catch some of the smaller Latvian brewers.                         hard to say whether or not also other Latvian breweries would bring some medals home
                                                                                                         if they chose to pay and participate.
    Still, Aldaris brews are hugely popular amongst general Latvian population, mostly be-
    cause of the extremely attractive price (cheaper than bottled water and milk) and the                         Bronze

    brewing giant undoubtedly does it best to promote their modern industrial lagers as a                                        Luksus           1998         Dortmunder/Export
    part of older Latvian tradition. Although it might seem that Aldaris brews a large variety
    of beers, unfortunately most of them are too similar to each other. The selection mostly
    is represented by low priced and not so high quality watery lagers, so called ‘economic
    beers’. There are a few exceptions though, most notable being Porteris and it is high-                                       Luksus           2008         Dortmunder/Export
    lighted in the proceeding pages.

    This year also summer seasonals have made their re-appearance after a two year ab-                                      Latvijas Sevišķais    2008                Märzen
    sence, this times in the form of beer-wars, described in more detail in Section III. It is
    interesting to note that Dūmaku (means Smoky) is the first unfiltered lager released by                        Silver
    Aldaris in decades. It is not that great, but it seems Aldaris is keen on following some of                                                   2000              Schwarzbier
                                                                                                                            (no longer brewed)
    the smallest Latvian breweries for whom unfiltered beers have been one of the biggest
    reasons for success.
                                                                                                         Some people have been rather suspicious about this success and rumours have been
    In addition, Aldaris also brews selected Carlsberg, Tuborg and Baltika beers for dis-                heard that Aldaris Luksus used for presentation purposes tastes way better than the one
    tribution in other Eastern European countries, as well as occasional beers for its sister            in the shops. On the other hand, that difference can be also easily attributed to storage
    breweries in Estonia and Lithuania - Saku and Švyturis.                                              temperatures, freshness, exposure to light and many other factors.

                                                                                                         From time to time internal tasting competitions are held where some of the Latvian
                                                                               Dauderi                   breweries participate. However, organizers of these tastings are not too willing to share
                                                                               In the close vicin-       the results and usually only bits of information with regards to winners are announced.
                                                                               ity of Aldaris an         It would be difficult to say that these tastings are in any way objective, as judges usually
                                                                               interesting historical    work in the participating breweries and might have rather significant influence on the
                                                                               building is located.      final result - there are not too many beers produced in Latvia and many experienced
                                                                               Now a museum, this        brewers or even experienced beer drinkers can tell them easily apart even in a blind tast-
                                                                               house was built by the    ing. It would be more appropriate to say that such competitions are more publicity stunts
                                                                               owner of Waldshloss-      to pay attention to beer when the beer season starts in May.
                                                                               hen brewery (he also
                                                                               constructed artificial
                                                                               ruins, still visible
                                                                               today) that was used
                                                                               as the residence of the
                                                                               President of Latvia
                                                                               during the 1930s.

 24                                                                                                                                                                                                 25
II. Breweries. Aldaris.                                                                                                                               

    Luksus (ABV 5.2%, Dortmunder/Export)                                                                                Porteris (ABV 6.8%, Baltic Porter)

    Currently one of the best pale lagers brewed by Aldaris, this one           Aldara Porteris is the two remaining representatives of Baltic Porters in Latvia. Beers
    was the first “Western-style” beer introduced in the Latvian mar-           that belong to this interesting style, along Imperial Stouts were brewed throughout
    ket after the takeover by Pripps in the beginning of 1990ies. It was        Latvia, mostly for export to the Russian Empire as the local population could not afford
    brewed for some time in Sweden before the operations were trans-            it. It was a good business until the First World War when the Russian Empire collapsed
    ferred to Riga, it was expensive, in a new type of bottles and it           and there were no more export possibilities.
    seemed a big luxury to many people indeed. Luksus has lost some
    of its appeal over the years, but still it is one of the flagship beer of   Curiously enough, the style was revived only dur-
    Aldaris, although many other beers outsell it by a great margin.            ing the Soviet times and in contrast to nowadays,
                                                                                Porteris was not brewing continuously, but was
    It pours pale golden with noticeable grassy hops aroma. Taste is            available just a few times a year.
    sweet malt with refreshing and spicy hoppy background, but not
    much                                                                        The beer is almost black with small brownish
                                                                                head that does not seem to last too long. Aroma
    Refreshing beer to be drunk during hot summer day, but not very             is nice malty with notes of bittery coffee and dark
    memorable. Still, it tastes way better than most of semi-bland              chocolate.
    juices produced by Aldaris.
                                                                                Taste is is even better mild roasted and sweetish
                                                                                malt with coffee bitterness, notes of liquorice and
                                                                                molasses, bits of raisins. The full body is smooth
                                                                                and creamy with smooth carbonation - certainly
                                                                                not a session beer, but for cosy winter evenings
    Latvijas Sevišķais (ABV 5.2%, Märzen)                                       next to the fireplace.

    The name of the beer means Latvian Special. The beer was sold               Clearly a king amongst Latvian dark beers, it
    on-tap and 2 l plastic PET bottles for several years until it made its      would difficult to imagine any other coming even
    debut in half a liter glass.                                                close.

    It is rather cheap, but I would not doubt that Latvijas Sevišķais is        It is worth noting that none of the small Latvian
    of the best cheap-end lagers in Latvia, suprassing even some of the         breweries brews Baltic Porter citing complexity of
    brews from smaller breweries.                                               brewing and long maturing times as the biggest
                                                                                obstacle. The only other Latvian brewery to release
    Certainly worth its price.                                                  it on a semi-regular basis (usually for Christmas
                                                                                holiday) is Cēsu - it is usually a different recipe
                                                                                each year.

 26                                                                                                                                                                    27

                                                                                                                                 Tumšais Speciālais (ABV 5.5%, Dark Lager)
                                                                                                      There are two dark lagers produced by Bauskas - Speciālais and Premium. The latter                                                       Bauskas novads, “Imantas”   was introduced in around 2004 to provide Bauskas customers with a beer that would
                                                                                                      cost slightly more and would have more “exclusive” feel to it. Unfortunately it seems
                                                                                                      that despite these efforts Speciālais still tastes better than the Premium that during the
                      Annual volume (hl)*                                     42                      last couple of months has been quite difficult to
                      Rank                                                     5                      find in most shops. All this affair is quite strange.

                      Beers (bottled)                                         4                       Bauskas Speciālais pours dark copper with
                                                                                                      medium off-white head that slowly fades. Aroma
                      Beers (draught only)                                                            is mostly sweetish malt, quite reminiscent of the
                                                                                                      black Latvian rye bread, slightly toasty.
                      Rated overall**                                      4 of 15
                * estimate for 2009 ** 2010 survey by                                     Taste is dominated by the sweet malt with hints of
                                                                                                      caramel, some notes of burnt and slight bitterness
                           Gaišais Speciālais                       4.8% Pale Lager                   in the finish. Sweetish honey-like residues are
                           Tumšais Speciālais                       5.5% Dark Lager                   left in the aftertaste, and notes of alcohol can be
                                                                                                      occasionally felt. It possesses that same sweetness
                           Tumšais Premium                          5.5% Dark Lager                   Latvian dark beers usually have, but at least there
                           Senču                                    4.0% Pale Lager                   is not too much of it.
 One of the most well-known Latvian breweries was opened in 1981 and from the start it
                                                                                                      The feel is quite thick, certainly above moderate.
 was associated with the one of the most famous Latvian brewers of the late 20th century
                                                                                                      I am not sure that Tumšais Speciālais is some-
 Kārlis Zālītis. He is over 80 now, but supposedly still works in the brewery part-time.
                                                                                                      thing of unique quality - just a good Latvian Dark
 Kārlis Zālītis has also helped to establish Tērvetes brewery and was involved with several
 other breweries before starting his very successful career in Bauskas in 1979. During the
 last 10 - 15 years he has also helped with tweaking and improving the recipes in way way
                                                                                                      If compared with Tumšais Premium, Premium
 or another for nearly all Latvian breweries.
                                                                                                      feels far more sweeter and certainly more watery,
                                                                                                      I am not sure if it is worth the money.
 Bauskas brewery is located just outside of Bauska town, in Īslīce village. Their build-
 ing is certainly not attractive, but grey concrete construction representing the best of
 the typical Soviet countryside architecture that seems to have lacked maintenance for a
 number of years. But it is not the looks that matter in this case - from all the breweries
 that pre-date 1990s, Bauskas, Tērvetes and partly Abula are the only ones to successfully
 use older recipes developed during the Soviet times that, although modified, have been
 able to ensure a continuous support from the beer lovers all across Latvia.

 Almost all Bauskas beers could be considered to be good and worth trying. Of course,
 many complain that the quality of Bauskas beer is declining, because of the “commer-
 cialisation”, “globalisation” and other rather obscure reasons, but the same talk can be
 often heard about most of the Latvian breweries, maybe about Bauskas more often than
 about other.

28                                                                                                                                                                                                 29

                                                   Brālis                                                              “Ojāri”, Inčukalna novads

                     Annual volume (thousand hl)*                              13
                     Rank                                                       7
                     Beers (bottled)                                             8
                     Beers (draught only)
                     Rated overall**                                        8 of 15
                 * estimate for 2009 ** 2010 survey by

                            Gaišais                                  5.3% Pale Lager
                                                                                                        Brālis brewery
                            Gaišais Nefiltrēts                       5.3% Pale Lager                    It is located about 20km from Riga, in Vangaži on the right side of Riga-Sigulda highway. It is in-
                            Tumšais Nefiltrēts                       6.6% Bock                          teresting that are two shops in the front of the brewery - pub “Pie Brāļa” and shop “Brālis”. Just the
                                                                                                        latter is owned by the brewery so choose wisely.
                            Oriģinālais                              6.7% Strong Lager
                            Hincenberga                              5.3% Pale Lager
                            Inčukalna Pilzenes                       4.7% Pilsener
                            Senču                                    4.0% Pale Lager
 Means brother in Latvian, but some of their beers carry the label of Inčukalna brewery
 and sometimes their legal name SIA “Alus Nams” (The Beer House, Ltd.) has been listed
 as the brewery name on bottles.

 This small brewery with various names was set up in 2002. Sadly, but it concentrated on
 quantity instead of quality first and payed for the mistakes by losing a significant share of
 the market. Now the quality is back on track and for more than a year now their market
 share is slowly, but constantly increasing.

 I think one of the most important facts about this brewery is that they are only ones in
 Latvia to bottle unfiltered beer (the ones with Nefiltrēts in the name) and what is more
 important, this beer is not bad. During the winter also a spiced Christmas seasonal is
                                                                                                        Inside the brewery, some of the fermentation tanks
                                                                                                        Brālis theoretically is one of the largest of the small Latvian breweries, potentially able to brew
                                                                                                        almost 50 thousand hl, but currently does not operate at full capacity. It has also a postive side, as
                                                                                                        all of the beers are allowed mature for some extra time.

30                                                                                                                                                                                                       31
II. Brieweries. Brālis.                                                                                                                                                       

                          Brālis Gaišais Nefiltrēts (ABV 5.3%, Pale Lager)                                                      Brālis Tumšais Nefiltrēts (ABV 6.6%, Bock)
    The name simply means Brālis Pale Unfiltered. As mentioned previously, it is the only           Just a few years ago Tumšais (Dark) was a strictly seasonal beer, available only around
    unpasteurised and unfiltered Latvian beer that is bottled (1l and 2l                            Jāņi and Christmas (last year a spiced version was offered as well), but for at least half a
    bottles only). I it can be easily confused with its filtered version, so read the label care-   year or more it is available on a constant basis.
    fully. Gaišais Nefiltrētas can be bought only in
    a few locations, but it should be in Alusgalerija                                               Brālis Tumšais is not that very similar to other
    and SKY at all times.                                                                           Latvian dark lagers - it is not even half of the
                                                                                                    usual sweetness with somewhat nice Bock
    Beer is slightly hazy pale yellow with bubbly                                                   qualities.
    head that soon fades to white layer, it is by no
    means not the most attractive one around.                                                       Beer pours semi-hazy orange brown with small,
    Smell is mostly faint citrus malt.                                                              but dense off-white head. Aroma is wonderful
                                                                                                    light sweet malt with a touch of alcohol.
    But is the taste that matters the most in this
    case - malt is very well balanced with grassy                                                   Taste is not that excellent, the beer is malty with
    bitterness and a touch of fruit; medium-dry fin-                                                harsh bittery tones and ever increasing presence
    ish with long lingering bittery citrus aftertaste.                                              of alcohol.
    Clean, refreshing and drinkable - this is very
    seldom the case with typical Latvian Pale Lagers                                                Overall, an interesting beer, but the whole 1l
    that are too sweet with often repulsive flavours.                                               bottle (it is not available in smaller volumes)
                                                                                                    seems to be too excessive for a single per-
    Brālis Gaišais Nefiltrēts could be considered                                                   son use. A similar beer to Tumšais is Brālis
    nothing too particular in most more popular                                                     Oriģinālais, but the taste of the latter seems to
    beer destinations, but it is something worth its                                                vary from time to time.
    quite high price in Latvia.

    I usually give this beer some extra credit for
    showing to sometimes very conservative
    Latvian commercial brewing scene that also
    unfiltered beers can be fine even if bottled.

 32                                                                                                                                                                                                33

                                                                                                           interior affairs who, in an interview in 1997 when asked when the initial 4 million USD

                                               Brūveris                                                    investment in the brewery would pay back, answered that never. However, already by the
                                                                                                           next year they bought the premises of the former Liepaja brewery and promised further
                                                                                                           4 million Ls investment. These plans never materialised.
     no website                                                                         Podraga 1a, Rīga

                      Annual volume (thousand hl)*                             3.9
                      Rank                                                      9
                      Beers (bottled)
                      Beers (draught only)
                      Rated overall**                                         8 of 15
                  * estimate for 2009 ** 2010 survey by
                                                                                                                       The sign says - Production premises
                                                                                                                           The brewery is located in the out-
                             Ingver Alus Gaišais                      4.7% Pale Lager                                   skirts of Riga, in rather unattractive
                                                                                                                       industrial area. It does not seem that
                             Ingver Alus Melnais                      7.0% Scwarzbier
                                                                                                                       anyone from the brewery really cares
                             Ingver Alus Sarkanais                    5.4% Munich Dunkel                                               about the appearance.
                             Luxury                                   5.2% Pale Lager
                                                                           American Wheat
                             Kviešu                                   3.9%                                 Still, the original brewery in Riga survived, albeit under a different legal name and cur-
                                                                                                           rently some of its beers are known under the brand name “Ingvera” (Ginger), produced
                                                                           American Wheat
                             Baltalus Weissbeer                       4.5%                                 using Austrian recipes. As the name says, these are ginger beers - average according to
                                                                                                           European, but quite good for Latvian standards.
                             Cherry Beer                              5.5% Herbed/Spiced Beer
                             Koffee Beer                              5.9% American Porter                 During the recent years a couple more interesting brews by Brūveris have appeared and
                             Rīgas Oriģinālais                        4.2% Pale Lager                      currently this brewery can be considered as a leader in Latvia with regards to different
                                                                                                           beer styles. However, not all of its beers can be considered drinkable, but at least their
                             Rīgas Gaišais                            5.2% Pale Lager                      range of products is not as boring as it is for several other Latvian brewers. They are also
                             Lime                                     4.0% Herbed/Spiced Beer              the only ones to brew Herbed/Spiced beers with syrups that are actually not very bad.
                             Rīgas nefiltrētais*                      5.2% Pale Lager
                                                                                                           Despite the large range of beers and its presence in the most Latvian supermarkets,
         * draught only                                                                                    Brūveris is not very well-known to Latvian consumers. It seems that the brewery is satis-
 This brewery with rather mundane name meaning The Brewer was founded already in                           fied with the existing fan-base it has and the output has been steady for years, although it
 1993 and is quite a good example of very interesting businesses practices that developed                  seems that during the last year Brūveris did not fare as well as expected. It has also shut
 in the beginning on 1990s in post-communist Latvia.                                                       down some of its beers, although one can not be always certain as they sometimes keep
                                                                                                           re-appearing several years later.
 Brewery was called “Sandriko” first and the company initially intended to produce tele-
 phones. It soon switched to become a factory of premium quality crystal lamps and only
 then, after the Austrian investment started brewing and production of food. It is even
 more interesting that its director for some period of time was former Latvian minister of
34                                                                                                                                                                                                    35
II. Breweries. Brūveris.                                                                                                                                                      

                                 Kviešu (ABV 3.9%, American Wheat Beer)                                                 Ingver Alus Sarkanais (ABV 5.4%, Vienna Lager)
    The first original Latvian wheat beer, made using Austrian recipes - I did not invent this,      Name of the beer means “ Red Ginger Beer” and it has ginger listed as an ingredient.
    it says so on the bottle. On a side note it also adds that ‘live’ yeast found in the bottle is   It has to be noted that Brūveris one of a handful of Latvian breweries to actually list all
    healthy.                                                                                         the ingredients on the bottle, meaning that some breweries use cheaper adjuncts quite
    This is rather strange wheat beer that can be seldom found in Hefeweizen dominated
    Europe - a wheat lager. It is even not filtered.                                                 The beer is reddish coppery with dense generous and creamy off-white head that leaves
                                                                                                     large thick and patchy lacing. Aroma is malty, some slight fruitiness and spice.
    Altough the appearance of the beer is not too bad -
    murky brown liquid with soft and dense slightly off-                                             Taste seems to be dominated by bready malt with
    white head with excellent retention that forms good                                              hints of toasty and an interesting touch of ginger.
    looking and slowly downsliding lacing, it gets worse                                             Medium-dry finish, malty and long lasting after-
    when it gets to smell. Aroma is dominated by bready                                              taste with low hoppy bitterness setting in. The beer
    yeast, reminding of all those hastily brewed Latvian                                             has quite thick and sticky feel to it with some sug-
    homebrews made with bread yeast and an addition of                                               ary residues remaining on the lips.
    sugar to speed up the fermentation.
                                                                                                     This beer, along with other brews by Brūveris is
    Taste does not seem to fare better - thick and some-                                             quite distinct from the beers offered by other Lat-
    what flat sweet and sour beer with significant presence                                          vian breweries and although Austrian recipes are to
    of not very pleasant yeast that also dominates the                                               blame, the result is quite satisfactory.
    aftertaste. It all does not seem to be a nice and enjoy-
    able combination.                                                                                Also worth trying is Luxury with its silk-screened
                                                                                                     bottle, but it seems that the rest of the Brūveris
    It would be interesting to try Brūveris Kviešu out of                                            beers can not be too much recommended.
    curiousity, but not as way to quench thirst on a hot
    summer day.

 36                                                                                                                                                                                                37

                                                                                                         brewery, constructed completely new production premises in 2001 and started produc-

                                                      Cēsu                                               tion on a far grander scale. Cēsu beers are watery, lack both flavour and aroma, but
                                                                                                         occasional porters are fine. Unfortunately they brew only one seasonal Porter and an
                                                                                                         impressive array of American Adjunct Lagers - all the watery light and extra light beers
                                                                                                         one could possibly imagine.                                                               Aldaru laukums 1, Cēsis
                                                                                                         Cēsu Alus and its sister breweries in Lithuania and Estonia (Ragutis and A. Le Coq re-
                       Annual volume (thousand hl)*                              364                     spectively) do not hesitate to distribute the same beer with almost identical labels in all
                                                                                                         the Baltic countries, so you can be completely sure that there is nothing uniquely Latvian
                       Rank                                                       2                      about their beer. Cēsu Special 1590 is a good example. If you would happen to visiting
                                                                                                         either Lithuania or Estonia you would notice the same looking beer (label and bottle),
                       Beers (bottled)                                          ~15
                                                                                                         but under the different name - it is called A. Le Coq Special 1807 in Estonia and Wolfas
                       Beers (draught only)                                      1                       Engelman Rinktinis in Estonia. Sometimes globalisation is not such a good thing.

                       Rated overall**                                        13 of 15                                                          Premium (ABV 5.2%, Pale Lager)
                   * estimate for 2009 ** 2010 survey by                                     Green bottle - check, different shape of the bottle - check,
                                                                                                         golden foil around the neck of the bottle - check, crown em-
                              Porter                                   6.2% Baltic Porter                blem on the cap - check, temperature sensitive print on the
                              Premium                                  5.2% Pale Lager                   back label - check. It might almost seem that Cēsu market-
                              Light                                    4.2% Pale Lager                   ers did not miss anything with regards to what constitutes
                                                                                                         a premium lager. Oh yes, they forgot to consult the taste
                              Special 1590                             5.2% Pale Lager                   department, but it does not seem that any large brewery
                              Bocmanis                                 7.0% Strong Lager                 would care too much about this issue.
                              Garais                                   5.0% Pale Lager
                                                                                                         It also seems that unpasteurised beer craze has reached even
            avoid!!!          Walter Gaišais                           4.2% Pale Lager                   Cēsu brewery - their Premium beer is not only ‘naturally
            avoid!!!          Walter Stiprais                          8.0% Strong Lager                 unfiltered’ (maybe denoting kieselguhr filters), but not pas-
                              Pilsener                                 4.7% Pilsener                     teurised as well. It is quite an interesting turn of events.
                              Cuba                                     4.8% Pale Lager                   Aroma is mild malty, but the taste of this new Premium has
                              Mītava                                   5.0% Pale Lager                   taken slightly unexpected turn, compared to the previous
                              Nefiltrētais*                            6.2% Bock                         version. It is possible to taste some hops, although the over-
                                                                                                         all taste does not seem to be neither good, nor pleasant.
          * draught only

 Cēsu advertises itself as the oldest Latvian brewery and claims it was started as early as in
 the 16th century in one of the most impressive Livonian castles, now in the form of im-
 pressive ruins (a must-see if visiting Cēsis). As usually, most of the story is exaggerated
 as it well known that there were breweries in also other castles and manors during that
 time, but were not properly documented. Almost until the end of the 20th century Cēsu
 brewery was a small locally owned operation that made reasonably tasty beer.

 Its hour of glory came in 1999 when Finnish Olvi (via Estonian A. Le Coq) bought the

38                                                                                                                                                                                                 39

                                                                                                                                                         Gaišais (ABV 3.9%, Pale Lager)
                                             Krāslavas                                                    Similarly to Abula brewery (actually both of these breweries are rather similar in many
                                                                                                          aspects) the Pale beer was introduced later than the Dark one, but it seems that the lat-
     no website                                                                 Vītolu iela 4, Krāslava   ter seems to be more widely distributed.

                                                                                                          The beer is pale dark golden, slightly hazy with some carbonation bubbles rising, sev-
                      Annual volume (thousand hl)*                             0.9                        eral rings of weak lacing are visible. Aroma is weak sweetish malt mostly, nothing too
                      Rank                                                     13                         interesting to it.

                      Beers (bottled)                                           2                         Taste is mostly malt, maybe a bit sourish with hints of citrus yeast with rather long
                      Beers (draught only)                                                                lasting sweetish malty aftertaste. Smooth below medium mouthfeel, with weak and
                                                                                                          pleasant carbonation.
                      Rated overall**                                       10 of 15
                                                                                                          Overall, this is pale Latvian country beer
                  * estimate for 2009 ** 2010 survey by                                       at its best, drinkable and tasty, maybe not
                                                                                                          as sophisticated as other more industrial
                             Gaišais                                       Pale Lager                     Latvian beers, but certainly worth trying.
                             Tumšais                                  5.0% Munich Dunkel                  It certainly has the feel of a farmhouse
 It is quite sad to think that the largest and most densely populated region of Latvia - Lat-             beer to it and I hope it will stay this way.
 gale that was once famous for its homebrewers has only one commercial brewery that
 has operated since the end of the 1980s without interruption. It is located deep in the
 picturesque Latgale countryside, close to the border with Belarus, more than 250 km
 from Riga. The beautiful area of Daugava river loops and its valley is certainly worth the
 visit to this region, preferably during the summer time. If one is there, it might be a good
 idea to try to taste some fresh Krāslavas beer.

 The name of the brewery means Krāslava spring and it even produced its own malt when
 it was started in 1988. The brewery has always been a small, but successful operation and
 it does not seem that there is any expansion planned.

 These beers are very good representatives of a typical sweet Latvian country style beer
 and it seems that the brewery has acquired a solid customer base that likes Krāslavas
 beers exactly this way. It is bottled only in 1 l and 2 l plastic bottles and it will spoil rather
 quickly - in a week or so.

40                                                                                                                                                                                                    41

                                                 LIDO                                                                      Krasta iela 76, Rīga

                   Annual volume (thousand hl)*                               2
                   Rank                                                      11
                   Beers (bottled)                                         none
                   Beers (draught only)                                     3
                   Rated overall**                                        7 of 15
               * estimate for 2009 ** 2010 survey by

                          Speciālais                               4.5% Vienna Lager
                          Medalus                                  4.5% Pale Lager
                          Gaišais                                  4.5% Pale Lager
 For 10 years still the only brewpub in Latvia, it is located in the large building of LIDO
                                                                                                           LIDO building in Krasta street
 windmill on Krasta Street that offers the best of quasi-traditional Latvian style kitchen. It
                                                                                                           Only a part of building is visible and it has many additional facilities all around. The beer
 sometimes seems to me that in LIDO’s opinion every dish of the Latvian national cuisine
                                                                                                           cellar is located downstairs and currently its opening hours are 18.00-24.00 daily.
 begs to be cooked in copious amounts of fat butter or cooking oil, so it is all greasy and
 oily at the end. At least they do not use any cooking oil for making beer.                              Recipes for beers, as well as the technology was not developed in Latvia (brought from
                                                                                                         Austria) at all in contrary to what one migh suspect, so there is nothing uniquely Latvian
 LIDO brewery was started in 1999, when the windmill building was opened. It can be                      about this beer. Part of the brewery - several fermentation tanks with control panels that
 assumed that its owner Gunārs Ķirsons was inspired by the success of Užavas beer that                   shine mysteriously in the dimly lit cellars is visible to everyone in the beer cellar down-
 for several years was offered in other previous LIDO restaurants. In addition, the whole                stairs that also features Latvian schlager bands on most evenings, and an extensive array
 idea of brewing must have fitted neatly into the whole concept of the traditional Latvian               of beer snacks and plethora of other food is available upstairs.
 themed kitsch.
                                                                                                         Three different draught unfiltered/unpasteurised beers are brewed that are also avail-
 Gunārs Ķirsons is one of the most interesting characters amongst all other brewers and                  able in other LIDO locations in Riga (e.g. Alus Sēta in the very centre of the Old Riga).
 brewery owners mentioned here - he owns an array of businesses in Latvia, mainly re-                    Food in LIDO is way better than their beer and as usually, some more variety could be
 lated to catering, food production as well as wood processing. He is full of ambitions and              expected from the brewery. During the course of 10 years there have been no new beers
 some out-of-Earth ideas (one of the founders of a society that seeks to connect Daugava                 introduced and considering the fact that the demand for LIDO beer is on decline already
 river to rivers draining in the Black Sea basin, they lack not only the support of both                 for some time, it might be about the time to make some change.
 public and government, but also a couple of billion euros), has been fined for petty tax
 avoidance and now is convinced that Latvians are willing to support his political ambi-
 tions during the autum 2010 elections. It is really a pity that this crazy variety is not
 reflected in the character of LIDO beers that appear to be much more mundane.

42                                                                                                                                                                                                   43
II. Breweries. LIDO                                                                                                                                     

                                         Speciālais (ABV 4.5%, Vienna Lager)                                              Medalus (ABV 4.5%, Pale Lager)
    I am not sure if the Speciālais is the best beer of LIDO, as also other beers      Medalus is quite an interesting one. It translates as mead in English, but in real-
    are of comparable taste and quality, but it often stands out.                      ity it is just a pale lager with honey flavour and aroma. Still it is the only beer
                                                                                       brewed with honey nowadays in Latvia (except for temporary Lāčplēsis brew)
    Speciālais pours almost clear beautiful amber with thin, but dense slightly        and that seems to be quite strange considering the long and rich mead and
    off-white head that forms thin downsliding lacing. Aroma is rather rich and        honey fermentation traditions not only in Latvia, but also in other countries
    toasty malt with bits of caramel.                                                  around the Baltic Sea. Just before 1940 there were several mead-only breweries
                                                                                       in Latvia, but none of them were operating during the Soviet-era and none of
    Unfortunately the taste is less attractive than aroma, soft, but plain malt with   them were revived afterwards in the 1990ies.
    firm and distinct bitterness and slowly drying finish. The feel is more on the
    thinner side with moderate carbonation.                                            It might be the reason why Latvians currently use only one word nowadays to
                                                                                       denote both beer with honey and real mead. Unfortunately many think this is
    LIDO Speciālais is quite drinkable and refreshing beer, but nothing too re-        the same and mead simply means beer mixed with honey before serving.
    markable. It somehow starts to feel even watery towards the end of the glass.
                                                                                       Aroma of LIDO Medalus is dominated by sugary honey. Flavour is similar and
    In case you want to take home any of LIDO’s beer in a bottle, they offer such      also some presence of floral hops can be detected. Overall, all the honey does
    an option that surprisingly is terribly expensive as the smallest one - half       not feel too artificial, it maybe even boosts the drinkability. Other than that,
    a liter bottle costs 3.05 Ls and that is even without the beer included. Even      there is nothing worth noting about this beer.
    worse, LIDO’s bartenders do not seem to bother by washing empty bot-
    tles before filling (bottles are kept in open shelves for weeks and are visibly
    dusty), so it is very probable that the beer will spoil immediately.

 44                                                                                                                                                                          45

                                                                                                very fond memories about it. During the prohibition campaigns of the Soviet Union that

                                Līvu/Lāčplēša                                                   were conducted on a regular basis, but usually yielded no results at all thanks to the in-
                                                                                                genuity of the Soviet people that always found the way around the system, Lācplēsis beer
                                                                                                was brewed, labeled and sold not as beer, but as a “country drink”. The same strategy has
                                                                                                been employed also by other smaller breweries. Also the local municipalities were satis-
                                                                                                fied, as it appeared in the official statistics that less beer is produced and sold therefore
                                                                                                showing that anti-alcohol efforts were conducted succesfully.
                  Annual volume (thousand hl)*                             275
                  Rank                                                      3                                               Lāčplēsis himself
                                                                                                  The Bear slayer image you will find on bot-
                  Beers (bottled)                                          ~20                     tles and cans. Lāčplēsis has bear ears and
                  Beers (draught only)                                                             he was fighting German crusaders during
                                                                                                    the 12th century. It seems that more ‘pre-
                  Rated overall**                                        15 of 15                  mium’ beer uses the Lāčplēsis brand while
                                                                                                                the rest goes under Līvu label
              * estimate for 2009 ** 2010 survey by

                         Lāčplēsis Dižalus                        6.3% Strong Lager             Unfortunately after the collapse of the USSR when the capitalism arrived, it spelled a
                                                                                                disaster for Lāčplēsis brewery. Kolkhoz Lāčplēsis was split up in many small entities, the
                         Lāčplēsis 3 Iesalu                       5.0% Pale Lager
                                                                                                brewery managed to survive and was even visited by the famous Michael Jackson, but
                         Lāčplēsis Dzintara                       4.8% Pale Lager               the brewery was on its way to degradation.
                         Lāčplēsis Premium                        5.2% Pale Lager
                                                                                                Līvu brewery - the other brewery of the current tandem has no history whatsoever - it
                         Lāčplēsis Gaišais                        5.2% Pale Lager
                                                                                                is located in Liepāja, it was built founded in 2000 and it has absolutely no relation with
                         Lāčplēsis Tumšais                        5.8% Dark Lager               the former and rather famous Liepāja brewery that was closed in 1998 after operating for
                         Plostnieku                               4.6% Czech Pilsener           slightly more than a century.
                         Līvu Oriģinālais                         5.2% Pale Lager
                                                                                                Both breweries - Lācplēša and Līvu changed the ownership for several times and finally
                         Līvu Stiprais                            7.0% Strong Lager             landed in the hands of Scandinavians - Danish Royal Unibrew. Danes were quick to
                         Līvu Gaišais                             4.8% Pale Lager               close the Lāčplēsis activities in Lielvārde (and recently built new brewery) and to join all
                                                                                                the operations in Līvu building in Liepaja where both are now brewed.
                         Līvu Pilzenes                            4.7% Czech Pilsener
                         Līvu Tradicionālais                      6.0% Strong Lager             However, during the last years activities of Līvu/Lāčplēsis are very closely related to an-
                         Līvu Senču                               5.2% Pale Lager               other nearby brewery Royal Unibrew owns - Lithuanian Kalnapilis. It seems that man-
                                                                                                agers of Līvu/Lāčplēša, similarly to the ones of Cēsu have realised that it is easier to
 It is quite easy to say that this beer is the least Latvian of all the Latvian beers, as the   conduct their operations in the Baltic States just by replicating the acitivities.
 production of this brewery has been “globalised” to the maximum extent.
                                                                                                Products from the Līvu/Lāčplēsis and Kalnapilis are almost exactly the same - the same
 Lācplēsis was very famous brewery once - it was established in 1966 by one of the most         beers, the same names, the same visual style, advertising, basically everything. I would
 successful and rich of Latvian kolkhozs (Soviet collective farm). Lāčplēsis means the          not suggest drinking any of these beers and one should keep in mind that Līvu/Lāčplēsis
 Bear slayer and it stems from the Latvian folklore. Lāčplēsis was one of the few kolkhozs’     does not even own a canning line, so it is very probable that all of the canned Līvu/
 in Latvia that were actually under a good management and even turned in a handsome             Lācplēsis brews originate and are filled in Lithuania.
 profit. It was only natural for this collective farm to set up a brewery in the 1950s that
 produced one of the most famous beers in the Soviet Latvia and many people still have

46                                                                                                                                                                                          47
II. Breweries. Līvu/Lāčplēša                                                                                                                                           

                               Lāčplēsis Dižalus (ABV 6.3%, Strong Lager)                                               Lāčplēsis 3 Iesalu Alus (ABV 5.0%, Pale Lager)
    Name of the beer means Grand Beer and it is one of the new additions to the Latvian          The name simply means “3 Malt Beer”. When it was first introduced it was advertised
    range of Harboe products, although it has been brewed for some time in Lithuania             in a manner as if any “regular” beer carries just one type of malt and only the innova-
    already. It was introduced as the first ‘premium’ strong beer in Latvia - rather interest-   tive Lāčplēsis is responsible for the discovery that different malts can be combined
    ing concept I think.                                                                         together. It even had a small packet of three different malts (a few grains from each)
                                                                                                 attached to the bottle.
    Large brewing companies usually use the term ‘premium beer’ to denote premium
    prices, but even if the quality criteria are also applied, there have been countless pre-    Beer pours brilliant clear coppery with large and
    mium strong lagers in Latvia before Dižalus (and the tradition of Bocks goes very long       slightly off-white head that soon fades to dirty
    way back) and just to name one current                                                       patches and leaves bits of downsliding pieces of
    beer - Brālis Oriģinālais sure is a better one.                                              lacing. Aroma is quite weak malt with even lighter
                                                                                                 glimpse of hops.
    Dižalus is dark golden with very slightly
    off-white head and full of small carbona-                                                    As could be expected from the name, the beer
    tion bubbles. Aroma is malt with slight                                                      tastes mostly malty. Sweetish and watery malt
    hints of alcohol and becomes very medi-                                                      with faint grassy hops and light puckering finish,
    cine-like towards the end.                                                                   as wells as short citrusy aftertaste - everything one
                                                                                                 could expect from an “industrial” lager. The beer
    Taste is light malt with distinct and even                                                   is not very thin at least and it has pleasant and
    unpleasant herbal bitterness that lasts                                                      slightly prickly carbonation.
    well into the aftertaste as well as notes of
    alcohol. Mouthfeel is light with excessive                                                   Overall, it would be difficult to say that this beer is
    carbonation in the beginning.                                                                good. It sure quenches thirst, but it seriously lacks
                                                                                                 flavour. However, in my opinion, this beer at least
    Overall, not a bad strong lager, but feels too                                               has some bits of characters as opposed to some
    bland and watery towards the end.                                                            other beers from the same brewery.

 48                                                                                                                                                                                        49

                                                                                                                                           Madonas Bodnieku (ABV 5.4%, Pale Lager)
                                             Madonas                                                            The beer is light hazy and nice amber with a small head that almost iimediately dissi-
                                                                                                                pates, despite rather aggressive pour. Aroma is sweet malt, as expected.
     no website                                                                    “Bodnieki”, Madonas novads
                                                                                                                Taste is thick and sweet with not that pleasant herbal bitterness, noticeable caramel
                                                                                                                flavours and a feel of alcohol towards the finish. It leaves some sugary residue after the
                      Annual volume (thousand hl)*                                      n/a***                  traces of bittery aftertaste are gone. Towards the end of the glass the beer regrettably
                      Rank                                                              n/a***                  turns flat and becomes medicine-like.

                      Beers (bottled)                                                                           Overall, it seems to be rather simple, not well balanced pure country style lager.
                      Beers (draught only)                                                  1                   It is almost drinkable, but I am afraid there are much better ones out there. Certainly
                                                                                                                it is not worth the high price it currently costs. It seems that the owners have tried to
                      Rated overall**                                                   n/a***                  emulate Valmiermuižas in some aspects
                  * estimate for 2009 ** 2010 survey by *** established only in 2009                (at least in setting the high price), but
                                                                                                                they clearly have not succeeded.
                              Madonas Bodnieku
                                                                              n/a Pale Lager
                              Madonas Bodnieku
                                                                            8.5% Strong Lager
 Madonas brewery brews Bodnieku beer. Or is the brewery called Bodnieku? I am not
 sure myself, but Madonas is the town close to “Bodnieki” house where the brewery is
 located. It is all rather confusing, so I will use both names.

 No one was even suspecting it, but it turns out that Madonas Bodnieku brewery has
 been operating at least for 80 years, retaining its brewing traditions through both World
 Wars, dating from 1916. Its trademark design and some historical photos that are dis-
 played in some of the beer stores are all set to convince the customer of the historical
 value of this beer. Unfortunately it all looks too fake.

 It might seem that every new Latvian brewery requires a legend nowadays. It does not
 even matter whether it at least sounds believable. I seriously do not understand why a
 brewery can not be a completely new establishment and simply brew a good beer.

 As far as facts are concerned, Madonas brewery in „Bodnieki” opened in 2009 and has
 enjoyed a rather good start and currently it has expanded to from the initial 3 to about
 20 tonnes of beer per month. However, there are many rumours about the inconsistent
 quality of the beer and it turning sour far too soon.

 The beer is available only in just a few bars and stores in Riga, but it can be found much
 more often in the very nice and hilly Madonas area.

50                                                                                                                                                                                                           51
                                                                                                                   Piebalgas Tumšais Lux (ABV 5.4%, Dark Lager)
                                        Piebalgas                                             It is interesting that a throughout Latvian brewery could not resist using Lux that is
                                                                                              clearly a non-Latvian word. Actually the brewery is not as Latvian as it might appear
                                                                                              on the surface - almost 50% of its shares belong to an investment company with roots
                                                                                              in Moscow.

                 Annual volume (thousand hl)*                             27.5                Lux pours clear dark copper with large off-white head that fades relatively quickly.
                 Rank                                                      6                  Aroma is sweet malt, but in contrast to many other Lat-
                                                                                              vian dark lagers the sweetness is not overwhelming.
                 Beers (bottled)                                           5
                                                                                              Taste is much less sweet with noticeable bitterness that
                 Beers (draught only)                                                         almost provides good balance to lightly sweet malt,
                                                                                              some hints of liquorice can be felt. The beer does not
                 Rated overall**                                         6 of 15
                                                                                              feel as thick as it looks and it has quite lively carbona-
             * estimate for 2009 ** 2010 survey by                                tion.

                        Lux                                      5.4% Dark Lager              Piebalgas Tumšais Lux could be considered as one of
                                                                                              the best Latvian beers and certainly should be included
                        Senču                                    4.0% Pale Lager
                                                                                              in the shopping list. It is sold in supermarkets all over
                        Mednieku                                 4.7% Pale Lager              Latvia, so it would not be a problem to find it.
                        Piebalgas                                5.6% Pale Lager
                       Jubilejas                       5.2% Pale Lager
 Piebalgas Alus was started in 1989 in one of the most picturesque Latvian regions that is
 very well-known for its open minded residents that once constituted a significant part of
 Latvian intelligentsia during the last part of the 19th century when the first ideas about
 Latvian independence from the Russian empire started to emerge. Piebalgas Alus, very
 soon after it was established gained a reputation of a solid brewer and steadily increased
 its market share. A few years ago additional investments were brought to brewery and it
 was modernised and expanded in 2003.

 Contrary to many other Latvian breweries founded around the nineties, all recipes of
 Piebalga were developed by its brewers, the brewery also used to produce their own malt
 for a couple of years until it was deemed to be too expensive.

 It is interesting that one of Piebalgas founders and shareholders is the current Latvian
 minister of agriculture Jānis Dūklavs. It is thought that he was invited to become the
 minister because he was good with managing the brewery.

 However, although beers of Piebalgas are still decent, they are sadly somewhat slowly
 losing popularity and the image of traditional good quality brewer it once had. I hope it
 improves in the near future.

52                                                                                                                                                                                     53

                                                                                                                                      Mārtiņa (ABV 7.0%, Strong Lager)
                       Rēzeknes Brūveris                                                      Several years ago, when Daugavpils brewery was still brewing, it made several decent
                                                                                              beers. Mārtiņa was one of them, but as told earlier, the brewery closed its operations in

                                                                                              However, this year the former associate of Daugavpils, the Rēzekne brewery has re-
                 Annual volume (thousand hl)*                                      n/a***     leased two of the former Daugavpils beers - Mārtiņa and Latgales. They are not made
                 Rank                                                              n/a***     in Latvia and, in contrary to some other Latvian
                                                                                              brewers that usually are not too keen to disclose
                 Beers (bottled)                                                       2      such information, it is contract brewed in Lithu-
                 Beers (draught only)                                                  2      ania - in Rinkušķiu brewery in Biržai region that is
                                                                                              well-known for its beers.
                 Rated overall**                                                   n/a***
                                                                                              Mārtiņa beer is clear brilliant golden with large and
             * estimate for 2009 ** 2010 survey by *** established only in 2009   persistent head. Aroma is mild malty and tiny bits of
                                                                                              alcohol can be detected.
                        Brūveris Gaišais                               n/a Pale Lager
                        Latgales                                     5.0% Pale Lager          The taste is not bad, but nothing particulary unusual
                                                                                              either - mostly plain malty with light bitterness,
                        Mārtiņa                                      7.0% Strong Lager
                                                                                              the presence of alcohol can be felt, but it does not
                        Rēzeknes Gaišais                                                      manifest itself too much, deceptively hiding in the
                                                                       n/a Pale Lager
                        Nefiltrētais                                                          background. There is not too much else to say about
 Rēzekne is one of the largest Latvian towns and for many years till the beginning of nine-   Mārtiņa beer, it is decent strong lager that clearly
 ties it had reasonably large brewery. During the Soviet times it was joined with another     was missing from the Latvian beer scene.
 brewery in the neighbouring town of Daugavpils, but both of them retained separate
 brewing activities. Unfortunately the management of the brewing establishment was not        I would suggest that Mārtiņa beer after its unex-
 able to grasp the economic realities of the capitalism when it came and the brewery          pected re-appearance still can be regarded as one of
 was closed (Daugavpils brewery managed to stay afloat and even continued brewing             the best Latvian strong lagers. Of course, there is not
 rather good beer, when it finally collapsed in 2008. It currently imports and distributes    too much comptetition in this field, as many of of
 Belorussian beer Krynitsa).                                                                  the strong Latvian lagers, mostly bottled in 2 l PET
                                                                                              bottles clearly aim for chronic alcoholics and other
 Rēzeknes brewery re-opened again in 2005, but again, similarly to its predecessor, it        similar consumers that mostly care about getting
 brewed mostly financial losses and was subsequently closed after one or two years of         drunk using the most cheap means possible.

 Although it seemed that this time the brewery will be gone for good, it was re-opened
 again just in July 2009, after the company changed the ownership and made some ad-
 ditional investment. During the first year of operation locals have shown an increasing
 support for Rēzeknes beer and it has started to move slowly towards much larger market
 in Riga.

54                                                                                                                                                                                        55

                                            Tērvetes                                                     I would regard this as one of the most traditional and successful of smaller Latvian
                                                                                                         breweries that was able to get through all the economic turmoils during the 1990s bare-
                                                                                                         ly unscathed and still kept brewing good quality product. Its story starts similarly to
                                                                                                         Lāčplēsis, but has a very happy ending. Actually the story is not over yet as the popular-                                                      Kroņauce, Tērvetes novads       ity of Tērvetes only increases as the years go by, in 2009 it was voted as the best brand of
                                                                                                         the Latvian beer industry and there is very littlechance it could change this year.
                   Annual volume (thousand hl)*                              43
                   Rank                                                       4
                   Beers (bottled)                                           3                                                                       One of the earlier Tērvete labels
                                                                                                                                                     During the Soviet times, most bottles had
                   Beers (draught only)                                      1                                                                       just one small label and most of the beers
                                                                                                                                                     was made according to the State standards,
                   Rated overall**                                        1 of 15
                                                                                                                                                     sometimes the same recipe and technology
               * estimate for 2009 ** 2010 survey by                                                                                     was applied in many breweries throught the
                                                                                                                                                     USSR. Not in this case though.
                          Oriģinālais                              5.4% Pale Lager
                          Tērvetes                                 5.3% Pale Lager                       Tērvetes Alus was established in 1974 in the small village of Kroņauce (village of Tērvete
                                                                                                         from which the name is borrowed is located a couple of kilometers away) by one of the
                          Senču                                    4.5% Pale Lager                       most successful agriculture co-operatives in the Soviet Latvia called “Tērvete”. Its initial
 Name Tērvete sure rings a bell to a Latvian beer drinker. Although it is highly debatable               recipes were created by the most famous Latvian brewer of the late 20th century - Kārlis
 who comes second, most people would have no doubts who is the best out there. They                      Zālītis who at age of 85 still works in Bauskas brewery.
 do not export and do not expand too rapidly and for sure they do not have to spend too
 much on advertising, even during the current crisis they can afford to keep the price                   One of the main reasons for the current success of Tērvetes was their well-managed
 high.                                                                                                   privatisation after the collapse of the Soviet Union that ensured that ownership of the
                                                                                                         co-operative, including the brewery, is still in the hands of several hundred local share-
                                                                                                         holders who are more concerned about making good quality product rather than a hasty
                                                                                                         development. A couple of years ago the brewery was modernised and expanded.

                                                                                                         Tērvetes is also the only Latvian brewery that grows their own grain that is mostly malt-
                                                                                                         ed in Latvia (the rest of Latvian breweries buy imported malt).

                                                                                                         Tērvetes produces three beers, but Tērvetes Oriģinālais could be considered their best,
                                                                                     Tērvete brewery
                                                                                                         although it can be admitted that their beers taste more or less the same and some more
                                                                                     in Kroņauce
                                                                                                         diversity could be encouraged.
                                                                                     The building,
                                                                                     located just next
                                                                                     to the main
                                                                                     road, has been                                   The Green Spoon label
                                                                                     completely re-                                   It denotes that at least 75% ingredients of this particular
                                                                                     furbished during                                 product have originated in Latvia. Tērvetes is the only
                                                                                     the last mod-                                    Latvian brewery to have received this label.

56                                                                                                                                                                                                  57
II. Breweries. Tērvetes.                                                                                                                                              

                                                  Senču (ABV 4.5%, Pale Lager)                                                       Oriģinālais (ABV 5.4%, Pale Lager)
    Senču means “Ancestor” in Latvian. Despite its name, it does not mean that this beer is   One can fully appreciate this beer only after a handful of bland Latvian lagers. Despite
    brewed according to any traditional Latvian recipes or technology.                        its name, the beer is not The Original, its recipe has been significantly tweaked several
                                                                                              times since the 1970s, but the popularity of this beer has remained steady.
    Senču beer was developed during the Soviet era - it was developed in now closed
    Iļģuciems brewery in Riga by Kārlis Zālītis (see Bauskas alus for further details).       One of the most important things about Tērvetes Oriģinālais is that it has been devel-
                                                                                              oped in Latvia by the Latvian brewers. One would think of it as a common occurrence,
    It was a standard recipe used by several breweries                                        but unfortunately only a handful of Latvian brewer-
    and it has to be kept in mind that Soviet enter-                                          ies can say the same about their beers.
    prises were not supposed to compete with each
    other therefore using the same standartised State                                         Oriģinālais pours light golden, almost yellow with
    approved recipes and technologies was part of                                             large and fluffy white head and dense generous lac-
    the deal; of course, due to many other factors,                                           ing. Aroma is malt with slight hints of citrus as well
    the quality and the taste of these brews differed                                         as hops that are much better felt in the taste where
    greatly.                                                                                  the weakly sweetish malt is quite well balanced with
                                                                                              herbal hops that finishes in long lingering bittery
    It is interesting to note that only Senču beer has                                        citrus aftertaste.
    been able to survive the change from socialism
    to capitalism 20 years ago - the rest of the Soviet                                       Although the beer is not exceptional, it is solid and
    brews - Rīgas, Žiguļu, Mārta and others were                                              well made pale lager and there are only one or two
    promptly forgotten. As one can see in most of the                                         such beers to be found amongst Latvian brews.
    stores, now several of the smaller breweries brews                                        Certainly one of the must try beers during the visit
    its own version of Senču beer, but the taste of these                                     to Latvia.
    beers is clearly very diverse.

    One of the best Senču beers is brewed by Tērvete -
    it is light yellow lager with mild malty aroma and
    light and refreshing similar flavours.

    Good summer beer that is reasonably priced and
    is the best selling beer of Tērvete brewery.

 58                                                                                                                                                                                       59

                                                                                                        This microbrewery was started in 1994 in Kurzeme region, close to the largest Latvian

                                                Užavas                                                  port town of Ventspils. During the nineties Užavas brewery was a comparatively small
                                                                                                        operation located inside a large countryside dwelling house, owned by Uldis Pumpurs -
                                                                                                        a millionaire and a former First Secretary of Komsomol (Soviet Youth organisation) of
                                                                                                        Ventspils city for whom brewing was a hobby. I always enjoy the irony when the most                                     SIA “Zaksi”, Užavas pagasts, Ventspils novads   avid proponents of the Soviet regime very fast became avid supporters of the capitalism;
                                                                                                        in addition Uldis Pumpurs supposedly has strong ties with mayor of Ventspils - Aivars
                      Annual volume (hl)*                                     12                        Lembergs who has been accused of bribery and money laundering activities both in Lat-
                                                                                                        via and the UK. But these are the realities behind many “innocent” Latvian businesses.
                      Rank                                                     8
                      Beers (bottled)                                          2
                      Beers (draught only)                                     2
                      Rated overall**                                      2 of 15
                * estimate for 2009 ** 2010 survey by

                           Gaišais Nefiltrētais*                    4.6% Pale Lager                                                                  Part of the Užavas beer label
                           Tumšais Nefiltrētais*                    4.9% Dark Lager                                                                  In in the old brewery building is
                           Gaišais                                  4.6% Pale Lager                                                                  displayed. It is still there today, but is
                                                                                                                                                     now used as a dwelling house only.
                           Tumšais                                  4.9% Dark Lager
         * it is often argued that only unfiltered versions of these beers are highly regarded
                                                                                                        The biggest role in securing the popularity of Užavas was played by the friendship be-
                                                                                                        tween Uldis Pumpurs and the owner of LIDO Gunārs Ķirsons who introduced Užavas
                                                                                                        to the general public that received the beer warmly indeed (both friends until were re-
                                                                                                        cently involved in another project - digging an utopian shipping channel from the Baltic
                                                                                                        to the Black Sea, worth several billion euros). There is nothing very Latvian about their
                                                                                                        beers – tweaked German recipes and technology with imported ingredients.

                                                                                                        Užavas beers are famous with regards to their price, it is certainly one of the most expen-
                                                                                                        sive Latvian beers (surpassed only by Valmiermuižas and Brālis to some extent). Some
                                                                                                        do not think it is worth its price as it is quite evident that Tērvetes, Piebalgas or Bauskas
                                                                                                        are capable of turning out similar quality beers that cost less.

                                                                                                        The brewery has been expanded twice - first in 2000 when 1 million litre capacity was
                                                                                                        reached, but the demand still could not be satisfied. Thefeore a new building soon fol-
                                                                                                        lowed, opened in 2007, increasing the total capacity of the brewery to 3.5 million litres.
                                                                                                        It is interesting to note that in the new building only the bottled beers are produced
                                                                                                        while in the old one beer sold on-tap (including all the unfiltered one) is made. Unfor-
Užavas brewery
                                                                                                        tunately the owners did not make the right calculations when they started the expansion
The newest of three brewery buildings that was completed in 2007 with 2.5 million litre capac-
                                                                                                        so since 2007 the brewery is running at 30-40% capacity, but the owner has been quick
ity. It has purpose built visitor gangways that enable to see most of the brewery by not disturb-
                                                                                                        to blame the government and imported beer for this.
ing any brewing operations.

60                                                                                                                                                                                                       61
II. Breweries. Užavas.                                                                                                                           

    Gaišais (ABV 4.6%, Pale Lager)                                                                                 Tumšais (ABV 4.9%, Dark Lager)

    Gaišais pours brilliant clear light goden beer with large and foamy   Name of the beer is simply Užavas Dark, other being Pale - it is all quite simple with
    white head. No doubt excellent by the looks.                          Užavas. During the course of more than 15 years of brewing, there have been no
                                                                          changes in the beers offered, except for minor adjustments in recipe after the new
    But that is it, some malt and grassy hops in both flavour and aro-    brewery was built. It seems the brewery is quite comfortable with the current situa-
    ma. It would be difficult to distinguish Užavas Gaišais from other    tion and does not want to experiment too much, quite similarly to many other Latvian
    pale Latvian or German lagers; it possibly has slightly elevated      breweries.
    bitterness if compared to other Latvian lagers.
                                                                          This dark beer is not that dark when poured into the glass - it seems to be reddish pale
    Very drinkable, but easy to forget beer.                              copper with slightly off white and somewhat fizzy head that fades rather fast. Aroma
                                                                          is mild sweetish malt with light fruit and nuts, I have
                                                                          to admit that this is one of the nicest smells amongst
                                                                          Latvian brews.

                                                                          Taste does not seem to be too remarkable, it is quite
                                                                          similar to smell with low bitterness and dryish bittery
                                                                          aftertaste. Mouthfeel is more on the thinner side with
                                                                          pleasant carbonation levels.

                                                                          This beer is rather different from what could be con-
                                                                          sidered a typical Latvian Dark Lager, but it is no won-
                                                                          der considering its German origins. Although Užavas
    Užavnieks (ABV %, Pale Lager)                                         Tumšais a decent and very drinkable beer, it seems to
                                                                          lack a character.
    It has been announced that a cheaper pale lager will be released in
    summer 2010.

 62                                                                                                                                                                  63

                                                                                                         The brewery is located just outside the town, in a rather interesting surroundings - his-

                               Valmiermuižas                                                             toric premises of Valmiermuiža manor. Not much has been left from the manor as it was
                                                                                                         destroyed during the both World Wars - mostly pictureque ruins and fences remain.

                                                                                                         Valmiermuižas brewery is one of the few in Latvia that tries and succeeds by attract-                                                  Dzirnavu iela 2, Valmiermuiža      ing customers by actively encouraging drinkers of their beer to visit the brewery - apart
                                                                                                         from Užavas, the only in Latvia to do so. There is no doubt that in a short period of time
                   Annual volume (thousand hl)*                             2.3                          it has become one of the favourite tourist destinations in Valmiera area. Recently the
                                                                                                         brewery also added a small shop (open up till 22.00) that sells not only Valmiermuižas
                   Rank                                                     10                           beers, but also ‘natural’ sauna essentials and some select snacks - most notable being the
                                                                                                         cookies from the spoilt grain, these are truly a magnificent treat and a must if visting the
                   Beers (bottled)                                           2
                   Beers (draught only)                                      1
                                                                                                         I would also encourage everyone to fall under Valmiermuižas spell and pay the visit. It
                   Rated overall**                                        5 of 15                        is worth noting that also English tours (even during weekends) are possible and you can
               * estimate for 2009 ** 2010 survey by
                                                                                                         kill two birds with one stone, as another interesting brewery - Abula (Brenguļu) is just
                                                                                                         some 10-15 km from Valmiermuiža, on the other side of Valmiera. Even more - on the
                                                                                                         way to Valmiera even a third brewery visit - to Brālis brewery can be added.
                          Gaišais Nefiltrētais*                    5.2% Vienna Lager
                          Gaišais                                  5.2% Vienna Lager
                          Tumšais                                  5.8% Munich Dunkel
         * draught only
 Having a look in Valmiermuižas web page you will find a story that beer has been brewed
 in Valmiermuiža area for centuries, trying to convince the consumer that the establish-
 ment of the new brewery was a continuation of a very famous brewing tradition. It is
 a pity that makers of Valmiermuiža have made so much effort to surround themselves
 with fairy tales and half-fake legends. Pity because their beer is good and it does not
 actually need any of them.

                                        The cap of Valmiermuiža beer
                                        1764 has nothing to do with the current brewery, however
                                        it is possible to see the remains of the tower shown in the
                                        cap and the gate just accross the road from the brewery

 Although there were several large breweries even prior to the Second World War in
 Valmiera area, there is no evidence that one was located where Valmiermuižas brew cur-               Valmiermuiža brewery
 rently is. It is one of the most recent of Latvian breweries - its owners invested more than         The brownish building in the centre is the brewery and it has been newly built while the white
 3 million euros, one third of this EU funds, to build and equip a completely new brewery             building to the left remains from pre-brewery times and houses a shop that sells not only beer, but
 close to one of the largest Latvian towns - Valmiera.                                                sauna essentials and snacks and is used also as a storage.
64                                                                                                                                                                                                   65
II. Breweries. Valmiermuižas                                                                                                                                                

                     Valmiermuižas Gaišais (ABV 5.2%, Vienna Lager)                                           Valmiermuižas Tumšais (ABV 5.8%, Munich Dunkel)

    The brewery constantly reminds its both current and potential customers that this beer       The dark beer was released in April, after extensive market surveys. Valmiermuižas
    has been matured for amazing 30 days in its vaults, as if setting the Latvian record. Just   brewery was the first in Latvia to brew 5000 samples of different recipes and let the
    a small reminder - a brewery that positions itself as a traditional Latvian brewer should    customers vote for the best. It is interesting to note that the 4 initial versions received
    know that as recently as in 1930s, maturing beer for at least 3-4 weeks was considered       almost the same number of the votes, thus greatly complicating the process.
    essential by most Latvian brewers.
                                                                                                 After some delays the beer is finally supposed to
    Taste is soft and toasty malt that is well balanced                                          be available all over Latvia, but due to the longer
    with pleasant light bittery hops. Medium and                                                 maturing periods and high demand it may be
    slightly creamy mouthfeel with prickly carbona-                                              frequently sold out.
    tion in the beginning that soon softens. The beer is
    very, very drinkable and no doubt it is one of the                                           Although this beer can be regarded as some of
    better made paler lagers in Latvia.                                                          the best Latvian dark lagers (frankly, there are not
                                                                                                 too many to choose from), it has its flaws. First,
    Unfiltered version of Valmiermuižas beer can be                                              everyone would notice its quite high ABV, this is
    purchased in the brewery and some select shops                                               no session beer - three of these and you certainly
    and pubs in Riga, it is certainly better than the                                            feel the effects. Secondly, it lacks any individual
    bottled version.                                                                             characteristics, there is nothing particularly
                                                                                                 unique about the beer.

                                                                                                 Still, it is worth trying.

 66                                                                                                                                                                                            67
III.Practical information.                                                                                                                                                          

      Excursions to Latvian breweries
                                                                                                                                      Abula (Brenguļu)
                                                                                                     Aldaris                                       Cēsu
                                                                                              Brūveris           LIDO                                   Madonas

                                                                                                               Bauskas                                                      Rēzeknes


    It is possible to visit all breweries, but you should always make an appointment by phone
    or email first (just a note - not everyone speaks English, so it might be a good idea to ask               Abula (Brenguļu) - 64230272 (appointment required only for larger groups)
    a Latvian speaking person for help) and it is quite possible that a group of at least 8 -10                Cēsu - 80009090
    persons will be required.                                                                                  Bauskas - 63960013 or 26765153
                                                                                                               LIDO - just visit the beer cellar downstears in Krasta 76, Riga
    It also has to be added that this experience can be very different - in several places visi-               Līvu/Lāčplēša - 63425262
    tors are not allowed inside the production premises. If short on time, I would suggest                     Piebalgas - 64162518, 64162665
    visiting Valmiermuižas brewery for more interesting experience. It would cost about 3                      Tērvetes - 29476708,
    Ls per person. Visit to Užavas costs 1 LS, for Abula it is free of charge, but it is certainly             Užavas - 63699484
    expected that you would buy some of their beer afterwards. I guess you would not need                      Valmiermuižas - also English tour possible, 20264269,
    a reminder anyway. Some of the breweries, e.g. Valmiermuižas are open to visitors on
    weekends as well.                                                                                          Last year first commercial brewery tours have appeared, e.g. The
                                                                                                               idea is good, but prices are on the high-end and the range of activities these companies
    These details are certainly subject to change, it is also possible that some breweries are                 provide is very large (such as carting and canoeing), so some element of doubt remains.
    partly closed during the winter. Local tourist information offices certainly would be able                 It is possible to do a similar tour on your own, but, of-course, it would require much
    to provide correct and up-to-date information.                                                             more effort.

 68                                                                                                                                                                                                   69
III.Practical information.                                                                                                                                          

                                                     Beer wars: Aldaris vs. Lāčplēsis/Līvu

                                                     This year Latvian breweries have been providing their
                                                     customers a choice. Although in the first case with
                                                     Valmiermuižas during the first months of the year the
                                                     choice at least seemed to be real that yielded real results
                                                     in the form of a concrete beer - Valmiermuižas Tumšais,
                                                     the case with Aldaris and Lāčplēša/Līvu remains a bit

                                                     In May and June both breweries released five new beers
                                                     (2 by Aldaris, 3 by Lāčplēša/Līvu), closely followed by
                                                     advertising campaigns asking customers to evaluate
                                                     these beers and vote for the best. In case with Lāčplēša/                                       Kastaņu (Chestnut)
                                                     Līvu, exactly the same campaign has been launched also                                          Good looks, but very poor taste
                                                     in Lithuania (under Kalnapilis name).
              Dūmaku (Smoky)
              The first unfiltered bottled beer by   With Aldaris it is a different and more complicated story.
              Aldaris (except for Kviešu)            It is not a secret that Aldaris periodically brews well-
                                                     made beers, especially during the summer season, most
                                                     probably for the purpose of ‘refreshing’ the brand image.
                                                     At the end of the season, these beers are suddently gone,
                                                     it seems that distribution and other financial aspects
                                                     are too complicated to deal with. However, this year
                                                     one of the beers is unfiltered (a huge and unexpected
                                                     step for the company that has continuously stated again       Medalus(Mead)
                                                     and again for years that any quality lager requires to be     Rather badly brewed beer with a
                                                     filtered and pasteurised) and in addition Aldaris has         strong feel of artificial honey
                                                     vaguely promised to keep on brewing the most popular
                                                     beer of these two.

                                                     It is worth noting that the third largest brewery - Cēsu,
                                                     went down a slightly different path, simply improving its
                                                     Premium beer and announcing it has spent 200 000 Eur
                                                     on its development. Just to compare, Aldaris claims to
                                                     have spent some 30% less of that amount for both Senais
                                                     and Dūmaku.
               Senais (Ancient)
               Supposed to be brewed according to
                                                                                                                                                     Melnais Dzintara (Black Amber)
               recipes centuries old
                                                                                                                                                     A Czech-style dark lager, at least
                                                                                                                                                     this one is not messed up

 70                                                                                                                                                                                    71
III. Practical information                                                                                                                                                 

                                                                      5 beers to bring home from Latvia
                                                         If short on time, here is a short list of 5 beers that are easily available in many
                                                         locations, including supermarkets, all around Latvia and will be a good rep-
                                                         resentation of the Latvian beer scene.

         Aldaris Porteris                    Piebalgas Lux                          Tērvetes Oriģinālais                      Valmiermuižas Gaišais                 Brālis Gaišais

   The most distinctive taste         Good and well made dark la-                Not as original as the name                 One of the best Latvian pale    Decent pale lager, as well as one
   amongst Latvian dark brews,        ger, encompasses some of the               would suggest - the recipe is               lagers by one of the best new   of the few (others are brewed
   the only Baltic Porter brewed      most distinctive qualities of the          tweaked on a regular basis, but             Latvian breweries. Unfiltered   by the same brewery) bottled
   in Latvia - this beer is a must.   dark Latvian beer.                         it still is a good representation           version (not bottled) is even   unfiltered and unpasteurised
                                                                                 of Latvian brewing.                         better.                         beers in Latvia.
                                                                                 Highly recommended.

 72                                                                                                                                                                                          73
III. Practical information. Where to get beer?                                                                                                                                    

    Where to get beer?                                                                             Shops
    Although beer from all Latvian breweries is listed here, of course, you will be able to get    Latvians generally do not favour small shops - most of the shopping is done in the su-
    only a faction of those in an average Latvian pub or shop. Aldaris production will be          permarkets. Markets are used as well, but it is not advised to buy any beer there, except
    encountered the most often, followed by Cēsu, Lāčplēša/Līvu brews. Sometimes smaller           when during the town festivals and other local festivities. As with most supermarkets,
    shops will have the most interesting selection. Outside Riga there can not be a large va-      mostly the largest brewers are well represented - the presence of Aldaris, Cēsu and Līvu/
    riety expected. The best and safest option would be to rely on supermarkets, as smaller        Lāčplēša is guaranteed, finding the rest can be a varied success.
    shops will carry mostly Aldaris, other breweries do not seem to have so large distributor
    network.                                                                                       Prices in shops vary from 0.30 to 1.10 Ls for a half liter bottle, but good ones usually cost
                                                                                                   above 0.65 Ls - do not be deceived by attractive and colourful labels only. And remem-
                                                                                                   ber, it is also not allowed to drink alcoholic beverages or to carry open containers of
       IMPORTANT!                                                                                  alcoholic drinks in public (fine is about 10 Ls) in Riga, as well as in several other towns.
       It is prohibited to sell any alcohol from 22:00 till 8:00 in any shops. Bars an pubs
       are fine also later in the night, as long as alcohol is sold for consumption on the         Miestiņš (
       spot.                                                                                       Several locations in Riga and other towns, Mon-Sun 12-22
                                                                                                   In these shops best of Abula, Piebalgas, Brūveris, Madonas, Rēzeknes, Tērvetes, Krāslavas,
                                                                                                   Brālis, Užavas is available. Draught and unfiltered only, filled in the plastic bottles, with a
    Riga Airport                                                                                   special filler so the beer will keep fresh for a couple of days, but not much more.

    You should not rely on airport for your last-minute beer purchases. There will be some         Pikniks (no website)
    very limited selection of Cēsu and Aldaris beers available in the shopping area behind         Several locations outside Riga, Mon-Sun 8-22
    the customs.                                                                                   Similarly to Miestins, many draught beers filled in plastic bottles are available. These
                                                                                                   shops are conveniently located in the largest shopping centres of Jelgava and other Lat-
    The best option to purchase Latvian beer while on transfer for a few hours in the airport      vian towns.
    would be to go to the SPICE supermarket ( that is located quite close to the Riga
    airport. In addition to 5 minute taxi ride, it is possible to access this supermarket by bus   Stockmann department store (
    No.22 that connects Rigas airport with the city centre. Once inside SPICE look for RIMI        13. Janvāra iela 8, Rīga, Mon-Sun 9-22
    hypermarket, it has rather tolerable selection of Latvian beers.                               Finnish department store, slightly more expensive than others, but centrally located
                                                                                                   with good collection of Latvian beers - Aldaris, Brūveris, Bauskas, Cēsu, Piebalgas. If
    Riga Passanger Port (ferries to Stockholm)                                                     short on time, this certainly is the best choice.

    There is not too much choice there. Either Riga Spirits and Wine Outlet (rigaspiritsand-       SKY supermarkets ( that has very limited choice of beers (large breweries only) or better visit RIMI     3 locations in Riga suburbs, Mon-Sun 8-22
    supermarket on P.Brieža street 33 or the ones in the city centre. Apart from Stockmann         It carries many exports than can not be found elsewhere in Latvia as well as Valmiermuižas,
    department store, you will not get anything better in the centre.                              Piebalgas, Tērvetes, Cēsu, Aldaris, Līvu and Lāčplēša.

    Riga Bus station                                                                               RIMI, Maxima and Prisma supermarkets
                                                                                                   (, and
    Stockmann department store (next pages) and two RIMI supermarkets (next pages) are             numerous locations in Riga, Mon-Sun 8-22
    3-5 min. walk, as noted above, you will not get anything better in the Old Town or its         If it is possible, it is the best to visit only the largest hypermarkets in the outskirts of Riga,
    vicinity.                                                                                      they will have the best choice of Aldaris, Cēsu, Līvu and Lāčplēša, Brūveris, Piebalgas,
                                                                                                   Tērvetes and Valmiermuižas.

 74                                                                                                                                                                                                 75
III. Practical Information. Where to get beer?

    Dzīvais alus (
    Riga, Remtes 21, Mon - Sun 10-21                                                                Pubs and bars
    These shops are located mostly in the suburbs, have a good look in the map before try-
    ing to reach the location; shopping centre SPICE is nearby. Although they do not carry          Pubs in Latvia are not much different from their Western European counterparts. Tips
    Latvian beers, they have a good selection of interesting Lithuanian brews.                      of about 10% are welcome although they are sometimes included in the bill, usually in
                                                                                                    places with an awful service. However, the recent financial crisis not only forced many
    Cash and carry                                                                                  bars and pubs to close, but has had a pleasant side effect, as during the last year the
    Riga, Remtes 21, Mon - Fri 8-18                                                                 friendliness of service has increased, but prices in most pubs have been lowered to ac-
    Located next to SPICE shopping centre in the old metal hangars surrounded by a con-             ceptable levels.
    crete fence. Sure, it looks appalling, especially if compared to nearby shopping centres,
    but an excellent diversity of beers can be found here for some of the lowest prices. This       Bear in mind that there are a couple of bars and pubs in Riga that operate solely to scam
    is how most of the Latvian shopping looked like during the nineties, but nowadays these         foreign tourists, so do have a good look in the menu at first, especially if the bar is filled
    gloomy shops are a gold mine for Latvian beer.                                                  with wannabe stripper type gals and a young and attractive lady-friend after a small
                                                                                                    chat suddenly suggests you to pay for her drink; that drink could cost you a fortune.
    Alusgalerija (                                                                  As always, an indication of a reliable watering hole is where plenty of locals are around.
    If one wonders why is this place, just recently open, was not included in the list - it did
    not survive.                                                                                    Prices for beer are varied, but expect to pay from 1.00 to 2.30 LVL (1.30 to 3.30 EUR),
                                                                                                    most commonly around 1.50 (2 EUR) for half a liter of Latvian beer on-tap. Prices for
                                                                                                    Valmiermuižas will be usually the highest (the most expensive being Valmiermuižas
    Some notes on bottled beers                                                                     Tumšais, in the region of 2.00 LVL and above), followed closely by Brenguļu, Madonas
                                                                                                    and Tērvetes.
    With regards to storage periods for bottled beers, they vary from brewery to brewery. It
    can be several months after the bottling, it can be more.                                       Although often an array of bottled imports are available in most bars, it would be dif-
                                                                                                    ficult to find bottled Latvian brews there, except for colourful beer flavoured drinks that
    The best before date is always available on the back label, accompanied by information          are so admired by underage population.
    with regards to maximum storage periods. Subtract one from another and you get the
    brewing date.                                                                                   For a detailed and realiable restaurant and bar guide I would suggest visiting inyour-
                                                                                           where you can download a full free PDF version of the Riga in Your Pocket
    It is generally accepted that unfiltered and unpasteurised beers would spoil sooner. It is      guide. Or better buy the paper version in the airport (you can usually get a free copy in
    considered to be ‘live’ and life can not survive for too long in the bottle. Most of the beer   Information centres), hotel or in many press stands, also international mail orders are
    drinkers accept such an idea and seem not to pay too much attention to the fact that            possible from their Web site. It includes a really good and usually up-to-date pub and
    many ‘live’ beers brewed abroad are capable for surviving for years without significant         restaurant guide, certainly worth the money.
    impact on quality and improved sanitation in the smaller breweries would be able to
    ensure the same phenomena also taking place in Latvia. Or maybe all this is done to             There is no realiable information on Internet (neither in Latvian, nor in English) with
    encourage beer drinkers to drink fresh stuff only.                                              regards to where which beers are available, but select breweries (such as Valmiermuižas
                                                                                                    in have their full distribution list posted online.
    It is not recommended to store any bottled beer (except the one made by large brewer-
    ies) for extended periods and almost immediate consumption is a must if the beer is
    bottled in the plastic. Even more unclean are plastic bottles filled in any of the draught
    beer stores, up to five days in the fridge will be a maximum before it starts to spoil.

    There is a limited deposit for the beer bottles in Latvia (0.03-0.04 LVL per bottle), but
    empty bottles are accepted only in a few hard to find locations. Do not even bother.

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III.Practical information.                                                                                                                                         

    Some beer vocabulary
    Alus [alus] - Beer
    Priekā! [prieka:] - Cheers!
    Gaišais [gaishais] - Pale
    Tumšais [tumshais] - Dark

    Vai jums ir Bauskas Tumšais? [vai jums ir Bauskas Tumshais] - Do you carry Bauskas
    Vienu Bauskas Gaišo, lūdzu! [vienu Bauskas Gaishuo lu:dzu] - One Bauskas Pale,

    Mazais [mazais], or mazo [mazuo] if used in a sentence - small (0.33 l), e.g. vienu
    Bauskas mazo!

    Pudelē [pudele:] - bottled, e.g. Vai jums ir Bauskas Tumšais pudelē?
    Izlejamais [izlejamais]- draught, e.g. Vai jums ir izlejamais Bauskas Tumšais?
    Vēl vienu (tādu pašu) [ve:l vienu (ta:du pashu)] - One more (of the same)

    Uzkodas [uzkuodas]- snacks

    Bezalkoholiskais [bezalkoholiskais]- non-alcoholic
    (Briesmīgas) paģiras [(briesmi:gas) pagjiras] - (terrible) hangover                   Important note: not all of the facts and figures have been verified using scientific meth-
                                                                                          ods and it is fully possible that many would disagree with my point of view. Still, every-
    Lūdzu [lu:dzu] - please                                                               one is welcome to contact me with suggestions or comments.
    Paldies [paldies] – thank you
                                                                                          There is a copyright that applies to commercial use, this guide has been copyrighted
                                                                                          under the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives licence
                                                                                          - you are free to use it without modifying as long as it is intended for strictly non-com-
                                                                                          mercial purposes and is referred to as the source. Otherwise please contact
                                                                                          me at

                                                                                          Šo ceļvedi atļauts izplatīt saskaņā ar Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial
                                                                                          No Derivatives licenci - to drīkst neierobežoti lietot un izplatīt bez maksas tikai izteikti
                                                                                          nekomerciālām vajadzībām, ceļvedī neveicot nekādas izmaiņas, vēlams arī atsaucoties uz
                                                                                 Ja ir jautājumi vai komentāri, lūdzu rakstīt e-pastu uz

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