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Oakes Weekly -- August 5, 2004
August 5, 2004
Written by Oakes
I apologize but we’ll have to skip the Birzai chapter. I need pictures for that, and they’re not developed yet.
So we venture directly to Pakruojis.
It was one of those things. When departing Pasvalys for Birzai, the bar we’d passed on the way in – the Pasvalys Alaus Darykla tap – was closed. At the bus station are two bars. One had nothing worth my time and the other – a typical beer bar of the region – was great. A quick half before departing and we thought ourselves on the way to the promised land. We thought Pasvalys was to be a mere drop in the bucket with Birzai the malty paradise. ‘Twas not to be, despite some excellent information gathering. After all, learning about the techniques of Lithuanian brewing is hardly something to sneeze at.
However, I said it was one of those things. That while Birzai the Venerated is under the hold of but four breweries, in the direction of Siauliai is the sleepy town of Pakruojis. The area has, I was told, 19 breweries. So while some folks were traipsing around Portland, I was traipsing around a town with more breweries than bars..
This was, as you can imagine, a tough assignment. You see, many of these concerns are in the country area, and hard to reach on foot. They might have one outlet at best. Often, what you do is haul empty PET bottles to the brewery to be refilled for take-home consumption. This makes ad hoc beerhunting something of a problem. My guide – not that I’d even met or spoken with him – was unavailable, even during normal brewery opening hours. So off I went by myself.
The first place I went to, in the back of a coffee shop, had beers from Mozuru. Salkylinis was dusty, leafy and toasty; Stipruolis less successful. I admit some of the 9+% was a little alcoholic for my liking. Round the corner, past the dueling grocery stores and another bar presents itself, carrying beers from Pardubysio Alaus Darykla. Berneliu and Svogeriu were both excellent. This bar was typical – one or two tables outside, the rest inside, but even then only five or six. These are bars are very dark and very basic, intended for the area’s working men. Women are never seen, let alone kids.At the next corner, another bar disappointingly only carried Birzeciu Stiprusis – a beer that was hardly a disappointment back in Vilnius. Down the road is the Mintis brewery. You can buy beers there to go, and they speak better French than English.
Back in town, I dug up new breweries left, right and centre. Pasakinskas (later found out to be Mintas, but Pasakinskas is the brewer’s surname) delivers Joniskelio Alus, while Kalnio bring Svientusis. Both rock, and go great with vine-fresh peas. Being closing time, I headed home.
I stayed another day in Parkuojis. The hotel is at the main corner in town, but yet I was awakened by roosters. It’s just not that big a place. So no big surprise when I found out that I’d tapped out the town’s bars already. But before I found that out, I took a fifteen minute walk to “suburbia”, that bein g Jovarai, home of Jovaru Alaus Darykla. They weren’t home. I did pass a pub, in addition to a very vocal cow, so I stopped in for a half-litre. It was 8am. You see, these working mens’ bars start early. They open around 7 or 8 am, but close early at 10pm usually. It was a bit unusual to start the day with a beer at 8am, especially a strong one, but when in Parkruojis, do as the Pakruojans do.
After determining that I’d seen all the bars in town the night before, I grabbed some bottles and headed to fill these up for the European Summer Party, hoping they’d hold up. I then began great wanderings to the hinterlands, searching the surrounding farmlands by quadrant. Net result wasn’t much more than a heated conversation with a goat until, just past the bus station, a nameless bar presented me with Jovaru Alus. The owners of the brewery may have been AWOL, but at least they left me with a parting gift – the best Lithuanian farmhouse beer. This was clean for the style, and fantastically refreshing. Down the road, a hard to see mirror sign announces another bar. A brewpub, actually, in the garage behind a house. Vyganto Alus is another exceptional local brew, made in extremely small quantities. It’s sick how these beers are turned out with such quality in Pakruojis. I left knowing that there was more, just not within walking distance. I’d have been plenty happy to rent a car and continue my work, but I had a Ratebeer Summer Party in Stockholm to attend to. But not before a brief exploration of the Riga beer scene...
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So while some folks were traipsing around Portland, I was traipsing around a town with more breweries than bars..
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