And adding fuel to the fire of Lithuania’s emerging culinary capital is a strong craft beer culture inspired by Vilnius’ ancient brewing traditions. It is believed that beer was already being brewed in Lithuania in the 11th century, and Lithuanians even had their own beer god, Ragutis, whose wife Ragutienė helped him reign in the domain of beer. Beer and the hops needed to make it were mentioned frequently in the Statute of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the 16th century, and the Lithuanian Brewers Guild was one of the first.
During Soviet times, no private breweries were allowed, but local people, isolated from the world, still kept brewing, often semi-legally, using local ingredients and following centuries-old traditions. It’s no surprise, then, that today Lithuania has several beer trails, and local craft beer producers like Kuro Aparatūra claim that Lithuanian craft beer culture is on the rise, and Vilnius is a leader.
Brewers in Lithuania are not afraid to experiment, with unique ingredients like peas and new types of beer constantly being created, like the Sakiškės’ Sour Beetroot Ale. Craft beer pubs such as Prohibicija and Alaus Biblioteka offer beer tastings where the guests get acquainted with the history and subtleties of the beverage, and local pubs Šnekutis and Špunka are among the many that serve unique Lithuanian craft beer.
Visitors to Vilnius can also try local farmer-produced cider, kvass (a non-alcoholic, fermented bread drink) and quality fruit and berry wines, made by following traditional recipes. Mead, the oldest Lithuanian drink made from honey and enjoyed by the Grand Dukes, is also reborn, with mead bars like Girta Bitė (Drunken Bee) serving up different styles of this fermented honey drink. Lithuanian wines can be tried at a local food restaurant, Queensburry, where a sommelier can offer to choose from a list of more than 50 Lithuanian wines.