My Lithuania Beer Adventure Part I – Apynys

The craft beer scene in Lithuania is booming. Following the global trend, over the last five years I’ve seen Lithuania evolve from predominantly Baltic lagers and porters, to a vast arrange of styles, from IPAs to sour beers. Over the coming weeks, I’ll be writing a series of articles on the amazing places I visited recently, in capital city Vilnius, and my home away from home, Kaunas.

A Long Winter

As I awoke on my first day in Kaunas, I looked out of the window to see snow falling. Like the UK, Lithuania has experienced a long and intense winter. Suffering temperatures down to -20 degrees Celsius. I was thankful it wasn’t that cold whilst I was there.

What I was also thankful for, was that my host for the duration of the trip, Tomas Savickis, owns a bar just a few minutes’ walk away from the hotel – Vingiu Dubingiu Alude. An ideal meeting space, and a bar I would be hosting a talk and tutored tasting on the last day of my visit. I’m going to talk a lot more about Vingiu Dubingiu in another article. Tomas welcomed me with a smile and a warm welcome. We were then promptly joined by Modestas, a Lithuanian beer blogger and quite possibly the tallest Lithuanian I’ve ever seen! Unsurprisingly, the affectionate nickname Tomas suggested I call him is ‘Big M’. With the band for the day assembled, we headed on to our first brewery trip of the visit – Apynys.

Augis, ‘Big M’ and Tomas

Apynys

Based South-East of Kaunas centre, Apnys brewery can be found in the same building as a restaurant called Baublys. And, although it must be exciting for diners to be able to see the brewing equipment whilst eating, the restaurant and brewery are two completely separate entities. Apynys, translated to English, means Hops.

We entered the brewery and Tomas introduced me to Augis, one of the brewers at Apynys, who has been with them since 2013. We were in luck too, he was brewing today and on the brewing schedule was Green Monster IPA. This is actually the first ‘craft’ beer I had in Lithuania on only my second or third trip to the country. Tomas told me that this is Lithuania’s highest rated beer in Untappd. Quite the accolade!

Featuring Finnish malt, Cascade hops from Germany, Eldorado and Cascade, this is quite the international IPA. It’s also unfiltered and unpasteurised when bottled.

Augis mashing in

After mashing in, Augis took us on a tour of this small, unique brewery. The first thing I was proudly told was that a lot of the equipment in the brewery was hand built. This would become a theme for the whole of my trip. Particularly impressive was the built-from-scratch bottling machine.

At peak season, Apynys brew around 6 times a week on kit that’s capable of producing around 500 litres of beer. Downstairs, they have five fermenting vessels to use. They are fortunate to have a nearby spring to supply the water, and treat it accordingly to what they are brewing.

The Beers

With the tour pretty much complete, and having been joined by Viktorija, the company director, Augis cracked open some bottles for us to try. It didn’t go unnoticed by me that this was at about 8:30am UK time! First up was the popular Green Monster IPA. You can see why it’s popular too, capturing the essence of modern IPA with citrus fruit the prominent flavour.

Green Monster IPA

Next up was Kosmosas, a Baltic porter aged with French wood chips, a cracking dark and full-bodied beer. Then, I was pleased to be able to try a beer direct from the tank, Milkshake. Milkshake has the haze and fruit characteristics of a NEIPA style beer, but it’s inspired by the US milkshake style with lactose and fruit added. In this case, mango juice.

A Challenging but Bright Future Ahead

As we enjoyed the beers, I had a great opportunity to talk more to Augis. Augis started out as a home brewer, and Green Monster IPA is his own recipe that he evolved from home brew to professional brewing when he joined Apynys. We talked a lot about how Government legislation in Lithuania is making things difficult for the breweries. For example, they’ve doubled tax and put restrictions in place on bottling sizes dependant on beer ABV. Of particular concern, and this was something Tomas shared with me before my trip, is that social media can no longer be used by bars and breweries to advertise alcohol. This was something I discussed with a lot of people throughout my trip.

Home made bottling equipment

Restrictions aside, Augis is passionate for his craft, and I was shown a wooden cask in the corner that they have been using to experiment with barrel aging and souring. Although there wasn’t anything to sample today, Tomas said he had a rare bottle of a previous Apynys barrel-aged beer back at his bar. More on that in a future episode!

Generously as we were about to leave, I was given some more bottles of Green Monster IPA and Kosmosas to take away, as well as a litre plastic bottle filled with the Milkshake NEIPA.

Milkshake IPA from the tank

I left Apynys even more excited than before my trip to Lithuania. What I’d seen on my first stop was what I would call real craft brewing. A manual labour of love from the manufacture of some of the brewing equipment, to the process being done by hand from start to finish. And, to talk to someone as passionate as Augis, it gave me a sense of how far Lithuania has come in a few short years on the craft beer journey, and the great potential the country has to put itself on the global craft beer map, regardless of what the Lithuanian Government has in mind.

Our next brewery tour took us back into Kaunas centre, and Kaunas’ only brew pub, Avilys. But, you’ll have to wait to read more about their beers and the fantastic bar until the next article of my Lithuanian Beer Adventure.

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