Keeping it real … Real Ale
When I hear Riga I used to automatically get this image in my head of big groups of stag do’s running wild in the town drinking loads of local lager and burying their heads in Latvian strippers cleavages, the truth is this previous image, for me, was utter rubbish! Firstly and thankfully my day in Riga didn’t include any stag parties secondly Riga is a slick, smart, trendy beautiful looking city. Arguably it has one of the best collections of Art Nouveau style houses in the world, which while still officially on work, I viewed up close. After seeing the sights of the new town and the old town (my favourite sight being the Sculpture of the Town Musicians of Bremen, a statue of a Rooster standing on a cat standing on a dog standing on a donkey) I said farewell to my work cruise and went solo.
After getting a bit lost on the way and having my suitcase wheel explode in the heat (about 33 Degrees!!!) I finally found my resting spot for a few hours before I got on my bus to take me from Riga to Vilnius… the ALEhouse.
ALEhouse is the hub of all things craft beer in Latvia and is a bottle shop and a bar all in one. As you walk inside you are greeted by a small room on the right with an impressive selection of beers covering all the big craft beer countries, a very good selection of English ales and craft beers including the bottles of Brewdog being drunk my the local and owner at the small sample bar in the shop, all the classic Belgian Beers, Mikkeller (cheaper than what it was in Denmark!), Norwegian craft beer and a very good selection of American craft beer including a few bottles that I knew were fairly rare in America let alone all the way over here in Latvia!
If you are not instantly attracted to the shop on your right then you walk ahead through to the bar area, a L shaped room with tall tables and a medium sized bar on the right. There are 12 taps on providing a mighty fine selection of beers from around the world at a price that got the pulse racing with excitement! Beers from Rouge, Evil Twin, local Latvian brewers Malduguns, plus more and for some bizarre reason Blackthorn cider!!!! (ignore that as the rest of the pub wreaks in awesomeness!) all at prices that you would struggle to get in a Wetherspoons for your standard ales! The most expensive drink I bought was the incredible Prairie Artisan Ales and Evil Twin collaboration beer “Bible Belt” which was around £3 a half but weighed in at 13% and was so good I brought a bottle back home (I later actually had this at more than double the price in London recently)! The other prices ranged from around just less than two euros to four euros, which was a steal!
The food was also good here and again very cheap, if you ever find yourself in any of the Baltic states you will find fried garlic rye bread, a must eat at the bar you will instantly love this garlic packed bite! It’s also interesting how the fried rye bread differs from Latvia to Estonia to Lithuania too but one things for sure we are missing a trick in England not having this sort of bar snacks!
There was a good vibe in the ALEhouse (I am guessing the 7%+ beers helped this) and in the same way that T’Brugsch Bieratelier was the perfect place to unwind after a work trip when I was in Belgium and the Netherlands, this was perfect to unwind from my Baltic trip.
There were also a few beer travellers visiting ALEhouse including a huge group of Americans, who much to my liking came in just as the sports channel showed a repeat of one of the best games of the world cup… Belgium vs USA, and also a guy who I spoke to for a little while. I can’t remember his name but in a true example of the saying ‘its a small world’ I got talking to a guy who works in The Exmouth Arms in London! We had a chat about a few people we had both met in the London beer scene and he gave me some advice on which beers at the bar he had tried. I have actually never been to The Exmouth Arms but it’s on my to do list very soon so hopefully I can say hello again!