We arrived in Šiauliai from Klaipėda on a very comfortable Lithuanian Railways train – UK train operators could definitely learn a thing or two from them! Šiauliai is a university town but is best known for the Hill of Crosses a few kilometres away. Most people just visit for the day apparently, but we decided to spend a couple of nights in town. It just happened that these were Friday and Saturday nights, so we thought we’d see if we could find any decent beer.
We’ve been to a few places so far with universities, and it usually follows that they have pretty good bar scenes. Šiauliai is no different, its main pedestrian street lined with cafes, bars and restaurants. We started off in Cask 215, a trendy, modern bar with around 8 beers on tap. Half of these were from Genys, a new brewery for us so I took the opportunity to give them a try. Poppy, meanwhile, decided to take a break from beer and had a red wine evening!
First up was Raspberry Milkshake Ale (3.5%), a seasonal special jumping on the current lactose pale bandwagon. It smelled a little vinegary, but the taste was much more pleasant. The sweet smoothness of the lactose balanced really well with the tart raspberries. I could have easily drunk another one, but decided instead to sample a couple of different beers. Kalifornikacija (5%) was a really refreshing APA, the initial almost lager-like crispness giving way to a hoppy, bitter finish. My impressive introduction to Genys’ beers concluded with Baltas Melas (“White Lie”, 4.2%), a fresh, citrusy witbier.
Two hours had flown by before we knew it, so we decided to move on to the next place. Further down Vilniaus Street we came across Black Bar, a spacious pub with a traditional Victorian-style pub decor. The tap selection wasn’t too exciting, but in the fridge there were a few bottles from Širvenos Bravoras. This was another new brewery for us so I opted for a bottle of their Dubults IPA (7.2%), a really old-school Double IPA with loads of sweet malt to balance the bitterness of the extra hops.
Our last stop of the evening was Rock & Roll Pub just around the corner. This was a bustling Irish pub, which seemed very popular with the locals. Again, the beer on tap was mainly big-brand lagers (and Newcastle Brown Ale!), but the beer menu promised the full range of bottled Dundulis beers. Unfortunately some of these had sold out by the time we arrived, but there were still 5 or 6 to choose from.
Poppy volunteered to go to the bar so I let her choose my first beer for me. She reappeared a few minutes later with Kurko Keptinis (5.2%), a collaboration with a nearby rye bread bakery. This was a really interesting dark beer, the flavour of the bread really coming through strongly, not dissimilar to an alcoholic kvass. There was just time for one more before bed (it was well past midnight by this point), so I decided to finish the evening with a black IPA. A couple of years ago this was one of my favourite styles, but I’ve not been keen on some recent variations. However, Juodas IPA (5.6%) was a very good example of the style. The hop bitterness complimented the roasted malt nicely and reminded me why I used to enjoy black IPAs so much.
Gone are the days when we could stay out until dawn, so we called time on our Friday night in Šiauliai and mentally prepared ourselves for the 5 flights of stairs awaiting us back at the apartment. Maybe one day we’ll find somewhere on the ground floor!
I’m in Šiauliai for the day, where should I visit? For me, Cask 215 had the best combination of choice, service and comfort out of the three bars we visited. If you’re looking for something livelier, then Rock & Roll Pub is the place to go.
Brewery to look out for? Having sampled a few of their beers here, I’m really looking forward to visiting the Genys tap room in Kaunas in a couple of weeks’ time. The ones I’ve tried so far have been really tasty, so hopefully they’ll be even better fresh from the brewery.