A Survey of Lithuanian Farmhouse Ales: 22 Beer Reviews

As stated in my piece on Exploring Beer in Vilnius, farmhouse ales of Lithuania are delicate and fragile, unpasteurized and many bottle-conditioned, and live if served from cask. Still the broad picture looked like this: high attenuation yeast strains and lean bodies; malt can sometimes be raw, grainy, wort-like; hops are sometimes not used at all; DMS and diacetyl are prevalent, and accepted.

Kupiškio Keptinis

Kupiškio Alus
5.7% Traditional Ale
Bottle best by August 2013, had at Bambalyne in Vilnius. Dark reddish-brown body, small off-white ring of a head, forced to stand for 10 seconds before dying. First whiff is malt / grain-focused with some strange fruity esters: gamey apples, red plum, coffee. Minimal aroma hops, instead the phenols and acids and esters give it a strange spiced apple cider and tea character, and there’s just a hint of smoke (for me, at least. my friends got more smoke) and some wet animal air and basement must. Very bready / grainy flavor, still rather raw but not as raw compared to what passes as normal beer in Lithuania. Lightly sweet body, watery texture, medium-low acid, medium to low bitterness. Musty yeast character similar to some Zoilgbier of Oberpfalz (not always a good comparison, as some Zoigl out there can be pretty dirty and game-y). Somewhat soft and creamy body with low carbonation, more effervescent than most Lithuanian country beer. Smooth malt texture as well, also better than most. In summary, an interesting beer that seems in good shape, and lacks any overt brewing flaws seen across most country beers here. This was the first beer opened in Lithuania, so our first impression was rather good, there seemed to be something unique here. Sadly, almost every beer we had after this one was chock-full of flaws.

Taruškų Ainių Alus

Taruškų Alaus Bravoras
5% Traditional Ale
Bottle best by July 2013, numbered 2465.
Cloudy orange gold body.
Small white head.
Phenolic rye / grain / bread aroma.
Touches of orange / citrus.
Noticeably gamey / musty / wet hair.
Medium-light body; medium-high acid; Sweet; Medium to low bitterness.
Twangy, limp malt with phenolic banana and wheat.
Effervescent mouthfeel.
Dry finish.
Browned bananas and salt late.
Relatively good compared to most Lithuanian beer I tried here. Cleaner than most, but still gamey enough to make it difficult to get into. Raw, as well, but again, less raw than most, if that means anything.

Senojo Vilniaus Tamsusis Alus

Vilniaus Alus
5.6% Dunkel/Tmavý
bottle best by October 2013. aroma of cola caramel flavoring and fruit jelly and mineral water / basement must / cement mix / mold. medium-full body with a lot of chewy sugars. doesn’t come across as "right out of primary" like a lot of the other tamsusis I’ve tried up to this point (a lot of them seem very under-fermented but I’m beginning to learn that this is a desired character in Lithuanian beer :/). low bitterness, medium to medium-heavy sweetness. some acid. lingering grape / browned red apple flavoring. pretty terrible

Davra Daujotu

Davra Alaus Darykla
5.8% Traditional Ale
strong hen house, pet dander, pee, bird shit, cooked carrots and vegetable stew aroma. godawful. pasty and husky texture. smelly socks, pee and sour, boiled cauliflower flavor. DMS and pet urine and raw grains. I can find nothing to like about this beer. I don’t understand.

Vilniaus Šviesusis Nefiltruotas Alus

Vilniaus Alus
5.2% Zwickel/Keller/Landbier
bottle best by October 2013. Lightly hazed gold body with a small white head and no retention. Very faint nose of grains, yeast, water, honey, air... Syrupy malt texture, creamy carbonation, softer than most Šviesuis, and lacks the overt flaws seen in so many Lithuanian beer. Drinkable but plain and uninteresting.

Dundulis Gutstoutas

Bottle best by June 2013. Dark cola brown body with a small off-white head. So there is oatmeal in the nose and flavor, but lets talk about what else is going on: dark malt syrup, charred grains, licorice, malted milk balls, flabby body, low bitterness, higher alcohols, sherry oxidation and stale anise / licorice. This honestly tastes like poorly-made homebrew, first batch stuff. Syrupy, worty, weak. That said, it’s better than most things I’ve had out here in Lithuania, where its more common to put your nose into a glass of strong DMS and diacetyl.

Butautu Šviesus Alus

Butautu Dvaro Bravoras
5% Zwickel/Keller/Landbier
Bottle rating. Cloudy medium-light orange, you can force a head if you pour vigorously but it dies in under a minute. First smell is a strong odor of boiled carrots and cabbage, DMS and diacetyl galore! There’s also a lot of raw grains and wort smells (light caramel syrup, grain husks, soggy bread). Has a similar grainy, raw flavor with abundant buttered carrot and some strange tropical esters and phenols. Medium body, sweet throughout, low bitterness and low acidity leave it lifeless, flabby and limp in the mouth. Drying, watery, un-firm finish. Are all Lithuanian beers this undercarbonated and (seemingly) under-fermented? I ask because the combination of sweet grains with low acid and low bitterness feels completely off, very unpalatable. Even without the obvious diacetyl and DMS this would be a plain, raw, worty grain stew of a beer.

Jovaru Alus

Jovaru Alus (Aldona Udriené)
6% Traditional Ale
Plastic bottle for a first try at Bambalyne in Vilnius.
From tap the next day at Alaus Namai, where I found it not much different.
Hazed semi-dark amber with a small ring of a head if you force a pour. Raw, worty, herbal aroma with more cabbage and carrots and composted, browned fruit (apple and pear mostly). Sugary, raw grain flavor, dirty sweat sock and just-fermented apple juice. Watery texture with a limp body. Seems very under fermented, like it came out of primary after a week.

Taruškų Alaus Bravoro Šviesus

Taruškų Alaus Bravoras
5.5% Zwickel/Keller/Landbier
Bottle at Bambalyne. Typical low carbonation requires a vigorous pour to form a head, so to express the beer aromatically you must make it even flatter... another problem with the state of Lithuanian beer in my experiences. Hazed soft gold body with a thin white ring of a head, to disappear in under a minute and give the appearance of hazy apple juice (no visible carbonation from this point on). Gamey aroma and flavor throughout, yes it’s very "rustic" in that grain, pee and animal hair way that a hen house smells. Also quite raw and wort-like with abundant mashed / rotting fruit. Bready, worty orange juice and amber malt syrup flavor. Oxidized and papery even two months away from expiration. DMS / cabbage / boiled carrot / vegetable barley soup flavor. Medium body, high sweetness, low acidity and bitterness.

Rinkuškiai Sambariu Alus 8%

8% Traditional Ale
Bottle at Bambalyne in Vilnius.
Oxidized malt / notebook paper.
Plaster / drywall yeast.
Chewy, grainy dog food malt aroma and flavor.
Decent body, good froth, medium to full mouthfeel.
Medium sweetness, low bitterness.
Metal and tomato / sweet catsup notes present.
Soured cola and vegetables after it breathes.
Another flaw-ridden country beer, this one with surprisingly full carbonation in the mouth but little to no visible signs in the glass. Raw, grainy, under-fermented with some strange DMS-like faults (take your typical carrot / cabbage character and add some catsup, paprika and garlic... siracha sauce!)

Kauno Burmistro Sodrusis Juodasis Alus

Kauno Alus
7% Traditional Ale
Bottle at Bambalyne in Vilnius. Tamsus on the label.
Medium-dark cola brown body, forced head dies quickly.
Malt vinegar-like acidity, noticeable solvent.
Cosmetics / makeup powder.
Garlic, vegetables, chiles / siracha.
Oxidized dark malts (wet cardboard black cherry soda).
Medium to full body
Caramel cola flavoring, browned apple cognac alcohols, black cherry soda.
Dirty and unpalatable.

Krikščiūno Rozalimo Gyvas Alus

D. Krikščiūno (Rozalimas Alus)
5.5% Traditional Ale
Sample from a bottle at the open market in Vilnius.
Hazy orange body with a short, quickly-dying head.
Fruity citrus hops and malt sugar in the nose with an under-fermented / limp pale malt (soggy crackers and malt syrup) character.
Very honey-ish.
Medium body + low acid + low carbonation = flabby / watery mouthfeel.
Worty and raw, though not *as* raw as most. Subtle hop aroma gives it some life, but it’s still a very messy, unfinished beer.

Gubernija Tamsusis Elis

5.9% Traditional Ale
Draft at Alynas in Vilnius.
Chestnut brown body, small tan head.
Cola and caramel syrup flavor.
Sweet Dr Pepper, metal flakes, plums, wort.
Under-fermented, raw, unfinished.
I don’t understand at all, how can people drink this?
Flabby grape jelly and dry pet food grains and the slightly touch of roast.
Acidic and husky.

Vasaknų Dvaro Šviesus

Vasaknų Dvaro
4.8% Traditional Ale
Draft at Alynas in Vilnius.
Hazy light orange body with a small head, quickly dying.
Chicken nugget breading / fried chicken aroma.
Off-brand orange marmalade.
Urine-soaked pet bedding.
Heavy burnt popcorn - no, no no, it’s actually popcorn-flavored jelly beans...
Medium-light body.
Silky, fine, creamy carbonation.
Limp, flabby, watery body.
Drying finish with low bitterness.
Popcorn / diacetyl, raw grains, fried breading, wet animal hair.

Prie Katedros Medaus (Honey)

Prie Katedros Bravoras
4.7% Spice/Herb/Vegetable
Draft at Alynas in Vilnius.
Honey and caramel malt aroma.
Distinct wet dog hair / dirty lake water.
Pasty yeast powder texture; starchy and husky malt.
Low carbonation, low acid = flabby body.
Red apple skins and orange jelly and caramel hiding behind the game-y pet hair notes.
Sour finish.

Prie Katedros Šviesusis (Light)

Prie Katedros Bravoras
4.5% Zwickel/Keller/Landbier
Draft at Katedros in Vilnius.
Popcorn and makeup powder and iceberg lettuce aroma.
Suggestions of acetone / nail polish remover and hair spray.
Pasty, yeasty, starchy, silt-like.
To be fair, it does seem drier and more fermented than most sveisus.
Still has enough DMS / cabbage / lettuce notes to make in unpalatable.
Moderately creamy mouthfeel, carbonation is nice.
Subtle lemon hop flavor and aroma show up but can’t do much to save it.
Yeasty, tart and sour.
Smells like mom’s makeup bag.

Rinkuškių Baro Šviesusis

4.7% Premium Lager
Bottle at Bambalyne in Vilnius, best by November 2013.
Clear gold with a small ring of a head.
Grainy pale malt aroma with actual hop grass / fruit notes.
Mostly clean aroma which is a break from the rest.
Medium-light body with good firmness up front.
Still a flabby / watery finish.
Green (raw) lemon oil hops.
Sharp bitterness with noticeable malt twang, seemingly underfermented.
Lemon soda finish.
A strange one, but seems to be in better shape and contain fewer and milder flaws than most.

Rinkuškiai Biržieciu Tradicinis

6% Imperial Pils/Strong Pale Lager
Bottle from Bambalyne in Vilnius.
Clear gold with a small white head.
A basic pale lager-like beer.
Pale malt nose of corn syrup.
Mild cement mix and chlorine / chemicals.
DMS sweet cabbage notes.
Medium-sweet red apple flavor in a drying finish.
Medium-full body, rough and fizzy low carbonation, low bitterness.

Kurklių I.O. Boiko

Kurklių Bravoras
5% Traditional Ale
Bottle at Bambalyne in Vilnius, best by August 2013.
Hazed golden orange body.
Tall-building white head collapses into a ring.
The best-looking beer of this Lithuanian visit.
Similar in appearance and aroma to some type of Belgian farmhouse golden ale.
And it actually smells quite nice: wheat, pale grains, tropical fruit, wax, spicy phenols.
Juicy / pulpy / semi-sweet orange approach.
Sharp, bracingly dry finish is thin / airy / marshmallow-y.
No strong flaws, very interesting and fun to smell and taste.
All flavors and aromas are very expressive.
Low acid / low bitterness / low sugar.
Very effervescent.

Butautu Dvaro Alus Porteris

Butautu Dvaro Bravoras
6% Baltic Porter
750ml bottle from Bambalyne in Vilnius.
Dark cola brown body with a half-inch tan head.
Laundry detergent and oxidized dark malt aroma.
Cola, plum, light accents of chocolate and coffee.
Acidic and husky malt texture with pasty / dirty yeast grittiness.
Creamy, low carbonation.
Syrupy cola-ish malt with game-y yeast (definitely NOT my idea of "funky").
Mild acerbic solvent in the finish.
Aroma and finish flavors resembling phosphorus / match sticks.

Butautu Dvaro Alus Madona

Butautu Dvaro Bravoras
5.9% Traditional Ale
Bottle from Bambalyne in Vilnius.
Lightly hazed semi-dark amber.
Small, short-lived head.
Raw grain / soggy bread aroma, dirty.
Fusel alcohol, acetone, hair spray.
Sourish cola-flavored dark malt flavor.
Medium-full body; round sugary mouthfeel; drying, thinning finish.
Medium sweetness, low bitterness.
Mildly acidic / rough.
Raw and wort-like.

I.O.Boiko Šviesus Alus

Taruškų Alaus Bravoras
5% Traditional Ale
Draft at Alynas in Vilnius. House beer.
Mostly clear pale gold body. Small short-lived white head.
Yeasty pale malt aroma.
Some hop life: lemons, grass, cilantro.
Sweet approach but seemingly dry on the back.
Simple tasting pale malt is coarse.
The low, creamy carbonation shows some similarities to real ale.
After it’s warmed a bit I can see some tomato and metal? Is that garlic? Sriracha sauce?

BJCP-certified beer judge, photographer, and software developer from Boulder, Colorado. I use this site to chronicle my worldwide beer adventures shared through photography and stories, with a focus on traditional old world brewing practices.

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