Can a beer still surprise you?
Trends, experiments and beer fests
If you would ask a person passing by in the street, what is the traditional beverage in Lithuania, you would most likely receive an answer that it’s beer. Of course, there is kvass, mead, but it’s beer we’re talking about this time. In the older days, even the smallest village had its native brewer, but nowadays all of it has switched to crowded bars and supermarket shelves, which are stacked with different choices from foreign and local breweries.
It seems that it couldn’t be better, but a closer look will reveal that most of the beers found in Lithuania are quite similar, reminding of each other. At the same time, the range of different styles you can find is also limited. In bars or restaurants, you must choose from names you already know by heart, and going to the store to grab a cold one always takes too long to choose. However, even in this frustration, we should remember that the world of beer is much more colorful and has loads of unknown flavors to be discovered.
Modern brewers are closer to professional chefs
We are all so used to describing the beer we taste as bitter, sweet or sour. This simplifies the choice, because it is completely clear which flavor dominates. But just as you can enjoy simplicity, you can also admire complex taste. The imagination of the brewers and the advanced technologies allow the implementation of recipes that perfectly intertwine different flavors with each other. In fact, modern brewers are closer to professional chefs. Beer recipes use various additives that give beer an unexpected character. Cucumbers? Marshmallows? Or hazelnuts? It might sound crazy at first, but nowadays you can find beers that will leave you guessing if it’s beer or an actual meal in a glass. And these tasting revelations come in the most positive light when you are open to them.
As we have one side of modern brewing implemented using unique ingredients, that are not necessarily associated with beer, there is another distinct side in beer recipe development. Here, brewers bind four traditional beer making ingredients – yeast, water, malt and hops. But these ingredients are masterfully manipulated. The huge amounts of hops used create such a picture of aromas and flavors that one might think that the beer is made from tropical or citrus fruits. The different malts used convince us that the beer glass is filled freshly baked biscuits with breakfast coffee. Different types of yeast ferment beer so that it takes on notes of wine or even balsamic vinegar. The variations in beer flavors using these key beer ingredients are probably impossible to count.
Another technique used to create impressive beer
Yet another technique used to create impressive beer specimens is the aging of beer in barrels that previously housed other spirits. Bourbon barrels are usually chosen for this purpose, but brews that were matured in red wine or even tequila barrels are becoming more common. The wood on the inside of these barrels soaks up the characteristics of the drink previously stored in it, making it a perfect donor to transmit the additional complex notes to the beer. Such beer flavor enhancement process is rather expensive and time-consuming to the brewery, but the end result always surprises with its expressive and rich taste. These beers are flavor bombs to be precise, therefore not for everyone’s liking, but there will always be dedicated fans who, if necessary, will be able to give all the answers about the beer in question. Even to details such as which type of oak, French or American, was used for the barrel in question.
Brewers all over the world face fierce competition in the market, so they constantly try to offer new beers that are not only of higher quality, but also more interesting and complex. It’s no longer enough to just put your beer on a supermarket shelf or give it to the nearest bar hoping for success. There is a need to find a closer connection with the customer, to tell a story about the beer and about your brewery, and maybe even to prove that you’re not another boring brand that is just following the old rules. Participation in beer festivals for the breweries is the perfect solution for realizing such goals. And for the visitors of these festivals it’s an even great opportunity to expand their beer horizons and treat yourself with some amazing beers, that will be worth remembering for the rest of their hoppy life.
A country like Lithuania, that boasts a long-time beer drinking tradition, also moves forward with the global beer world. Where there is a need, a supply must come forth. This year, for the second year in a row, the Putoja Beer Festival will be held in Vilnius, where a multitude of 120 different beers from all over the world will be presented to the festival visitors. Breweries from United Kingdom, USA, Denmark, Belgium is only a small part of the countries whose representatives we will meet at this year’s festival. The extensive list of breweries currently sits at thirty and is not yet to be concluded. Best local breweries will also join with their fizzy entertainment.
Putoja festival will be held in the “Dūmų fabrikas”, which is a smoke factory when translated from Lithuanian. This former renowned scythe factory now repurposed into a brewery and an exclusive venue space will be filled with beer lovers on September 22-23. Visitors can purchase tickets to visit the festival for one or both days. As per usual a branded festival tasting glass will be given to accompany the attendees during their beer quests. It is more than fair to assume that everyone in the festival both beer connoisseurs and those who just want to get to know it anew, will find something interesting for themselves – from beers with incredible ingredient combinations to beers aged in luxurious barrels. More details about the festival can be found here: Putoja Beer Festival
text: Šarūnas Andriušaitis
photos: Liudas Masys