A Baltic Beer Journey, Part 2

Some of the bottle selection at S. Brevinga Alus Salons

Other than the beer festival, Riga is not overflowing with craft beer – with one shining exception (or two, depending on how you count). This is the S.Brevinga “empire” which consists of a pub and restaurant in the Old Town of Riga (right near Dome Square/Doma Laukums, here’s a map) with a bottle shop next to it, and then another bottle shop/bar in Berga Bazars, a trendy mall in downtown Riga (here’s another map). The pub is S. Brevinga alus un viskija bars (S. Brevinga Beer and Whisky Bar, for those of you Latvian-challenged), the bottle shop/bar is S. Brevinga Alus Salons, and they are both essential visits for the craft beer fan in Riga.

S. Brevinga alus un viskija bars is by far the best beer bar in Old Town, an area which otherwise is pretty much an industry lager tourist trap (in beer terms, that is – in general, the Old Town of Riga is a great and quirky tourist destination with plenty to see). They have about 20 taps, around 5 of which are the ‘best of Latvian’, with the lovely farmhouse beer Madonas Alus as the standout feature (it’s like a saison made from cookie dough – tart and sweet and rich all at the same time). The remaining 15 are given over to the slightly more interesting brands from the InBev empire (meaning Leffe, Franziskaner, Hoegaarden and Belle-Vue Kriek) and – and this is perhaps the best part – to Belgian Brouwerij De Ranke, meaning that you can often get a couple of their excellent offerings, for example XX Bitter, Saison de Dottignies, Noir de Dottignies or Kriek De Ranke (an excellent, undervalued Kriek). There’s also a decent bottle selection focused on Belgians (if you can’t get a particular De Ranke on tap it will likely be available bottled) with some other stuff available, including for some reason a focus on Scottish brewers like BrewDog and Belhaven. Pub food is relatively cheap for Old Town, comes in generous portion, and while not of Michelin standards it is generally pretty good and hearty – my favourite, being Scandinavian, is the herring salad, but the other salads and grilled meats are also good. Just next door is a bottle shop focusing on imports where the best deals are on the Belgians: I picked up a 75 cl bottle of De Ranke Kriek for 3.45 LVL, which equals about £3.95 or €4.95. There’s also some Mikkeller and De Molen to be found here, but the other place (see below) has the far better bottle selection.

The main attraction, however, is the S. Brevinga Alus Salons. This is essentially a bottle shops with a few seats (some outside for sunny days) – and these few seats are invariable taken. There’s a selection of 5 beers on tap (nothing Latvian, only international) with a similar focus on Belgian and British. No food is served so if you want to eat you’ll want to pop over to nearby restaurant Cydonia, which is good value for money, or, if you are feeling flush, Hotel Bergs, which is one of Riga’s pre-eminent haute cuisine restaurants. The bottle shop is very well stocked with a particular focus on Belgians (are you sensing a theme here?) – you can pick up Cantillon bottles for a song here – but with lots of other interesting stuff: two shelves are given over to recent Mikkeller releases and one shelf is filled with De Molen stuff, they carry a small but eclectic range from the US (when I was there I picked up some Victory Storm King Stout and a Rugbrød from The Bruery, and I saw some stuff from Founder’s as well), and they seem to have a special relationship with BrewDog as they were well stocked with the most recent releases, including the new Abstrakt and some collaborations as well. The owner more often than not mans the store and he is very knowledgeable, friendly and helpful, you can put stuff away to pick up later, etc etc. Truly a craft beer oasis not just in Riga but in the Baltics as a whole.

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Posted on June 27, 2012, in Shop, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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