Written by Oakes
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Oakes Weekly -- September 16, 2004
Finland Part 2September 16, 2004
Vancouver, CANADA -
The second leg of my journey through Finland started in Tampere, a city whose biggest claim to fame is being close to Nokia. In beer circles, however, Tampere is home to Plevna, one of Scandinavia’s best brewers. First, they have 8-10 beers on at a given time, which is always nice to see. They do a healthy variety of styles - English, Czech and German. Their Stout is outstanding and probably the only really American-style beer they do. They have successfully executed not only a stout, but also a German-style wheat (Vehnäuml) and Czech 10P Cerne (Pikku-Musta), which is no small feat.
From there, tbone_ and I went to Teerenpeli, which is a brewpub chain. I found their German-style wheat to be pretty good, but their lagers clumsy and poorly-executed.
Many European cities have Czech bars or restaurants - Soldaten Svejk in Stockholm, Gambrinus in St. Petersburg and Praha in Tampere. The latter serves up tasty food, lots of Czech beer and a couple of other beers thrown in for fun. For example, they carry Fantome and Chimay. They also have a guest tap, on this night occupied by Karelian micro Saimaan Panimo. It has been reported that none other than Stallhagen Pale Lager from Äringlands Bryggeri has been served there. A word of warning, though. What I though was a new find, Rezane, turned out to be a mix of two other draughts. It’s always best to ask questions when finding a "new beer" on tap.
Then it was a quick check of many pubs to see if they had anything interesting. They didn’t. Other than at brewpubs, finding microbrewed Finnish beers is tough, at least aside from St. Urho’s Pub in Helsinki. All the beer bars focus on European countries. Note I don’t use the word "other" because when you’re in Finland, Europe is somewhere to go on vacation - it’s not where you live. In fact, you don’t even live in Scandinavia.
The next day I returned to Jyväumlskyläuml, where I once studied as an exchange student. They have a brand spanking new railway station, but the student residences are still crappy. Since I left, the town has lost a brewpub, its most widely-available microbrew, access to sahti at Alko stores, and a beer bar. The other beer bar, Old Brick’s Inn, is a very smoky affair and I used to only go in the afternoons. I did the same thing this time and it was still smoky. The beer list is less interesting than it used to be (ditto the Alko stores in Finland).
Tbone_ and I went to jutuahol’s place for a session. I brought fun stuff from the European Summer Party for them and drank mostly Finnish brews myself. From there, a new bar has opened up called the Green Elf (in Finnish). They’d brought in a pile of new second and third-tier beers from Germany and Belgium. Actually, the names were unfamiliar to me so it was only through drinking them that I discovered they were second and third-tier.
The next day, I made my way towards the Russian border. I stopped briefly in Savonlinna to sample the wares of Huvila, a brewery with a pretty good reputation. Joutsen ("swan") is a very sweet yet not cloying golden ale. An interesting take on the theme, but not my cup of tea. The Bitter, Brown Ale and Porter were also quite well-made and serviceable beers - as one might expect from a brewing team that combines a yeast expert and an award-winning homebrewer (both of whom were trained at Kuninkaankartanon Panimo). It was a shame they didn’t have their Sahti pouring because A) I kind of like the stuff and B) Markku Pulliainen is a former winner of the World Juniper Beer Brewing Championships.
Savonlinna is famous for its opera festival and thus I doubted I’d find anywhere to stay so I pushed forward to Lappeenranta, 20km from the Russian border. Their local brewery is Saimaan Panimo. Given that is was late on a Sunday, that I was staying out of town, and that I’d scored two more of their beers earlier that day during a stopover in Mikkeli, I decided to just relax.
The next day I was in St. Petersburg.
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