After a long day one, visiting four breweries in Kaunas, the next day took me to a further three breweries. This time, though, Tomas and I headed to Lithuania’s capital city, Vilnius. Our first stop was Sakiškių Alus on the outskirts of the city, in a beautiful location.
Snow in the Air
I must admit a further day of brewery visits was feeling a little bit daunting. Unsurprising really, after a previous day visiting four breweries, followed by a night cap or two in Vingiu Dubingiu in Kaunas! However, after a decent breakfast and some coffee, I was ready to meet Tomas and travel to Vilnius.
Vilnius is Lithuania’s capital city. Based around 100km east of Kaunas, the quickest way to get there is by car, which takes around an hour. Trains are also available but take longer to get there (although tickets are very cheap!).
For the first stop of the day, Tomas took me to the outskirts of Vilnius to visit Sakiškių Alus. The brewery is set up in the North-Eastern village of the same name – Sakiškių.
Like the previous day, the temperatures were cool and there was snow in the air. With the village set outside of the commercial and residential districts of Vilnius, it meant there were some good views. Especially with a scattering of white snow on the ground.
Idyllic Countryside Retreat
On the tours in Kaunas the day before, all the breweries were built somewhere where you’d expect to see a brewery. Avilys was a microbrewery setup in a bar and Genys setup in a warehouse, as two examples.
Sakiškių Alus is set up in a custom-built building. An 80 metres squared double storey carcass house. From the outside, it looks like a house. It is surrounded by country and looks more like an idyllic countryside retreat. Inside the building, though, is housed a very forward thinking and modern brewery.
As we arrived at Sakiškių, Tomas introduced me to brewer Gediminas Volkas. Gediminas happily started telling us more about the brewery.
The house that Sakiškių Alus is currently brewing in was a custom built by owner Linas Zakarevicius. Linas was on holiday when we were there, so I didn’t get to meet him. Like Apynys, it was great to see so much hand crafting, not just going into the beer making, but the brewery itself.
Sakiškių Alus has been brewing for approximately 3 years now and is the smallest production brewery in Lithuania. Previously, it was a 500-litre brew house, with 3 fermentation vessels. This was eventually sold onto a Ukrainian brewery based in Kiev so that Sakiškių could expand.
Now, the current output is around 6000 litres packaged per month (bottles). The brew house has five fermentation vessels, squeezed into the small space. Already they are outgrowing their current home.
Such is the growth of the brewery, they are now exporting to other countries. Gediminas specifically named Sweden.
Gediminas’ own history was starting out as a home brewer, a similar tale to every brewer I’d met so far on my visit. He gained some beer industry experience working as a sales rep for Dundulis, another Lithuanian brewery that I didn’t get to visit on this occasion. It was during this role where he also met Tomas; the two know each other well.
Smoked Malt and Toasted Coconut
Sakiškių Alus prides itself on producing beers inspired by the new wave. They are not a traditional brewery like Kauno Alus and like to be experimental. This means experimenting with lactose, souring and even bottle conditioning. Although the latter may be a common occurrence in the UK, it’s not in Lithuania. Although, by Gediminas’ own admission, the Lithuanian market isn’t quite ready for bottle conditioning yet.
It was when talking about the beers that Gediminas’ passion came out. He is clearly someone who enjoys challenging himself with producing new beer styles.
Gediminas went onto say there are more hand-crafted elements to the beer and brewery. Outside, they have an oven that they use to smoke their own malts, which they use in a smoked porter. They have also toasted their own coconut in the outdoor pizza oven.
One brew they also make, is a fresh hop beer, made from hops grown on the property. A fresh hop beer is where hops are picked straight from the harvest and used to brew immediately, rather than dried or used to make hop pellets first. The home-grown hops included Marynka, Czech Saaz, Cascade and Lithuania’s own Freda.
I got to try two beers on my trip here. First up was a 3.5% ABV raspberry gose. This was as good as you’d get from any of the modern, well-established craft breweries. Light, fresh and tart with raspberry flavour that wasn’t overwhelming.
The second beer was a completely different style. Called ‘Father Midnight’, this was an imperial stout, which Sakiškių collaborated on with Tanker Brewery in Estonia. This was a fantastically rich, dark, heavy beer, that’s ideal for beer tasting early morning…!
A Nation of Handymen
Sakiškių Alus is an absolutely fascinating place. It was a wonderful mix of the outdoor environment, home craftmanship (Gediminas did describe Lithuania as a nation of handymen!) and modern brewing.
The flavours and quality of the beers were like those of a very well-established brewery. Additionally, though, the creativity and imagination of recipes here would challenge any modern micro craft brewer. Like Genys, these are beers that I could see being popular in the UK.
So, with the first Vilnius brewery visit completed, Tomas and I made our way back to busy central Vilnius for our next stop – Kuro Aparatūra. As always though, you’ll have to wait until next time!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.