Before our trip, Vilnius was one of the cities we were both most looking forward to visiting. Admittedly, our reasons weren’t exactly the same; I was excited to try out some of Lithuania’s best-rated craft beer bars, while Poppy was more eager for the WW2 and Soviet history. Lithuanian beer had been a bit hit-and-miss so far, but I was hoping in the capital we’d find the very best on offer.
As usual, we did our research before we arrived and marked a few “must visits” on our free city map. We hadn’t put any particular days aside for drinking, so we just thought we’d pop in when we were nearby.
On our first full day we did a “free” walking tour of the Old Town which finished up by the cathedral. There were three places on our radar in this part of town so we thought we might as well check them out. First up was Craft & Draft Brewpub, which alongside their own beers also stocked a wide range of whiskies. I wasn’t that impressed to be honest, especially since the beer I really wanted wasn’t on! However, the Medaus Mėnuo (“Honeymoon”, 4.9% honey lager) that Poppy chose was enjoyable and not too sweet.
Just round the corner was another brewpub, Busi Trečias. Housed in a traditional Baltic wooden building, this bar offered three of their own beers, plus a range of beer cocktails, pretty much lager with various syrups added. Again, the beer I most wanted wasn’t available so I went for the schwarzbier, Juodas (“Black”, 6.5%). To be fair, this was a pretty good second choice – dark and rich with hoppy and roasted notes.
The last place near the cathedral was Lithuania’s best-rated craft beer bar online, Nisha Craft Capital. We definitely saved the best for last with this place! There were 20 taps (about 12 of them on when we visited), many of which featured beers from Lithuania and the Baltics, plus a couple of bottle fridges. Watch out for the fridges – there are no price tags and I managed to pick one that was €8! Despite that mistake, I did have the best beer I’ve tried in Lithuania here. Apynys Yellow Camper was a 3% session IPA that packed plenty of punch despite its low strength.
On Saturday night, we ended up on a bar crawl with a local ex-bartender and a Danish man called Jacques! Going out with a local was enjoyable as he had plenty of knowledge of places tourists like us don’t usually make it to.
His first recommendation was Alaus Biblioteka (“Beer Library”), a place we actually did have on our map. I found the draught selection a little disappointing although it was quite amusing to see Robinson’s Old Tom featuring as an international choice! Like many places in the Baltics, they weren’t too keen to showcase local beers on tap. However, the bottled range was the best in Vilnius with beers of every style imaginable. Poppy even found one of her favourites from Estonia, the Sori Brewing Shakeout tangerine milkshake DIPA.
Next up we visited Peronas, a trendy bar on one of the platforms at Vilnius railway station. The name actually means “platform” in Lithuanian and it seemed very popular among the younger crowd. It wasn’t really a beer place, although there were a couple of Raudonų Plytų (Švyturys Brewery’s craft arm) beers on tap, but definitely worth going. We also stopped at Youngs Bar in the Halės Market which offered exquisite bespoke cocktails.
On the way back into the Old Town, we found Prohibicija hidden away in a small courtyard. This was easily one of the best beer places in town, with a focus on top quality craft beer. Unlike many other places in Vilnius, there wasn’t a Newcastle Brown Ale in sight! There was plenty of To Øl on tap, much to our new Danish friend’s delight, as well as a couple from Sakiškiu, one of the better Lithuanian breweries.
After our trip out to Paneriai on Tuesday, we decided to take a stroll over to the arty Užupis district. The area is well worth a visit even if you’re not in the mood for a drink, but if you do fancy a beer there are a couple of places to go. The first bar marked on our map was Špunka. We’d visited another from the chain back in Panevėžys and this one was pretty similar, with the full range of Dundulis beers on tap and some very tall stools to sit on. We found a couple we hadn’t tried before, including Debesainis (“Cloudy”, 4.2%), a tasty traditional wheat beer.
Šnekutis, a few minutes’ walk up the road, is one of a small Vilnius chain of themed Lithuanian bars; this one looked like it could have been plucked from a tiny rural village. The tap list likewise featured traditional beers from around the country, from breweries such as Davra and Klausučiai. Poppy was a particular fan of the Jovarų Šnekutis farmhouse ale (6%) brewed for the chain.
By now we only had one place on our map left to see. Bambalynė just happened to be en route back from Užupis to our apartment – the perfect excuse to drop in! It’s an easy place to miss: the entrance is tucked away down a small alley and there’s a staircase down to the basement bar. The notable thing about this bar is that there’s no beer on tap. All the beer is in bottles and cans, with help-yourself fridges taking up one wall of the pub. If we had one complaint it would be the lack of price stickers, but they were generally pretty decent value. The girl behind the “bar” was very knowledgeable too and more than willing to help out if the vast range proved overwhelming.
I’m in Vilnius for the day, where should I visit? It’s too hard to pick one so I recommend making time for two and visiting Nisha and Prohibicija. Both had an excellent range of beer from the Baltics and beyond, and the latter especially was very reasonably priced.
Brewery to look out for? Just for the fact they brewed the best Lithuanian beer I’ve tried, Yellow Camper, I would have to say Apynys. Their Green Monster IPA that I tried back in Klaipėda was also very enjoyable.