Suomenlinnan Panimo

A short ferry ride from Helsinki is Suomenlinna, an old military fortress spread across six islands that is now a World Cultural Heritage Site and hosts museums, restaurants, various events, as well as a brewery/restaurant, Ravintola Suomenlinnan Panimo. My visit unfortunately fell in between lunch and dinner – the menu options looked quite good, though.

Two beers at Suomenlinnan Panimo

Two beers at Suomenlinnan Panimo — Suomenlinna, Finland

    Rob’s Picks

  • Saison La Fleur de L’ile – 5.5% – A bit muted. Light caramel malt start and a touch watery, but then the coriander and light clove and pepper kick in. Not all that great, but the best of the three I tried.
    The Rest

  • Höpken Pils – 4.2% – Clear straw yellow color. Light and bready with a lightly bitter finish. Touch of herbal hops.
  • Amphion Ale – 4.5% – Unfiltered. Hazy golden color. Kind of bitter. Not much in terms of malt or hop flavors. Registers as a beer, and that’s about it.

Their terrace was a great spot to hang out and have a beer after wandering around the islands. Just wish the beer had been better. Next time I’m in Helsinki I’ll be sure to stay for dinner.

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Stadin Panimo

I arrived in Helsinki on a Friday, with plans to meet up with friends of a friend that evening. After checking into my room, I made my way on foot through the city en route to their neighborhood in order to get my bearings. Met them at their local night market, and then walked to Stadin Panimo, which was not far but in an out-of-the-way spot. Might not have found it on my own.

The name basically means “City Brewery.” Stadin (“The City”) was the nickname for Helsinki, in much the same way that folks in the SF Bay Area refer to San Francisco as The City. The Stadin Panimo taproom is a cozy spot with a good number of taps, as well as an impressive bottle list — after making our way through the taster trays pictured below, I bought an on-premise bottle of Cantillon.

A whole lot of tasters at Stadin Panimo

A whole lot of tasters at Stadin Panimo — Helsinki, Finland

    Rob’s Picks

  • South Pacific Lager – 4.5% – Light, fairly crisp, lightly fruity. Doesn’t have that lager edge I’m used to, but quite drinkable.
  • American Saison – 6.5% – Tannic, hay aroma and flavor, with lemon, light funk, light pepper, and some caramel malt.
  • West Coast Session IPA – 4.5% – Light and very citrusy, decent body, easy drinking.
  • Gasometer Baltic Porter – 6% – Coffee/chocolate aroma and flavor, with light body, touch of alcohol, and a little sweet.
    The Rest

  • Stadin Kellerbier – 5.3% – Light and sweet, with light caramel. Not much for hops.
  • Stadifornia Common – 5.3% – Pretty smooth, with caramel malt and a hint of whiskey, but a touch watery. Interesting.
  • Stadin German Pils – 5.3% – Light, crisp, bready, with a touch of bitterness at the end.
  • American White IPA – 6.5% – Some coriander, light funk, light clove/banana, and some herbal hops.
  • Savuruis Portteri – 6.5% – Sweet (lactose or molasses?), chocolate/coffee, with dark chocolate bitter finish and a bit of smoke. Underlying hint of citrus adds some brightness. Sweetness builds up too much, though.

So yeah, a nice variety of beers on tap and a great bottle list. Pretty cool spot, if a little crowded. I also got plenty of brewery and travel suggestions to keep me busy for the next several days. Hopefully I’ll get around the finishing those subsequent brewery posts more quickly than it’s taken me to finish this one. Fingers crossed!

Panimoravintola Plevna

Where was I? Oh yeah, Tampere, Finland. I arrived on a Wednesday, saw a few sites, walked around town, and then went to Panimoravintola Plevna, a brewpub founded in 1994 in one of the old Finlayson cotton mill buildings. After sitting down at the bar, I found out their Siperia Stout had that day just won Best Beer in Finland 2015. I considered that a good sign. One of the women working there was surprised to learn I’d be in town until Friday. “There’s nothing to do in Tampere,” she said. I asked her for some suggestions, and the first few things she mentioned I’d already checked out that afternoon. Hmm. It was a good thing Plevna had enough beer on tap to keep me busy for the two nights I’d be there.

Three half-pours at Panimoravintola Plevna

Three half-pours at Panimoravintola Plevna — Tampere, Finland

    Rob’s Picks

  • Dark Lager / Plevnan Tumma – 5.6% – Roasty, chocolate malts. Quite smooth. Little bit of dark chocolate bitterness on the finish.
  • Bock – 6.6% – Sweet, but not too sweet. Caramel and brown sugar, but not too strong. There’s a softness to the malts. Very light herbal hoppiness.
  • Wheat Beer / Plevnan Vehnäolut – 5% – Clove/banana aroma. Big clove flavor all the way through. Light banana. Underlying breadiness and spiciness.
  • Rauchbier / Savuolut James – 5.2% – Smoky aroma. Big smoky flavor. Sort of like Laphroaig as a beer. Caramel maltiness, smooth. Really light hint of floral hops when it warms.
  • Little Black Number / Pikku Musta – 3.8% – Light, dry, roasty with a bit of dark chocolate, and a sweet zing. Kind of like a dark mild but sweeter.
  • Siperia Stout – 8% – Big creamy stout with thick chocolate, coffee, roasty maltiness and an underlying citrus edge. Long lingering flavors.
  • Mosaic Weizen / Vehnä – 5% – Clove, banana aroma. Not as strong in flavor as their regular wheat beer – integrates nicely with the tropical fruit hoppiness. Light spiciness towards the finish. Pretty cool flavor mix.
  • JFK – 5.5% – American pale wheat ale. Clove, banana aroma. Interesting floral, clove, banana flavor mix, with some spiciness, too. Supporting caramel malt. Not the best, but pretty cool and unique flavor mix that makes you think.
    The Rest

  • Pils Luomu – 4.7% – Light and bready, with a hint of lemon. Light herbal finish with some bitterness. Pretty standard.
  • Severin Extra IPA – 5.9% – Floral aroma and flavor. Caramal and roasty malts. Fairly bitter finish. Bit too malty for my tastes.
  • Brewery Mead / Plevnan Panimosima – 5% – Big honey aroma. Quite sweet. Honey, citrus, lemon. Alcohol edge. Underlying light floral flavor.
  • Plevna’s Cider / Plevnan Omenasiideri – 4.5% – Sweet and apple-y. Pretty crisp and a bit dry, but too sweet for me.
  • Plevna’s Cider / Plevnan Omenasiideri Extra Dry – 4.5% – Cloudy. Not nearly as sweet as the previous cider, but has a bit of funk and tartness. Not a bad thing, but surprising and a bit odd. Dry tart finish.
  • Plevnan Stout – 7% – Dry stout. Dark chocolate, coffee, plus some roasty malt, but there’s a certain odd sweetness lurking about. Lingering dark chocolate flavor and bitterness.
  • Cotton Ale – 4.7% – Pale ale. Floral and citrus aroma and flavor, with underlying caramel malt. Some tropical hop flavor, too, and finishes dry and tannic. A little flat, though. Could be really good with some carbonation.

On Thursday, I slept in, did some leisurely sightseeing, then ended up at Plevna again. Have to say, Tampere isn’t the most exciting place, but it’s a relaxing visit and there’s plenty of beer at Plevna to slake your thirst for a night or two.

Bock’s Corner Brewery

After Stockholm, I headed north, visiting a few towns before reaching Umeå, where I took a ferry across the Baltic Sea to Vaasa, Finland. Went straight to the visitor info office to find out about rooms, restaurants, and breweries, and the women working there were very helpful. So, after walking around town and having a good dinner, I headed to the recently opened Bock’s Corner Brewery, which was about a 15-20 minute walk from my room. They’re in an astonishingly beautiful old building that used to house Bock’s Brewery, which closed in the 80’s. The new owners have sunk a lot of money (or so it looked) into renovating the space and buying a shiny new brewhouse. Lots of old stone, wood, and brick. There’s a pizza oven, too, but they still seemed to be testing out recipes when I was there. They even roast their own coffee.

no bock that day at bock's corner

Amazing ambiance at Bock’s Corner — Vaasa, Finland

    Rob’s Picks

  • Pils – 5% – Grassy, sweet aroma. Grassy, bready, honey, touch of lemon flavor mix. Hint of bitterness on finish.
  • Dunkel – 4.9% – Caramel, biscuit, and toast maltiness, with very light coffee. Also hint of bitterness on finish.
  • Weissbier – 5.3% – Clove, light banana, to a spicy finish. Light underlying breadiness – not as much as I expected, but works well.
    The Rest

  • Pale Ale – 4.7% – Almost tea-like aroma. Caramel, light biscuit, and herbal flavors with an odd, underlying almost-sweetness.

The full names of the beers were all of the format Bock’s Pils, Bock’s Dunkel, etc. Made me wonder if they’d come out with a Bock’s Bock. So right after typing that, I checked Untappd, and yes, they do now have a Bock’s Bock. That makes me happy.

Monks Café & Brewery

There aren’t too many breweries in Stockholm that are open to the public. Not counting Omnipollos Hatt (it’s their taproom, and they have no brewery), I only found two, Monks Café & Brewery, which seems to be the oldest Stockholm microbrewery, and New Carnegie (English-ized name), which I visited at the end of my trip. There’s also Stockholm Brewing, but unfortunately they’re not open to the public, unless you happen to show up when the brewer has the door open and he’s got some free time. Anyway, the brewing setup at Monks Café is somewhat small, what looked like a four barrel brewhouse and four one-barrel fermenters. They have another restaurant and brewery, Monks Porterhouse in the Old Town neighborhood, that makes mostly stouts and porters, but it seemed to be closed during the summer for some reason. They have food here, as well, but it’s kind of expensive. Didn’t want to pay $23 for a veggie burger, so I got a cup of nuts instead, putting off dinner until later.

monks cafe tasters

Taster flight at Monks Café & Brewery — Stockholm, Sweden

    Rob’s Picks

  • Nelson IPA – 6.1% – Citrus and subtle tropical fruit over caramel. A bit muddled, but very drinkable.
  • Mango IPA – 6.5% – Mango and citrus, light caramel malt, nice bitter finish. Easy drinking.
  • Calyptra – 9.4% – Belgian IPA. Banana and clove, coriander, spiciness, with some citrus on the back end. Bit of an alcohol edge. Fun mix of flavors. Kind of reminds me of a tripel.
  • Orange Ale – 6.5% – Belgian ale. Light orange flavor mixed with some bubblegum and clove, with light lingering funk. Better than it sounds.
    The Rest

  • Svea IPA – 6% – Floral aroma. Light floral flavor with some citrus. Some caramel, honey, and breadiness to a light bitter finish.
  • Black IPA – 7.3% – Weird. Sweet, with some bubblegum, and not much hop flavor. Finish is fairly roasty with a little chocolate and coffee, after the sweetness subsides.

I tried all six of their beers that were on tap (they had a lot more in bottles), and the woman working there said they usually have more, but it was summer. Puzzling. The café location is not in a touristy neighborhood, so maybe all the locals were off traveling instead? Maybe beer tourism isn’t a big thing in Sweden? Maybe she just wanted me to leave? No idea.

Omnipollo

In the neighborhood just south of Stockholm’s old city exists the so-called Bermuda Triangle, a trio of bars in fairly close proximity to each other where if you start drinking in one it’s very likely the rest of the your night will mysteriously disappear. Two vertices of the triangle are the bars Akkurat and Oliver Twist, and the third changed somewhat recently (sorry, Bishop’s Arms) to Omnipollos Hatt, the flagship bar and pizzeria of Stockholm-based gypsy brewer Omnipollo (though I learned that in Europe gypsy brewers are sometimes referred to as phantom brewers). I ended up at the Hatt several times during my stay in Stockholm, and, fortunately, I was able to emerge from the Triangle with material for this post intact because of my obsessive note-taking. I’m using the term “flagship” here a little loosely — while it’s the first bar they’ve opened, the space is pretty small. They have a varying line-up of about ten of their beers flowing, with an occasional guest tap.

drinking at the hatt

Pre-pizza beer at Omnipollos Hatt — Stockholm, Sweden

    Rob’s Picks

  • Bacchanale – 6% – Saison. Lemon peel, light coriander, some graininess, with light floral hops and light bitter finish.
  • Leon – 6.5% – Belgian pale ale made with champagne yeast. Caramel with hint of banana. Light breadiness as it warms. Floral, herbal hop mix. Pretty smooth, with a dry finish.
  • Fatamorgana – 8% – Solid balance of floral, caramel, citrus, with a hint of honey on the finish.
  • Noa Pecan Mud Cake – 11% – Imperial stout. Chocolate and pecan aroma and flavors. Kahlua flavor, as well. Very smooth. 11% is hidden very well. Dark chocolate bitterness with alcohol edge on the finish.
  • Zodiac IPA – 6.2% – Light and somewhat creamy with fun lemon flavor. Light floral aroma and flavor. Very drinkable.
  • Magic #90000 – 8% – Blueberry, pecan, almond, vanilla smoothie IPA. Sounds awful, but quite good, as it turns out. Blueberry, tropical fruit aroma. Definitely smooth, with blueberry and tropical fruit flavors prominent. Vanilla pretty subtle but there. Not getting much nuttiness but maybe it blends in with the vanilla too well (or maybe it’s the other way around).
  • Magic #4:21 – 6% – Double raspberry vanilla smoothie IPA. Raspberry and tropical fruit aroma and flavor, with a bit more emphasis on the raspberry. Pretty smooth, with very subtle vanilla. Interesting raspberry tartness and citrus peel bitterness on the finish.
  • Fruit Tap 2: Lemonade – 6% – Pale ale sour. Fun lemonade flavor with medium-big sourness. Underlying bready base. Some floral hops, too, that go well with the lemon.
  • Omniprairie – 10% – Milk chocolate salted caramel stout. Collaboration with Prairie Artisan Ales. Smells like chocolate cake. Rich, creamy chocolate flavor and mouthfeel. Caramel comes out on finish, with a bit of salt at the very end. Dessert in a glass.
    The Rest

  • Perikles – 4.2% – Light, lightly bready, hint of lemon, light grassiness, not much hops. Surprisingly light.
  • Magic #4:20 – 5.2% – Vanilla waffle wheat. Light vanilla, not particularly waffle-like. Sorta bready. Hint of lemon. Lightly bitter finish. Pretty much a regular pils.

Oh yeah, their pizzas are quite good, too. If you’re ever in Stockholm, I highly recommend checking out the Triangle (at your own risk, of course).

Nordic Vacation

The next eleven posts will all be from my three week trip to Sweden and Finland (and a day-trip to Estonia) in August 2015. It was a relaxing but interesting vacation, and that was what I needed at the time. In addition to all the usual sightseeing, I found some cool bars and breweries, and after visiting the Omnipollo bar and pizzeria, I finally came up with a blog rule for gypsy brewers. If they have a flagship (or original) bar that serves a bunch of their beer, then visiting it will be sufficient for a blog post. (I put in the flagship/original requirement because Mikkeller has a bunch of bars around the world, but then they announced they’d be taking over the old AleSmith brewing equipment and space, and so soon they will have an actual brewery to visit. But I’ll keep that wording anyway. Why not.)

So yeah, posts on four breweries in Sweden, six in Finland, and one in Estonia coming up. I’m still debating whether or not to do a compendium post on beers I tried from breweries I didn’t visit, but I probably won’t. No need to create more work for myself. Aside from doing more travel and visiting more breweries, that is.

Big Block Brewing

I’d been meaning to bike to the Sammamish plateau and visit Big Block Brewing (their Twitter account has more up-to-date info) but kept putting it off in favor of shorter or less hilly rides. So when they announced they’d be closing the taproom in the residential garage that still houses the brewhouse in advance of re-opening it in a more conventional location, it motivated me to make the trek out there and experience the original setup. I went on a really hot July day, though, and the unshaded, south-facing trail up to the highlands was pretty draining. But I made it, and spent some time re-hydrating in the warm garage with a few regulars. Nice vibe there, and I’m looking forward to checking out the new taproom, which is located along East Lake Sammamish Parkway (and is more convenient for biking).

blocklets of beer at big block

The original Big Block Brewing taproom in the owners’ garage — Sammamish, WA

    Rob’s Picks

  • Kolsch – 5.1% – Honey, light herbal hops. Not quite as light on the tongue as I expected but quite drinkable. Light bitter zing on finish.
  • Chocolate Porter – 5.8% – Good chocolate flavor. Fairly creamy. Lingering chocolate and coffee flavors with some dark chocolate and coffee bitterness.
  • IPA – 5.8% – Citrus, earthy aroma and flavors. Some herbal hop flavor, too. Solid caramel base. Light bitter finish.
  • “Big Woody” Oatmeal Stout – 8.5% – Creamy, with chocolate, toffee, coffee, and caramel flavors. Alcohol edge.
  • Mosaic Pale Ale – 6% – Fairly assertive tropical fruit, touch of sweetness. Underlying caramel malt. Citrus peel bitterness.
    The Rest

  • Raspberry Blonde – 5.2% – Raspberry flavor from start to finish. Underlying breadiness. Easy drinking.

My route back from the BBB garage took me to the newly upgraded portion of the East Lake Sammamish bike trail, and it was beautifully done. Can’t wait for the rest of the trail to get the same treatment. And having their taproom so close to the trail creates more brewery bike ride options.

Hellbent Brewing

I was in the mood for a slightly longer Seattle bike ride and so headed north to Hellbent Brewing, just a couple blocks north of the Lake City Way Elliott Bay Brewpub. Didn’t know too much about them except the head brewer had worked at a few other breweries, and, well, I have to say I was pretty impressed with the what they’ve done. Hellbent is in a former machine shop that’s been totally redone, with a nice long bar, lots of taps (some their beer, the rest other local brews), a view into the glassed-off brewhouse with lots of big, shiny new stainless steel equipment. There’s a better view of it, too, from the second floor, which also has a pool table, dartboard, and Big Buck Hunter. Lots of big screen tvs, a nice patio, plus food trucks pretty much daily. They went all out opening this place.

hellbent tasters

The road to Hellbent Brewing is paved with good fermentation. Ha! — Seattle, WA

    Rob’s Picks

  • Olympic Hills Spring Ale – 5.4% – Herbal and earthy hops, light biscuit malt, and some bitterness on the finish.
  • Funky RED Patina Red Ale – 5.3% – Caramel and biscuit malts with light herbal hops. Good mix.
  • First Born IPA – 6.5% – Big grapefruit and citrus, light piney hops. Bit of tropical fruit, too. Solid underlying caramel.
  • Moon Tower Stout – 6.4% – Smooth coffee and chocolate with some dark chocolate bitterness.
    The Rest

  • Fresh Hopped Pale Ale – 5.8% – Piney, minty, some grassiness, with caramel base. Somewhat bitter finish. Bit of sugary sweetness as it warms.
  • Jasmine Wheat – 5.1% – Sweet start, with a bit of bubblegum. Herbal and light earthy hops, touch of spiciness, to light bready and jasmine finish, with light bitterness.

This was my first time biking to Lake City Way. Pretty nice nine mile ride. Looking forward to doing it again.

Counterbalance Brewing

It had been a couple years since a new brewery opened in Georgetown, but Counterbalance Brewing finally put an end to that dry spell. So on a particularly hot summer day I hopped on my bike to pay them a visit. I’d worked up quite a sweat by the time I got there, and since the taproom was surprisingly quiet I was able to sit next to the fan while re-hydrating with the taster tray.

duck duck beer

Taster tray at Counterbalance Brewing — Seattle, WA

    Rob’s Picks

  • Counterbalance IPA – 6.1% – Smooth, with big tropical fruit and light earthy hops. Good caramel malt backbone.
  • Kushetka Imperial Stout – 8.9% – Coffee/chocolate aroma and flavors. Sweet molasses, too, with a bit of a dark chocolate bitter finish. Creamy mouthfeel.
  • Pogo Duck ISA – 5% – Light, with earthy hops and a little bit of sweetness. Subtle underlying caramel.
  • Maibock – 5% – Caramel and light biscuit maltiness. Some herbal hops. Pretty smooth. Nice mix of flavors.
  • Summer Wheat – 5.5% – Tropical fruit hop flavor, light underlying breadiness. Hint of bubblegum sweetness, with mellow bitterness on the finish. Unfiltered.
    The Rest

  • Abigale Blonde Ale – 5.2% – Sweet bubblegum, some herbal hops, bitter zing on the finish. Bit of lemon. Very slight breadiness.
  • Bad Wolf Dark Ale – 6.7% – Dark reddish-brown color. Roasty, light coffee/chocolate maltiness. Citrus and herbal hop edge. Interesting but a little too sweet for me.
  • Storm Cycle CDA – 7.5% – Collaboration with Flying Bike Cooperative Brewery. Chocolate, coffee, light roasty maltiness. Herbal hops. A bit creamy mouthfeel. Molasses on finish. Interesting.

There are plenty of brewery stop options now for south end rides through Sodo, Georgetown, and South Park. The only drawback is the increased likelihood of spending most of the time drinking beer instead of on the bike. This is why I always seem to end up biking home at night.

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