A rough guide to Lithuanian beer
The cover of the book
My first trip to Lithuania, way back in 2010, was a deeply odd experience. I found more than just a good bar, or an interesting brewery, or some new, exciting beer. I found a whole beer culture, complete with its own frames of reference and styles of beer, effectively developed independently of the rest of the world. The beer was great, the bars were interesting, there were lots and lots of beers and breweries.
However, there was a problem, too. Whenever I tasted something new and interesting I wanted to know how the beer was made. Why did it taste like this? Were there other beers like it? What sort of brewery was it that made this beer? This unusual toasty straw flavour, where did it come from? Trying to get a grip of these questions I drew a complete blank. The people working in bars generally didn't speak English, and when they did I found they didn't know anything about the beer. Searching the web I found nothing.
And why couldn't I find anything on the web? Because nobody seemed to even be aware that there was something unusual about Lithuanian beer. That was the other odd thing. One doesn't normally find a whole beer culture unknown to the rest of the world. So I started trying to tell the world, mainly via this blog. At first there was very little result. Some polite interest, but no more. Over the years interest has grown, especially after Martin Thibault's article in Beer Connoiseur, but even today I'd say Lithuania receives vastly less attention than it deserves.
Then, when I came home from the trip to Lithuania last year my mind was buzzing with everything I had learned. So much so that although I had no intention of writing a book, I started one anyway, because I simply couldn't help myself. There was so much to tell, and somehow it had to be told, so I just started writing aimlessly. Gradually, it turned into a guidebook to Lithuanian beer, and by September 2013 I had a publishable draft.
I also had a problem: I can't read Lithuanian. That meant that I had very few sources for my book, and I couldn't be sure that everything I wrote was correct. There were holes in the content that I simply could not fill. So I put the manuscript in a drawer and focused on this year's trip.
Then, my wife, daughter, and I went to Vilnius for our easter holiday. Watching my wife trying to make sense of Lithuanian beer menus, I realized that a guidebook was desperately needed. Without one, it's impossible to know what beers to order, and once you have them in the glass it's impossible to know what on earth it is you're drinking.
So I decided on a compromise. I would fill the book out as much as I could, and get my Lithuanian contacts to review it. Having thus produced something that was good enough to share with the world, I would self-publish it. Which I have now done. I've titled the book Lithuanian beer - a rough guide, and you can buy it as a paper book, or download it as a free PDF. A Kindle edition will appear as soon as I can solve the conversion issues.
My hope is that this book will be useful for anyone going to Lithuania to try the beers, and that it will inspire many more people to make the journey. The income will be used to finance the translation of Lithuanian sources into English, so that I can learn more and write something more complete.
A flood of industrial lager has swept away the native beer traditions of just about every country in Europe except, famously, for the Czech Republic, Germany, Belgium, and the UK
Read | 2010-09-18 21:09
Lithuania may be a small country today, but once the joint Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth included much of present-day Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Belorussia, and Ukraine
Read | 2011-05-14 10:40
ramtyns - 2014-11-10 05:19:37
Congratulations and well done, Lars!
I'm very happy too that this has finally got out to the world, even if the different forces of the world tried to postpone its deadline by sending you more and more comments and suggestions;)
Looking forward already on a next, much thicker edition!
Marshall - 2014-11-21 16:58:17
This is great! I'm curious if you've traveled a bit further north to drink beer in Latvia? I was there back in 2003 and had some pretty fantastic beer. Cheers!
Lars Marius - 2014-11-21 17:09:17
@ramtyns: Thank you, as always. :)
@Marshall: Thank you. I've been to Latvia, and did have some good beer, but as far as I've been able to tell it's nothing like Lithuania. I still intend to explore Latvian farmhouse ale, but that's going to be a long project.
Svein - 2014-12-02 14:07:23
Congratulations! Looking forward to your book on Norwegian farmhouse brewing, and possibly a rough guide to farmhouse ales ;)
Lars Marius - 2014-12-02 15:16:15
@Svein: Thank you! We'll see how many/which books there eventually are.