Sweet Rosie

An Irish pub in the middle of town, or “Iiri Pubi” if you speak Eesti (Estonian), Sweet Rosie has been open for 4 years, following in the footsteps of a punk bar that preceded it… I guess punk is now truly dead, the last bastions that survived in this remote corner of the Baltics now extinct.  Anyway, Sweet Rosie comes recommended from a gent from Chicago I met, and I’m glad that Sam Malone is personified instead by his younger Viking girlfriends.  I decided on local, popular favourite beer – the charming Kaia served me a half litre of Saku Originaal.

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Saku established as a brewery in 1820, and is still going strong being brewed just outside of Tallinn, albeit under foreign ownership now.  The “Original” is a light lager beer, only 21 years old (so hardly original) and uses crystal filtration to preserve it instead of pasteurisation… it slips down nicely at 5.2%.  Too many of these lagers and the writing gets sporadic – best to move onto the 4.6% “Kuld” that hails from the same Saku stables, boasting to be the “cream of beers – masterfully balancing the strength of Nordic barley malt and velvety smoothness of sunny German Hallertau aroma hops… the purest taste of Kuld was achieved thanks to the German beer Purity Law Reinheitsgebot.”. I love marketing.

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Linda served the next pint with the same Estonian grim expression that I have become accustomed to – don’t expect any service staff to give you a grin like a Cheshire Cat – perfectly charming lady, just culturally perfect.  The Kuld is fine too, and could well wash down some Irish fayre (fish & chips / Irish breakfast / Rosie’s soft beefsteak) or, indeed, offerings from Parnu bay: herring plate; Greaves a la Kamikaze; or crabclaws with dillweed sauce… I’ll definitely try Kamikaze! Nothing ventured, nothing gained, I suppose.

The bar is quite crowded, and I wait for 15 minutes.  I notice the other beers on tap: Guinness (Irish pub!); Newcastle Brown; Leffe Blonde; Staropramen; and grapefruit Sinebrychoff Long Drink, as well as Weston’s cider and Kiss perry.  And then… St Peters Ruby Red & St Peters Cream Stout, both 2 miles from where I now live in Norfolk!  It’s strange what home boutique beers travel as far as you do.

Ah, here is the fried bacon & soured cream (Kamikaze) snack – clearly ‘Kamikaze’ on the basis that the obvious local ingredient readily available and core ingredient to most dishes round here is missing: cabbage.  And what else would you expect to be served with bacon in an Irish pub?  Absolutely Kamikaze!

Categories: Beers

Veerev Olu

Apparently, Veerev is the original Estonian pub in Parnu, wooden floors that no doubt in the olden days would have been covered in sawdust.  The eclectic paraphernalia on the walls gives this joint a welcoming feeling to any stranger, complimented by the friendly face behind the bar.

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In the centre of the pub is a wooden trapdoor, where they keep all the bodies beer.  I’m advised that I should come back again during the last week in October for ‘British Week’ when there will be some British beer on tap, as well as the Ambassador making an appearance.  The pub is busy for a Tuesday lunchtime, and we opt for indoors as the weather is inclement, even though there is a large square umbrella covering the outdoor smoking area.

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I’ve chosen an A.Le Coq lager, the only beer on tap – it’s Estonian, and like Coopers or VB, is the popular quite drinkable Brand.  On the practical, chunky tables, there’s a civilised game of chess underway, eagerly overseen by drinking companions with nothing better to do on this rainy day in Parnu.

Come to Veerev for a homely pint!

Categories: Beers

Modernising European beer traditions

Let’s face it, family recipes passed down through word of mouth, generation to generation, is a dying custom.  In the European Baltic region, when nearly 1 million native Estonian speakers came close to preserving some sense of heritage when 20 odd years ago at the point of Independence from USSR they offered their Principality to Prince Edward (who spuriously turned down the offer), the locals have instead opted to embrace modernity – no longer do farmers’ wives inherit the family brewing secrets from their aging grandmothers… they are much more likely to coerce said relatives from their lifetime accumulated finances to fund a start-up.  It should be noted that my visiting 10Gb broadband SIM set be back a mere £2/week!  One such venture nicely combines a bit of both worlds – a traditional rye ale recipe locally brewed meeting the global growth in craft beers.

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Ollenaut Rye Ale

Ollenaut is a new 100% Estonian owned boutique brewer with a low-cost Facebook-only virtual trading door that produces the above pictured traditional rye ale as well as a golden light beer, but is still experimenting in the market, being only a year old.  The rye ale is a bitter, yeasty, dark, toasted-Eastern-European-heavy-loaf experience – 4.8% it packs a small punch when consumed chilled, 2 bottles at a time, on the promenade bar.  It is worth trying (not just because it’s based on a family recipe), and is readily available in local supermarkets too.

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Kodu Olu, on the other hand  is Estonia’s big-boy brewer’s excursion into keeping the traditional brewing methods alive.  Pictured in situ whilst out picking mushrooms and fishing with the boys from my new local (free food scavenging is also a throwback widely encouraged), this golden, hazy sahti beer weighs in at 5%.  What makes this beer so exciting is that I no longer need to use my 10-year old juniper tankard to enjoy the traditional flavours of local beers – these vassals were sold to tourists to pour your big-brand tasteless lagers into in an effort to give you another reason to stay and come back as a tourist (at the last count, there were only 15 Brits actually living in Parnu).  This old fashioned beer is made without hops, the malted wort filtered through juniper branches, and produces an orange, cloudy, juniper-soured bitter that is subtle enough to gulp down, yet flavoursome enough to shout about.  Both highly recommended with local hand-picked fungi and barbeque-hot-smoked fish.

Long live the European traditions!

Categories: Beers

Sauna beers

Parnu, Estonia’s summer capital, nestled in the heart of a beer-stein shaped bay in the Baltic Sea, boasts a rather unusual drinking experience…. a bar in the sauna.  Actually, this was no ordinary sauna, but the Russian equivalent, a “banya”, so one really shouldn’t be surprised, I suppose, that alcohol was on tap – and whereas this correspondent was more familiar with the taking of bottles of frozen vodka into banyas in Moscow, it was a pleasant relief to be able to enjoy a longer, more refreshing alternative in this former Russian colony..  Although I was not allowed to take pictures in the banya (due to the European nature of things with naked customers wandering around), I did however manage to persuade the buxom serving wench to stand aside at the bar so that I could quickly capture a shot of the two dark beers that I demolished.

Puls Parnu Banya 

Both bottles were served ice cold from the fridge and managed to quickly quench a demanding thirst – however, it’s fair to say that the dark cherry beer on the right improved with flavour as it got a little warmer (but not as warm as room temperature) in the natural heat of the sauna – as I sat on the top shelf wearing my felt hat, glugging away merrily, it was only thanks to the intense inferno infiltrating from the wooden seats through my doubled-up towel that I suddenly realised quite how much I was being braised alive.  I can only imagine that any cannibals would have appreciated the soft malty overture of the cherry beer with its complementing sweet, fruity scent, and a lingering almond after-taste, should I have overstayed my welcome indoors.  The other “tume” (pronounced ‘too-mey’), Estonian for “dark” beer, was actually a traditional dark lager, with a robust breadiness in between a creme caramel – the perfect accompaniment to the cannibal’s feast.  I look forward to sampling some of Estonian’s other boutique beers, which thanks to 95% breweries owned by international Brands, the beers should not be too difficult to find, albeit perhaps not in such exotic locations like a banya.  Sadly, the Viru Olu brewery that makes these two beauties is owned by a large Danish brewer, also following the global trend for craft beers being consumed by the big boys – yet, the Danes have dutifully not diluted the traditions in making these local beers.  “Cheers!” from Estonia…

Categories: Beers

Induction – Steve

Welcome Steve. Steve fell in with the BotF dart throwers who were heading home early for their Wednesday comp night.

At this time of year, the 5.30pm ferry is the best for induction photos. Twilight, not too cold and backdrops beautifully lit.

To the questions:

Favourite beverage: Malbec

Favourite sport to spectate: soccer/EPL

Area of trivial expertise: SuperStream

Induction witnesses: pommy_ch, lamb0 and bladdamasta

Induction vessel: Collaroy

Categories: Beers

RIP Robin Williams

It is a tenuous link, but less than two weeks ago I had a drink in a bar that was part of the movie Good Will Hunting. Robin Williams won an Oscar for that film. The L Street Tavern makes the connection to the film, but doesn’t overdo it. There are photos of Robin Williams and his co-stars during the filming and off camera. They looked like they enjoyed themselves.

Hyperbole is often expressed immediately after people’s demise, but Robin Williams was one of the all time greats. Like Sellers, Milligan, Humphries, Connolly et al, they were gripped by the Black Dog – but in their good moments, they were the supreme comics of their nations.

Vale, Robin – from the first time on Happy Days, Mork & Mindy to Parkinson, Dead Poets, Garp, (let’s not talk about Patch Adams) – you were so different, so unique and so bloody funny. So sad you had to go so early.

Santa Monica – the last leg

03/08/2014 1 comment

The last leg of my trip saw me visiting a great mate of Back of the Ferry and our wannabe North American correspondent. G has lived in Los Angeles since early 2000 and any trip the States has involved an LA stop no matter how fleeting. This was more fleeting than most due to a diary mix up, but G and I eventually caught up and shared a suitably ridiculous IPA with Californian beer label hyperbole before I flew out.

So with time to kill I headed into the heart of Santa Monica to check out a few establishments. In 2007, when a crew of us visited LA on a hit and run mission to celebrate G’s 40th, I recall visiting the Library Ale House and being blown away by the tap range. It was the first time I recall seeing that kind of place and thinking “whoa, this could be huge”. 7 years later and what was a phenomen is now common place. So many bars have a quiver of tap heads and a chalkboard dense with regulars and rotationals on tap. Santa Monica is also easy to get around if you get your head around the Big Blue Bus Service, which covers all the hot spots. Plus the walk from Santa Monica Pier to Venice Beach is great for people watching. The freak quota was down, apparently, but I think that I was a little too early and maybe it was too hot. There was the usual collection of scantily clad inline skaters and wizened old bluesmen. A new addition was the brightly clad green doctors helping people out with their medical marihuana licences.

A reward for the long hot stroll along the beachfront and boardwalk is a visit to the Venice Ale House. This place was packed. The beer range is very, very solid and stuff was flying from the bar. On a cooler day a beer out the front would be magnificent.

Equally good is a small place a block from the 3rd Street Promenade, called West 4th and Jane. If you travel with shoppers or have to shop, this is place to find respite or provide reward for a shop well done. Another ripping beer list by the proprietor who is a great mate of @Untappd. Food is excellent. The wings in Srichaci and ginger are exceptional value and have good kick.

The place to which I’ll have to return with G is Father’s Office. This unassuming little bar with a great sign is on Montana Street at the Western end of a strip of restaurants and bars. I read good reviews and it didn’t disappoint. Apparently the clientele has changed over the years, but the food gets rave reviews and it is as full as a tick most nights. I was there a little early, but by 7 the place was jumping. The burger is regarded as one of LA’s best. A leading contender for Santa Monica’s best EBB (Everything But Budweiser) bars.

Next time, G, next time.

Categories: Beers
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