Liepāja: craft by the coast

Picture the scene – Saturday night and we were both in the mood to find some good beers. After a few days spent in the craft deserts of Jurmala and Ventspils, we arrived in Liepāja with higher hopes. A quick look online showed we might well be in luck, with several places in the New Town appearing promising. We got our glad-rags on and headed off on the short walk from our apartment to the Liepāja branch of Miezis & Kompānija, not far from the canal.

We found the courtyard easily enough and saw a couple of people sitting with beers in hand. However, finding the entrance was another matter altogether. It took a couple of strolls around the yard before we finally spotted the door hiding down a stone staircase. Once inside, we found a small bar with a minimalistic, angular decor. The original Miezis & Ko. in Riga opened in co-operation with Labietis Brewery and the influence was clear here with 4 of the 10 taps featuring their beers. These sat alongside a couple of other Latvian breweries and some from further afield, including Sweden’s Omnipollo and the USA’s Oxbow. There was also a large selection of bottled and canned beers, but these were somewhat oddly placed behind some glass above the bar, so it was a bit tricky to see what they were.

Miezis & Ko was a great craft beer bar but the entrance is very easy to miss if you’ve not been before!

We started the evening off with a couple of pales: Poppy went for the ABi Tuksnesis (“Desert”, 5%), while I opted for Labietis Pļava (“Meadow”, 6.3%), a blonde ale flavoured with yarrow and meadowsweet – no, I’m not sure what they are either! Over the next couple of hours we moved through the range of styles, from hoppy New England IPAs to tart Berliner Weisses and boozy dark ales. However, Poppy’s highlight of the evening was not a beer, but a mead! Labietis Zintnieks (“Wizard”, 7.2%) smelled like a Crunchie in a glass and she was a big fan.

I think it’s worth noting at this point that if you’re not a fan of animals, this may not be the bar for you. We had to choose between the stray cats in the courtyard and the barman’s pet rat indoors. Poppy, not known as an animal lover, decided to take her chances with the cats. The decision paid off when another customer brought their dog along – lo and behold, all the cats disappeared for a while!

Kursas Putni mainly attracts a younger crowd and has a great selection of craft ciders.

While sitting in the courtyard, we noticed quite a few people heading into the bar next door, Kursas Putni. The internet offered no hints about the place so we decided to go and check it out for ourselves. We found a mainly younger crowd who had apparently come for some kind of album launch event. The music wasn’t really to my taste, but behind the bar we found Malduguns bottled beers alongside a range of Mūrbūdu craft ciders – the Apiņu Kungs (5.3%) hopped cider was really enjoyable and tasted more like an IPA than a cider.

Now, in Liepāja there are a surprising number of options on a late Saturday night (by Latvian standards at least). Head to the beach and you can find bars open until 6 in the morning during the summer months. However, we decided to go back towards town to find another place we’d seen online, Darbnīca. During the week this is just a normal cafe, but at the weekend it stays open until 2AM. When we arrived it was quiet – not an issue for us as it meant we could easily find a table!

Darbnīca – a normal cafe during the week, but at the weekend it becomes a bar.

The draught beer offering was fairly typical – Valmiermuiža and Madonas Alus – but the bottled selection in the fridge was much better. There aren’t a huge number of Latvian craft breweries around, but you can’t go too far wrong with Malduguns and Labietis, and that’s what we found here. We both went for beers we’d had previously during our trip: I had a bottle of Malduguns Vilkme, a 5.4% “session” NEIPA packed with tropical fruit hops, while Poppy opted for one of her new favourites, Valmiermuiža Elderflower Frišs (2.8%).

For our last stop of the night, we decided to visit an intriguing place we’d walked past earlier. I’ve been to barber shops that offer you a beer while you’re having your hair trimmed, but until now I’d never been in one with its own bar. After visiting Garāža Barber Shop, I think the idea could catch on! As we entered, just after midnight, the last remnants of hair were being swept off the floor and the bar was in full swing. There was nothing we hadn’t tried before, but there was a range of Labietis beers along with the hopped ciders we’d seen in Kursas Putni earlier in the evening. A good way to end the night, even if I did leave ruing the missed opportunity for a badly-needed haircut.

Garāža – I think this bar/barber shop combination could definitely catch on.

I’m in Liepāja for the day, where should I visit? If it’s craft and variety you’re after, then Miezis & Kompānija is easily the best option – 10 taps and more than 100 bottles and cans from Latvia and beyond.

Brewery to look out for? I was a huge fan of Nurme’s PH Down (4% Berliner Weisse), and their other beers have been great too. I picked them out back in my very first article about Riga but hadn’t seen them around since then, so it was a pleasant surprise to find them here.

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