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28 June 2017
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A beer drinking country


There are a number of things that make any Lithuanian swell with pride;
Rich History, Amber, Beautiful Nature, Basketball, etc.

There is, though, one that has a special place in their hearts. This source of pride is the Lithuanian Beer. Today, Lithuanians are among the best beer producers in the world, enjoying numerous international awards for the subtle taste and high quality of their drink. But is beer a truly “Lithuanian” drink and how deep are the traditions of brewing beer in Lithuania?


The earliest findings of the existence of beer go back to Egypt as early as100 B.C, the people in ancient Lithuania did not know this drink, as it became popular here only in 14th century. However, before getting to know beer, Lithuanians had been making mead. This beverage is one of the oldest drinks in the Lithuanian history. It was created by farmers, who were picking wild honey in the woods. They noticed that water mixed with honey starts fermenting if kept for a period of time. So they started to make mead, boiling honey mixed with water and special herbs. One of the best recipes for this drink is to boil honey with cherry juice. The local people believed that such kind of drink is better than any wine. Mead was widely used in Lithuania, according to numerous famous travelers who have mentioned this drink in historical chronicles.

As soon as beer started to be used, it became very popular, especially in the Northern and Eastern parts of Lithuania. Unlike these days, it wasn’t a casual drink - people would make it only for holidays. Beer was mainly made from wheat and corns, or beetroots with brewer’s malt. Every family had its own beer making traditions, some of which however, were known to everybody. Thus, beer had to be made by the oldest member of the family, and there was a tradition to serve it first to the family’s favorite neighbor.

In the16th century, people began to make a business out of it by selling home-made beer at town markets. However, this wasn’t as easy just making the beer and selling it because this trade was strictly controlled by the King. It was only he that could decide who could take up this business and who could not. As beer was not a traditional Lithuanian drink, local beer brewers had little experience at the beginning. To solve this problem, the King invited many German brewers to Lithuania, encouraging them to share their experience in making high quality beer. Soon Lithuanians gained the required knowledge in brewing beer to become some of the best beer makers in the world, as they are today. Most breweries at that time were church owned but due to economic reasons they were soon privatized by rich landlords.


In the 20th century, during the Soviet occupation, Lithuanian beer, while still available, suffered a serious  deterioration of quality due to the fact that they had to rely on Russia to supply them with the ingredients. Also, much lower quality Russian beer was sent to Lithuania.  However some things that Russians did were met with approval. For example specialized beer bars were opened in 70s, according to a Soviet Union government’s order.

With freedom restored the Lithuanian Beer companies could now produce beer to their own quality standards. Today, Lithuania is ones of the biggest producers and consumers of beer in Europe. Beer has become a truly national drink - according to the statistics, an average Lithuanian drinks 50 liters of beer per year.

Now we’ll share some information about some of Lithuania’s brewing companies.

Gubernija brewery

GUBERNIJA is one of the oldest industrial breweries which has evolved from the original concept of estate pub and brewery that were not only in Lithuania but in all Baltic states. At the end of the 14th century there were many pubs as well as breweries in Lithuania. Breweries and pubs were built either in private domains of noblemen or next to the estates and in the cities. Historical sources testify that brewery GUBERNIJA has been producing beer since 1665.

Švyturys Brewery

Švyturys beer brewery, established in 1784, is the oldest in Lithuania. The first medal – a prize for beer quality and taste – was received by Švyturys beer makers as early as 1883. The most prestigious ones are the gold given to Švyturio Ekstra in 2001 at the World Beer Championship (Dortmunder category) and the silver given in 2000 at the World Beer Cup (USA) (Dortmunder/European Export category) as well as the bronze medal of the World Beer Cup (USA, Aspen) of 2002 won by Švyturio Baltijos (Marzen/Octoberfest category).

 

Švyturys beer is deemed to be not only the best Lithuanian beer (96% of respondents, AC Nielsen survey) but also the best product of Lithuania (83% of respondents, AC Nielsen survey).

In December 2001 Švyturys and Utenos Alus beer breweries merged into Švyturys-Utenos Alus AB. In the spring of 2003 Švyturys-Utenos Alus AB was reorganised into Švyturys-Utenos Alus UAB

Kalnapilis Brewery

Kalnapilis was established by Albert Foight in Panevėžys in 1902. A landowner of German origin, Foight named the brewery "Bergschlösschen", meaning a small castle on the hill. In 1918, the name was changed to the Lithuanian equivalent Kalnapilis.

Kalnapilis’ greatest success has been winning 2 gold awards at the World Beer Cup, the Olympics of beer competitions.

Ragutis Brewery

While the name Ragutis Brewery is not very well known, even to people living in Lithuania, the names of their beer brands are very well known. Names like “Horn”, “Fortas” and "Volfas Engelman" are popular favorites here.

 

The brewery Ragutis was opened in Kaunas in 1853, after merchant Raphail Wolf started making "Wolf's beer" in his own brewery.

Tauras Brewery

The original brewery was founded in 1860 in Vilnius. The original founders were two local Jewish enterpreneurs: Abel Solowiejczyk and Iser Berg Wolf. The brewery went through many name changes over the years as a result of new ownership, wars and occupation. The company received its current name of Tauras in 1945. In 2001 Tauras Brewery was merged with Kalnapilis into AB “Kalnapilio – Tauro grupė” however you stll find the Tauras products with the Tauras labels on store shelves.

Category : Food, wine and more
  • Alexander Lubanski

    A very well 'briefly' documented history of Beer Brewing in Lithuania. I belong to a int'l group of Beer Connoisseurs called the, 'Int'l Liquid Bread Club,' and we travel the world as a group, sampling beers and I have visited Svyturys-Utenas brewery last year, which was an excellent conducted experience. As well, I have visited a number of smaller beer brewing establishments throughout Lithuania and can attest that the quality overall is 'excellent'. One 'unique ' factor I found was that Svyturys-Utenas brewery 'bottle beer in 'PLASTIC BOTTLES' something unusual, as beer manufacturers around the world use glass bottles & cans and this includes varying the colour of the glass to 'preserve' the beer in accordance with climatic conditions, (i.e. Protection from direct sunlight when stored for long periods – e.g. PNG's South Pacific Lager). In your article you did not mention that the Syvturys-Utenas brewery is owned by the giant Danish brewing organisation, but the production & ingredient is Lithuanian. Alexander Lubanski JP – Founder: Int'l Liquid Bread Club.

    November 10 2015
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    • […] ‘A beer drinking country’ Category : Featured black / Food, wine and more / Front page archive […]

      July 14 2012
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      • Ah, I notice I can put an email address in here – clicked reply too fast on my last post so I will put it in here and see what happens.

        July 06 2012
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        • A norte on a side – the breweries mentioned do not really represent traditional Lithuanian beers which are regaining popularity both among locals and international beer enthusiasts. There's dozens and dozens (in fact, over 70) of small breweries or brewers who brew beer that is miles more interesting, tasty, original and often superior quality than the bland euro-lagers pumped by the big ones operated by multinational conglomerates.

          List of LT breweries, both active and defunct: http://www.alutis.lt/aludariai/ (the number has reduced in half from over 140 operating a decade or two ago)

          November 12 2011
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          • That’s not just logic. That’s really senislbe.

            August 28 2011
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            • Glad I’ve finally found somtehnig I agree with!

              April 22 2011
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              • That’s a mold-beraekr. Great thinking!

                April 20 2011
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                • Bernardai, my great friend, colleague, and supporter of the National Lithuanian American Hall of Fame. I must take exception to your view that Lithuania has had only one king. Most leading Lithuanian historians are now following the lead of the National Lithuanian American Hall of Fame's long held belief that the Lithuanian empire was ruled by kings. Surrounding nations, Popes, and even our mortal enemy, the Teutonic Knights recognized our rulers as kings. One must remember, the idea of grand dukes and grand duchy was a figment of foreign historians.

                  February 25 2013
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                  • WOW, I wish there were a way that replies to remarks made here would be forwarded to email or something. 71 weeks is a LONG time. Yes, I was referring to the Avilys micro-breweries in Vilnius and Kaunas. I visited them both and enjoyed the medaus alus (if that is the correct spelling) Otherwise, I had Svyturys, Kalnapilis and also visited the Juozas park outside Palanga. I would love to go back and visit every brewery in the country, but I don't think my wife would find that fun.

                    Still a grat article and thanks for that.

                    July 06 2012
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                    • Vin Karnila

                      Sveiki Ponas Bernardai,

                      Thank you for pointing that out.

                      Yes, I stand corrected. I should have said with the permission of the Grand Duke.

                      Your comment about “Avilys” beer peaked my interest so I did a little searching.

                      The result was that I couldn’t come up with anything about a brewery or a specific beer named “Avilys.

                      What I did find was that there are two micro breweries/restaurants named “Avilys”. One is in Vilnius and the other in Kaunas. Naturally the beer they produce is called “Avilys beer”. These two establishments currently are in operation so when you said “when I was there“, I don’t know if this is the same company making the same beer.

                      So many breweries in Lithuania have come and gone. Some have merged with other breweries, some have changed their names and some have simply just closed their doors. In the article, I wrote about the breweries that are still operating in Lithuania today. I’m sure volumes could be written about the others that existed in the past. If you could give us some information about the “Avilys” beer that you remember, I for one and I’m sure our readers would find this very interesting.

                      In fact we invite all of our readers to share any information you have about Lithuanian breweries from the past.

                      Su pagarbe – Vin Karnila

                      February 23 2011
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