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Last week I spent a few days away in Riga, the capital of Latvia. Here is my account of the beer scene in this idyllic and very cold European city.
We stayed at The Naughty Squirrel Hostel which was right in the centre of Riga. This was an excellent and very affordable hostel with excellent staff. First of all I’ll start off with beer in the hostel. They had two tap beers (see below) which cost €2.40 each but only €1.50 in happy hour (two hours at different times each day). Both of these are from the Cesu brewery which is in Cesis about 90km away in northern Latvia. On the left is Cesu Premium which is pale lager. It’s a good standard european lager with a little sweetness. You could do a lot worse. M favourite however was Nefilretais Lenalus which translates as slow beer. This is an unfiltered lager full of a sweet malty flavour. Both of these beers were delicious but quite heavy. You couldn’t have more than a few pints.
Another great place for beer and food in Riga is Folkklubs Ala Pagrabs which translate to Folk Club Ala Cellar. Hidden away down a side street near St Peter’s Church. This underground bar is set in a basement open all day every day with live music five nights a week. We went at 3pm on a Thursday and the place was still quite busy. This place has an incredible 28 beers on tap and an excellent menu that consisted of mainly Latvian dishes. I had the Latvian garlic bread (massive portion) and the chicken roulade which were both delicious. To go with food we had the cranberry and blackcurrant beers (see below) brewed by Iļģuciems the oldest brewery in Latvia. Both beers were really sweet and very easy to drink.
We only had one beer here and never made it back in an evening which was a shame but we knew another bar where you could try lots of Latvian beers called The Aussie Pub. You may be thinking this is like a traditional Aussie Bar that is loud and garish but this couldn’t be further from the truth. This a small bar over two levels with the bar downstairs in a gutted out VW Camper Van. The main reason for coming here was to do Latvian Beer Tasting. You get a tray of 14 Latvian tap beers in 100ml glasses for €8 (Usually €10 but we got a discounted rate from our hostel). This works out at just over £6 for two and a half pints. Pretty good. You can see my tasting notes below.
- Zelta – sweet but drinkable like a wheat beer.
- Aldaris 1865 – standard lager. Not horrible but ok. Easy drinking light lager. Would taste better in the sun.
- Bauskas – a lager with a sweetness which is difficult to define. A hint of honey with a good sharpness. Tasty.
- Bralis Dark / unfiltered – dark brown sweet beer with hints of cocoa and coffee in aftertaste. Ok but a bit odd.
- Tervete – A standard lager and a bit hoppier than the others. Meh.
- Uzavas / unfiltered – a nothing lager. Light and lacking flavour, disappointing.
- Western Ale – A sweeter version of Zelta. A scent of honey and very drinkable but you wouldn’t want a pint of it.
- Valmiermuiza – grassy beer. A hoppy and bitter beer with an unpleasant aftertaste. Not for me at all.
- Valmiermuiza Dark – Similar sweetness to Bralis Dark. Reminds me of a Caffreys / Boddingtons. Lacks the flavour of Bralis Dark. Ok but not great.
- Brengulu / Unfiltered – Very weird and difficult to describe. Amber colour with a slight sweetness. Strange but ok.
- Kiss Cider – Sweet like Pear Koppaberg. Pretty nice actually, I can’t believe I’m saying this.
- Medalus / Honey Beer – Sweet with a slight but not overpowering honey taste. Very good indeed. I usually hate honey beers so I’m pleasantly suprised.
- Dzervenalus / Cranberry beer – like an alcoholic cranberry juice. Very sweet like Fruli not very beer like but very drinkable.
- Kanepju / Ginger Hemp Beer – mmm tasty, like a dry Canadian ginger ale. Not too sweet, a superb way to end.
Overall, I was very impressed with the quality of beer in Riga. I never had a bad beer and I would highly recommend a few days away in Riga as it is a lovely city. Just be prepared for the cold.