Apart from a specific enthousiasm about music, I’ve been a beer enthousiast for a long time. I’d like to share a bit about one of my favorite beers, namely Põhjala from Estonia. A wonderful little brewery.
It says a lot if a small brewery is willing to drop by in Eindhoven twice to give people a taste of their brilliant products. Põhjala dropped by the first time in Van Moll, the local brewpub where you could enjoy a wide range of beers from the Estonians. Lately they returned to hang out with beer lovers in the cosy beer shop De Bierbrigadier. These are also two spots that I really recommend if you drop by in my city and wish to try some beers.
Estonian Craft Beer
I’ve been to Estonia twice, to visit the capital Tallinn and Tartu. What was immediately noticable was the lack of traditional brews and the more flavorous products. What you’d find was pretty much the big brews like Saku, Alexander and the weirdly named A. Le Coq. There was also a beer named ROCK, but it didn’t really rock.
That is indeed the case, according to marketeer Peeter Keek, who dropped by in Eindhoven on the next tour of the young brand. It just wasn’t there: “When we started making beer with Põhjala, we really were the first. No one else was making craft beer in Estonia. Since, it really has exploded in our country.” It’s true, Estonia has really seen a brewvolution in the last years with with tons of brewers popping up and as a cherry on the cake there’s even the Tallinn Craft Beer Weekend (organised by Põhjala apparently). According to Peeter, the weekend is well worth the trip with a lot of beers to taste. The price is well worth it.
The secret ingrediënt of Põhjala brews is a very specific one. He’s called Chris Pilkington and he used to brew beers for no other than Brewdog, the pinnacle of craft breweries for many beer geeks. Where Brewdog is pushing out a stable series of high class beers, Põhjala started pushing the envelope on flavor with interesting, refreshing brews. The brewery was started by four entrepeneurs and a master brewer and clearly has their eyes set on the top, nothing less.
There’s a lot of experiment going on in their brewing, but also a lot of tweaking. What they don’t do is try to make crazy beers, they’re aiming for good stuff. I highly doubt that anyone will reinvent the drink in a radical manner, we already know what is good and so do these gentlemen.
Peeter informed the visitors at great length about the special flavors and unique beers the brewery is producing: “We are as a brewer focussing on the heavy, black beers. It’s our specialty, which you can also see in our range.” As he hols up a bottle of the brilliant Öö and the Must Kuld. The first is a imperial Baltic porter, offering the unique flavors of a Baltic porter with the dark nights and the unruly nature of these regions. The Must Kuld is more temperate, but a great porter that is the basis for various other great products, like a Kenya coffee porter and a cherry porter.
I have to mention one other variation of the Öö, named the Valge Öö, which is a white stout. Did you read that? A white stout! It’s a smooth flavoured, but potent drink that will set you back for a moment. The flavor is that of a stout, but the eye tells you differently. I can go on about their favulous beers, but I think this’ll do for now. Go try them yourself!
Ok, there’s this magic double IPA with ever changing hops, which makes the beer so surprisingly different. The edition I had to try was almost like liquorice hints in the beer, curious what you’ll get.
Põhjala doesn’t feel old fashioned like a folk band, it’s a bit like punkrock in my opinion. Going against the grain, but in their own respectful way. It’s not bottled violence, but it certainly is a beer that you won’t buy in a six pack and it will surely rise above others in the years to come. Starting a craft brewery in a country that has none is kind of saying: We’ll start our own scene, we’ll just do it ourselves. Which is… the punkrock ethos in brewing.
It has its very own scene, exploring new areas with familiar ingredients, trying to perfect their craft and beers along. They are in complete control of their very own product and I hope to get to try a lot of them. There’s a risky flavor to the beer, something edgy and it really speaks to me as a brewer I dig and a beer to enjoy in winter and summer alike.
(there’s an unnecessary amount of references in the last bit to punkrock)
Don’t take my word for it, this guy says so too.