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…