We visited Estonia in summer 2016 on a cycling trip, and it blew away expectations. We started in Tallinn and over 8 days went to the west of the country, via Padise, Haapsalu, Kardla (Hiumaa Island), Leisi and Kuressare on Saaremaa Island, Muhu Island, finishing up in Parnu. There are about 1.4m people in the entire country so it gets rural very fast. One thing not widely discussed is the multiplicity of excellent microbrews – in part because the production volumes mean that exports rarely make it beyond Scandinavia, Central Europe and the Baltics. Lots of dark porters (it is the Baltic, after all), rye ales, as well as farmhouse styles, Belgian homages and the inevitable IPAs. The standard is very high, with a wide range of styles and local creative touches – such as spruce and herb ingredients. Rye bread predominates culinarily and rye is a theme with the beer as well. You get the sense that there is a lot of experimentation as the beer styles are all over the place, in a good way. The beer culture has worked its way into restaurants, where given that it’s not really wine country, most good menus have a wide beer selection. Some brief notes:
A le Coq, Saku, Viru – are Estonia’s macrobreweries. Decent lagers etc..
Pohjala – one of the first microbreweries – from 2011 – with a wide range of styles. Personal favorites included the Rukkiraak (rye ale), Must Kuld (porter) and the Oo (imperial porter). I haven’t tried their gin-inspired gose which is a “mildly sour beauty of a beer…spiced with pink Himalayan rock salt, coriander, juniper berries, spruce tips, rosemary, ginger, and rose petals”.
Ollenaut (Beer-naut?) – another multi-offering outfit with a big selection – over 60 entries on ratebeer.com.
Lehe – wide range of stouts, old ales, IPAs and Belgian style beers. Their Suur Reheahi rye stout was excellent, although at 9.0% it needs to be approached carefully.
Poide – more recently established smaller brewery from Saremaa. Brewery tours in Kuressare. Nice brown ale and a great unfiltered Rukkiolu amber ale.
Tanker – Innovative selection – All Ryed is a great rye ale. Regrettably we missed the 11% “Love Will Tear Us Apart” trippel made in collaboration with a St Petersburg brewery, but hats off to their marketing team as well who clearly needed to share:
“It drives you mad.
Sweet and challenging, it lasts for a moment or takes all of you life.
It gives you wings or kills you.
Love tears us apart.
Collaboration of Tanker Brewery and Mager brewery took place around Valentine’s day, so we present our view. It’s strong like real love (11%), it invites you with exotic scent of El Dorado hops and suddenly attacks with Artemisia bitternes. Complex, ambiguous, tearing your feelings. Like love. Love that tears us apart”.
Puhaste – from Tartu. More focus on stouts, ales and IPAs. Their Dekadents imperial porter is outstanding.
A few good beer bars:
- Porgu, Ruutli 4 – cellar bar with superb tap and bottle selection in the west of the Old Town. Food’s good too. If you go to just one, go here.
- Pudel Baar – one of the earlier established beer bars, nice outdoor area and great selection. Located in the Telliskivi neighborhood just west of the old town. Larger overseas selection.
Hell Hunt, Pikk 39 – worth dropping in although apart from their own label draft which is mainly German styles, it’s mostly typical Euro beers.
- Wirre Bar. Looked to be the only full-on microbrew pub in town, although there’s no shortage of other places for Saku etc.
I decided to bring a few back. Good beer stores in Tallinn include the following although you can also buy to go at the places above or at the supermarkets:
- Uba Ja Humal, Vorgu 1.
- Sip, Telliskivi 62.
Visit Estonia, people. Summer is nice, lots of late sunsets and cool breezes off the Baltic. You get a good rain dump most late July afternoons which is very refreshing, especially on a bike.
Tallinn is your classic jewel box medieval/renaissance city that is well visited. The Lenussadam seaplane hangar maritime museum (with intact 1930s-era Estonian navy submarine) has a lot of interesting gear and spacey lighting. As ever, the navy was in town once.
Agrarian past, windmills and orthodox churches.
Also a tip of the hat to Riga, Latvia, which is worth visiting as well. A much bigger town, and beerwise you’ll do no wrong going to the Labietis brewery bar: https://www.facebook.com/AlusDarbnicaLabietis
Finally, Estonia bike tour was booked through CityBike in Tallinn, they did a great job and are highly recommended – we did the self-guided Western Estonia & the Islands route: