Kaunas: a city of two halves

After three weeks travelling around Lithuania we arrived in our final city, Kaunas. It’s the country’s second largest city after Vilnius and there’s a healthy rivalry between the two. Last week in the capital we’d heard how Kaunas was just like Vilnius, but worse. Of course, once we arrived in Kaunas the locals there told us the opposite!

As a city with a couple of breweries, it also provided one last opportunity for Lithuanian beer to really prove itself. It’s not that the local brews had been terrible so far, but definitely somewhat hit and miss. One of the biggest hits for me had been Genys Brewery, who just happen to be based in Kaunas. Their taproom is right in the heart of the new town, by the cathedral at the top end of the longest pedestrian street in Europe. Once the thunderstorm that greeted our arrival into Kaunas has subsided, we went off in search of it.

Bottled beers in the Genys Taproom.

The taproom itself was suitably trendy, with a bit of a BrewDog vibe to the décor. Almost the full Genys range was available on tap, and the couple that weren’t they had in bottles. We ordered our beers and opted for one of the dozen or so tables that spilled out onto the street. I sampled the Florida-Style Passionfruit IPA (4.5%), a collaboration with Polish brewers Browar Kingpin. This was exactly what it said on the tin really, pale and fairly hoppy with the refreshing tartness of passionfruit. Meanwhile, Poppy went for the ever-dependable Raspberry Milkshake Ale (3.5%), which we first tried back in Šiauliai and has become one of our Lithuanian favourites.

This end of town is where the locals come out to play, so we thought we’d explore a bit more. Just around the corner we came across Vingiu Dubingiu craft beer bar, a blue wooden building with a decent-sized beer garden. Their tap list featured many of the breweries we’d seen around the country, including Dundulis, Sakiškės and Apynys. The latter has been probably my favourite Lithuanian brewery so far so I scoured the fridge and found one of theirs I’d not tried before, Deep Dive, a 7.5% double IPA.

Vingiu Dubingiu was very popular with the locals on a Friday night.

Another bar in the new town well worth a visit is B2O. This sister bar of BlueOrange, an old town pub popular with students, only opened fairly recently. There are around 8 taps, of which a couple were more crafty beers. I again went for Apynys, Mango Milkshake (5.2%) this time, and once again was really impressed. Poppy chose Vilkmergės Vyšnių Kriek (5%), a local take on the classic Belgian cherry beer. We were in the mood for a bite to eat with our beers, so we went for the fried pickles, which were the perfect accompaniment.

On our third day in Kaunas, we finally decided to brave the walk to the old town. Our first impressions were that Kaunas is truly a city of two halves. While the new town had been modern and laid-back, the old town has a much more touristy vibe; the main street is packed with restaurants and cafes mainly offering the same fare. However, if you are on the main street then it’s worth popping into Kaukas Bar. The selection is mainly bigger breweries but there are a couple of local hidden gems, including the Kuro Aparatūra Nemiegose Pareigose (I’m assuming the name means something witty in Lithuanian) guava and rhubarb gose.

The spacious, cool Kaukas Bar offered a couple of local hidden gems.

Tucked away by the town hall square we found Gyvas Pub, its windows boasting of Lithuanian craft beer. There were indeed plenty of taps, but only about 6 were actually pouring. Apparently, this was one of the city’s best beer bars a few years back, but nowadays it seems to have lost its way a little; the beer list was OK but there wasn’t much we hadn’t seen anywhere else. We only stayed for one before moving on, but we did get free popcorn with our beers, which was a plus!

Our last stop of the day was Nisha Bar’o Perspektyva, part of the Nisha chain we’d discovered in Vilnius. Like the one in the capital, there was a huge bottle selection from around the world, as well as around a dozen draught beers. A sunburned Poppy wasn’t really feeling beer by this stage, so I just had a quick one. Bear and Boar Visa-Ginnes (6%) was a delicious stout with plenty of coffee and dark chocolate notes.

Nisha Bar’o Perspektyva offered a huge range of international bottled beers.

So, did Lithuanian beer redeem itself? The good stuff is very good – Apynys and Genys are both excellent and have a large range of styles. However, it’s still a bit hit and miss overall, although it does seem to be heading in the right direction. Apparently Kaunas is the European Capital of Culture for 2022, so we’ll have to come back then to find out!

I’m in Kaunas for the day, where should I visit? Personally, I preferred the new town. The Genys taproom is well worth a visit, and B2O had some excellent food along with a decent range of beers.

Brewery to look out for? Just like in Vilnius, I’m going to have to go for Apynys. I’ve not tried a bad beer from them, from low-ABV pales to stouts and double IPAs. According to their website, they’re beginning to export their beers so hopefully they’ll start appearing in the UK soon.

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