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.
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.
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!