In a land of malt-forward lagers, finding a hoppy beer is like…
FINDING THE HOLY GRAIL!
At least if you love Humulus lupulus.
Based out of Riga, Latvia SIA Alus Nams, produces a wide range of Latvian microbrews. I was able to sample a few on a recent trip, and while some beers left a bit to be desired, I really enjoyed their Brālis bitter.
I couldn’t find any information on what style they were going for, but it tasted to me like hoppy lager. It could have been an ale, but really had almost no ester character and was super clean, since most of their other beers are lagers I assume this one is as well.
Appearance-golden with good clarity and a surprisingly tan head, at least for so light a beer.
Smell-Wow you can actually smell hops! what a change after other Baltic beers that tend to go very light on the hop aroma. Smell like UK varieties although I don’t know which, earthy and floral, and not citrus like at all. Also a really nice pilsner malt aroma
Taste-Very clean and crisp on the palate with bitterness to match, lots of pilsner character
Mouthfeel- Medium bodied with medium carbonation
Overall- A pretty nice, hoppy-beer from Latvia. Worth seeking out if you find yourself in Eastern Europe and are missing hops.
A. Le Coq brewery in Tartu was started in the 1800s as beer distribution business designed to import imperial stout from London to Russia. In 1913 the Justus Schramm Brewery in Tartu Estonia (founded 1826) was purchased with the intent of producing beers for the Russia market domestically. It has since undergone a number of different owners and iterations, including being run as the Tartu Õlletehas or Tartu Brewery under Soviet occupation. In its current form, (owned by the finnish company Olvi) it produces a number of beers and ciders as well as non-alcoholic offerings like juice and sports drinks. Its most popular offering and indeed the most popular beer in Estonia is A. Le Coq Premium.
Tartu Town Hall
I had the pleasure of sampling this beer at a patio bar not far from the historic town square of Tartu. While I’m not a huge fan of the Euro lager style (think beer in the green bottles) this one was quite pleasing. I found it balanced and easy to drink, with no real off flavors and would recommend it as a fine beer to order if you ever find yourself in Estonia (4/5). For those of you familiar with Grainbelt Premium from the August Schells Brewery in New Ulm, MN, I found this beer to be almost a dead ringer. Went quite well with a meal of hearty sausages and potatoes.
Appearance-Pale gold with a frothy white head and relatively high carbonation (4.5/5)
Smell-Reminiscent of many American style lagers, light hay and noble hops with earthy barley (4/5)
Taste -Pretty standard. An all around well balanced lager, perhaps a bit hoppier than some in this category, but quite tasty overall (3.5/5)
Mouth feel -highly carbonated, yet with a full mouth feel for so light a beer almost creamy. (4/5)
Overall – If you like pale euro lagers this is about as good as they get. If you love IPAs or RIS this style probably doesn’t appeal as much. Still a worthwhile offering. Unlike a lot of Euro lagers this one is still brewed in the same town that if was originally brewed in. (4/5)