I was recently perusing my local store, on the hunt for a coffee beer that caught my eye. I was surprised to find it in the European Imports section. I don’t know much about the state of craft beer in Eastern Europe. Doing a bit of research, it seems like Poland is currently going through a bit of a microbrewery renaissance, and is regarded as sort of a forerunner for the region.
Brewing your own beer has never stopped being common in the Lithuanian countryside. Most brewers have their own yeast, grow their own hops, and even the malts are Lithuanian-grown; so this truly is a local product. The country seems to have several styles that are considered traditional, but they all seem to fall under the banner of “Lithuanian farmhouse ales.” In Lithuanian, this style of beer is known as kaimiškas alus, meaning “village beer”. It can be šviesus, meaning pale, or tamsus, meaning dark. Sometimes it’s even juodas, meaning black. Some are filtruotas, lightly filtered, while most are nefiltruotas, much less filtered.*
Amid the country’s brewers reimaiginings of its centuries-old farmhouse microbrewing tradition, some breweries are broadening their horizons and expanding their scope. One such brewery is Raudonų Plytų, located in the coastal city of Klaipeda. Raudonų Plytų (Red Brick Brewing) is looking beyond farmouse ales, but maintaining Lithuania’s tradition of microbrewing with their workshop—a place where brewers play with a variety of traditional and experimental materials, to look for new, interesting beers, flavors, and fragrances in small batches.
One such experimental small batch is the beer that I found in my local liquor store: Ryklio Kavinukas (Shark’s Coffee Pot)—a “sweet stout” that they brewed with coffee roasted by a craft roaster in the nation’s capitol, Vilnius, called Crooked Nose & Coffee Stories. Sweet stouts are the combination of milk stouts (usually mild and sweet) and oatmeal stouts (for a more sturdy, oaty backbone). So sweet stouts are characterized by mild sweetness, which is balanced with roasted malt bitterness.
The coffee component used in this beer was Crooked Nose’s Colombia Medellin.
This coffee is produced by La Cooperativa de Salgar, founded July 15, 1965 with just 34 members. Today, the cooperative is made up of over 2,800 small holder farmers from the southwest of Antioquia and is the second-largest cooperative in the state. The cooperative has been buying coffee in the region for more than 50 years and recently won the Antioquia Department equivalent of the Cup of Excellence for one of their coffees. The coffee is harvested by hand and fully washed.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping the Ryklio Kavinukas Salous Stautas, from Raudonų Plytų, in Klaipeda, Lithuania. Feel free to pull up a chair.
region: Antioquia, Medellin, Colombia
producer: smallholder farmers
association: La Cooperativa de Salgar
elevation: 1500 – 1600 meters above sea level
cultivars: Bourbon, Typica
process: fully washed, patio dried
style: Sweet Stout
alcohol by volume: 10%
international bitterness units: 60
color: Dark Brown
ingredients: Coffee, Lactose, four different malts
Ryklio Kavinukas pours into the glass a deep, dark brown color; I’d say black if it weren’t for the very small amount of translucency and the reddish hues around the edges. The beer is topped with a thin, foamy beige head that disappears almost immediately; not even a collar forms around the glass.
The beer’s aroma is pretty mild for the style; sweet, but subtly so. The coffee component is there but it’s not as prominent as its vanilla, chocolate malt, and bread scents.
This is a pretty light-bodied beer—particularly for the style. It has a pretty creamy (though mildly malted) and an even milder, negligible carbonation; a little foamy, even. Considering this a sweet stout, the beer is also mildly sweet; for a coffee-infused sweet stout, I can barely tell the coffee is even there. There’s something of a roasted coffee bitterness and, when I hold a sip on my tongue long enough, I can pick up its fruit nuances (date, blackberry, and green apple (I don’t think it’s acetaldehyde that I’m tasting)), but the prominent flavors are vanilla and lactose, bolstered by notes of milk chocolate, licorice, and barley bread.
Light body; creamy mouthfeel; carbonic acidity; clean finish.
I really didn’t know what to expect going into this one; my only experience with European stouts are those from Ireland and England, and I have no experience at all with Lithuanian beers. I was surprised to find that Raudonų Plytų’s Ryklio Kavinukas wasn’t all that different than an English- or Irish-style stout. In fact, in terms of body and texture, it was somewhat reminiscent of Guinness’s flaghsip brand, Draught.
Ryklio Kavinukas is a good beer, overall, but there are some things about that could have been better. Most of all, I wish it had more depth; a heavier body, a fuller mouthfeel. I think Raudonų Plytų could have done a better job infusing the coffee element, too. The coffee’s flavor was detectable, but it could (should?) have been more prominent.
Still, though, Ryklio Kavinukas was a tasty dessert beer, and one that was light enough to pair with a hearty dessert (like bread or cake). If you can get your hands on this one, you should give it a try.
*content provided by Larsblog
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Andrew is a husband, father, dog lover, craft beverage enthusiast, content creator, and niche market Internet celebrity. Formerly of A Table in the Corner of the Cafe and The Pulitzer Project and contributor to Barista Magazine and Mental Floss, he’s been writing on the Internet for years.