Earlier this year, I began a series of articles about my trip to Lithuania and, specifically, a tour of some of its wonderful and varied breweries. Day one of my trip saw me start out in Kaunas, first at Apynys, and then Avilys. My third stop of the day would take me to a fascinating brewery that would not look out of place if it were part of the UK craft brewing scene – Genys Brewing Co.
Founded in 2015, Genys Brewing Co. beers have quite quickly become a regular sight in Kaunas bars. The key players for Genys are CEO Laurynas Lisauskas and brewer Jonas Miežys, also known as “the magicians” as they are called on the brewery’s website!
Starting as a gypsy (cuckoo) brewery, it was just 6 months before they needed to move on. Interestingly, the brewery they originally brewed at is a bit of a mystery. A starting point for many other Lithuanian breweries, but information about it was scarce.
Now, instantly recognisable in bars with the Genys (woodpecker) logo and large beer taps, the styles brewed by Genys are very much inspired by the craft culture in North America and Europe.
I must admit, when I first started seeing the brand, and the style of beers that Genys brewed, even before my trip to the brewery, the first name that sprang to mind was Brewdog. Inspiration perhaps?
Having had lunch in Hop Doc in Kaunas Old Town (funnily enough, formerly named Genys before the name was taken for the brewery), Tomas and Big M then chauffeured me to an industrial estate South-East of Kaunas centre. This part of Kaunas is a classic industrial estate, with large corrugated metal structures, brick walls, industrial vehicles, and ‘roads’ that weren’t designed for a comfortable journey.
A Tank Repair Factory
Parked up, we wandered across to one of the industrial units. Quite big, in fact, and the home of Genys. A large woodpecker logo hangs across the main entrance, and, as you cross the threshold, you’re transported from industrial Kaunas to a wonderful modern craft brewery.
The industrial feel was kept (as you would find in many of Brewdog’s bars!), with concrete flooring, exposed metal girders and exposed brick work throughout. But, it all felt very modern, clean and bright.
At reception, I was introduced to brewer Jonas, who would be our guide for the trip. Our first stop, the brew house.
This was an incredible sight. The brew house was enormous, so much room, and I would say it is bigger than some of the breweries in my home city of Leeds.
“I won’t do the full tour” said Jonas “you know all about the brewing process, so just ask me anything you’d like to know.” That’s knowing your audience!
So, I explored more the size of the brewery, to understand the scale. Genys generally brew 30 litre trial batches, before moving to full production. At the time of my visit, they had 8 fermenting vessels, 40 hectolitres in size (that’s 8000 imperial pints each!). They had an in-house mill for the grain, a whirlpool (used to separate hop fragments out from the liquid at the end of the boiling process) and a bottling plant. What I found most interesting though, is they were using plastic containers for the beer. This was much like the KeyKeg system we have in the UK. It was the first time I’d seen that in Lithuania.
Also of interest was that they were starting to export outside Lithuania, with Japan being the first country on the list.
“When we got the factory, we had to completely refurbish it” Jonas shared with me. Quite impressive, then, how quickly they have grown. I asked Jonas if he had any interesting facts and his answer was unexpected, but awesome. “This building used to be a tank repair factory during the Soviet occupation!”. A cool theme for a beer, I thought, but not one that Jonas had considered before.
With the brew house tour complete, Jonas than led us to a tap room on the upper floor of the building. Again, this was a very large space with a wonderful view of the entire brew house through a window.
The tap room is not publicly open, but is used for private events. Despite that, they haven’t skimped on quality or design. Once more a Brewdog-like theme ran through, exposed brick, metal framed tables and chairs. Even a neon sign on the wall declaring “Make Beer, Not War”. Quite fitting given the brewery’s past.
It felt like lots of effort has been put into the look of the brand, and investment into the brewery. It meant by the time Jonas was cracking open the beers, my anticipation and expectation was already high!
The Genys beers are very much geared towards the modern craft beer drinker. Jonas was very generous with the samples. I tried many from the core range, plus some super special beers that didn’t have a name yet, and weren’t public knowledge.
Dvi Laisvės (Two Liberties) is a good entry point into their beers; an American Pale Ale. At 6% ABV, it’s not really a session beer, but it’s lovely and refreshing. Two Liberties, is apparently a nod to freedom, and also freedom from mass-produced beers. The label features the Statue of Liberty and Kaunas’ iconic St. Michael the Archangel Church.
Also worth a try is Tamsus Miškas (Dark Forest), a tasty 5.5% chocolate porter, and Tattoo a pale 4% lager. If you buy a case of the latter in supermarkets, the design of each bottle is different. This adds a unique twist to the beer, and becomes one for the collectors.
Of particular interest, of course, were the specials. Whether these ever made it to market or not, I’m not sure, but they were excellent.
First up was a barrel-aged version of Tamsus Miškas. This was followed by a spectacular peated Baltic porter that was aged in Whiskey barrels. The latter, at 9.5%, was the strongest beer to date that they’d brewed. Even then, Jonas said he thought around 2% of the ABV came directly from the barrel ageing.
Like Augis at Apynys, and Donatas at Avilys, Jonas’ passion for beer is obvious. He was quick to tell me how much he loved his job, and you can see that in the beers. I think Genys have huge potential and I wouldn’t be surprised if we started seeing their beer on UK shelves soon.
Having tasted plenty, it was time to move on to the last brewery of the day. Having just visited a super modern brewery, the final stop was to one of the oldest breweries in Lithuania – Kauno Alus. You can read all about that visit in the next instalment!If you enjoy reading our content, please consider sharing with your friends using the sharing buttons at the bottom of each post. Also, you can subscribe to receive notifications about new blog posts via email. Simply enter your email address into the 'Subscribe to Mike's Tap Room' box at the top left of this page.