Beer Review: Švyturys Ekstra

JUST like Britain’s recent waves of immigration, not every East-European beer is Polish. As well as the great many Polish beers sold in shops here in London, there’s a couple from the Czech Republic. And even an Estonian beer. Most of which have been distinctly average. Or worse. Will Švyturys Ekstra from Lithuania be a Baltic saviour for East-European beer?

Švyturys Ekstra bottle

I like the way this bottle looks. It stands out from the crowd. The stubby neck, foil wrapping light-gold colour scheme mean its hard to confuse with any other bottles on the shop shelves.

The foil around the top, and the bottle top itself have the Švyturys name and coat of arms. A coat of arms that seems to consist of an eagle, hops and some sort of tower. There’s also a date. A year to be exact; 1784. Is that the year this Švyturys brewery was established?

Švyturys Ekstra neck foil

The big label on the front of the bottle is an unusual shape. It looks like an ordinary roundel from a distance. But look closer, and you see it’s actually made up of three bulges.

Švyturys Ekstra front label

Around the top of the label, it say, interspersed by writing I can’t understand; “Brewed by Švyturys-Utenos Alus, Klaipėda, Lithuania”. Not knowing who, or what a “Klaipėda” was, I hit Wikipedia. Klaipėda it transpires is a Lithuania town, historic port and, presumably, home town of this brewery. The coat of arms of the town also offers some clues as to the origin of Švyturys coat of arms.

Around the bottom of the label, it says “Lithuania’s Most Popular”. A good sign if Lithuania is overflowing with choice. Not so good if this is Lithuania’s only beer.

Under the big Švyturys logo is the name of this particular brew; “Ekstra”. Which I think is supposed to be read as “Extra”. Underneath that, we get several indications of how much is in this bottle. 500 millilitres, 1 pint or 0.9 fluid ounces in case you were wandering. And the alcoholic volume; which is a slightly above average 5.2%. Not worth getting excited about, but more than the boring 5% that seems to be everywhere these day.

Under that is what looks like a selection of medal. Most are too small to read. But one that is readable says “World Beer Cup 2000″. It looks then, like this is an award winning beer. Albeit, of an award no one’s ever heard of.

The back label is a jumble of text in several different languages. Not an inviting block to try and read. The main English language paragraph describes Ekstra as a “golden beer”. A beer made from hops, barley malt, yeast and rice so pure, they could be used to cleanse even Cliff Richard. Rice is an interesting addition. Cobra Extra Smooth is the only other beer that I’ve seen to have it. And I found it much full-flavoured and interesting than other bland Asian beers. Maybe Ekstra’s unique blend will turn out to be more interesting than the bland East-European beers?

Švyturys Ekstra back label

There’s also some more detail about the awards we barely saw on the front. Apparently, this was the “Gold Award Winner of the 2001 World Beer Championship and Silver Medal Winner at the 2000 World Beer Cup”. I might not have heard of them, but they’re recent enough for these them to mean something.

There’s also a web address. And that address is www.svyturys.lt. A bit of hunting takes us to their English language version, which is at http://www.svyturys.lt/en.

Under that is something that’s easy to miss. And hard to understand. What is looks like is a couple of descriptions. One is how to pronounce the name Švyturys, with the text “[shvee - to - rees]“. And the other is the word “Lighthouse”. It’s a leap, but I think that’s a reference to that mysterious tower on the coat of arms. And it makes sense because Klaipėda is a port on the Baltic coast.

There’s an ingredients list and… not much else worth describing. Which means that it’s time to answer some questions. Principally, is Švyturys Ekstra any good?

In the glass, Ekstra is a light-yellow colour. And, as promised, it has a head. But after a few moments, not much of a head.

Švyturys Ekstra poured into a glass

There’s not as much to say about the smell as I had been hoping. A weak aroma of malted barley is all that awaits. It’s a tiny bit different to the smell of others beers I’ve tried recently, but not very much.

A few gulps down, and Ekstra isn’t bad. It tastes of a light blend of malted barley and hops that leave a light, lingering sour bitterness at the back of your mouth. The tastes and flavours are very light indeed. You’re far from overwhelmed by strong flavours.

Ekstra is clean and crisp. At least this bottle is after I stored it in the freezer compartment for 45 minutes. And the inoffensiveness of the flavours makes this a very easy-to-drink drinkable beer. And the quality of the blend is more than evident.

Sadly, it does have its downsides. Some people, myself included, won’t appreciate how subtle the flavours are. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that Ekstra is dull and uninspired on the flavour front. The blend might be quality, but is certainly is boring. There are simply no big flavours to give it character. And it’s a little gassy, but that’s a minor gripe.

How can I try to sum up Švyturys Ekstra? Well, it reminds me of the Asian beers I sampled a few weeks ago. They were all trying to be ‘beers’. And in so doing, that’s what they became. Well made, yet indistinctively tasting generic beers. And that’s what this is. Ekstra is a quality blend of indistinctive beer.

By all means try this to say that you’ve had a Lithuanian beer. If I were visiting Lithuania, I’d happily drink Ekstra by the keg load. But on a shop shelf full of distinctive and full-flavoured beers and ales, that are also cheaper, it’s hard to find many good reasons for you to buy this.

Rating: 2.85

Have you tried Švyturys Ekstra? What did you think?
Can you translate anything on the bottle? Do you know what reputation this has in Lithuania?
Corrections, comments, thoughts, opinions, ideas and suggestions in the comments please!

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12 Responses to “Beer Review: Švyturys Ekstra”

  1. Mykolas Says:

    I agree with your evaluation. This brand is O.K. but nothing memorable about it. Others are similar and highly over rated. Matter of national pride for the Lithuanians though! If you can get your hands on a bottle of “Birzietciu Alaus” you might find it more favorable. Darker, full body, nice aroma. Worth trying.

    Just tried a very good brew from Slovakia. The Brand escapes my memory
    at the moment. I’ll drop by again when I can provide the proper spelling.
    Wish I had one at this very moment. It tasted like Dinner in a bottle!
    Drinking Canadian tonight…also over rated. (Molsen’s)

  2. Lith Says:

    Yes, “Biržiečių alus” (“Beer-Of-Biržai-Residents”) is legendary indeed. Švyturys Ekstra perhaps is “Lithuania’s Most Popular” because it’s just a good simple beer, so nothing exceptional. Matter of taste though.
    “..Can you translate anything on the bottle?..”
    What to translate? “Švyturys” means “Lighthouse”, “Ekstra” means “Best”, “Alus” means “Beer”. “Utenos alus” is a company (well known in LT), means “Beer of Utena town”. Since both breweries (Švyturys and Utenos Alus) merged into one company, it is called now “Švyturys-Utenos Alus”.
    There is no need to read ;) Drink :)))

  3. Atis Says:

    I would rate it even lower – it tastes like it was heavily diluted with water. It is exported only because the brewery is the largest in Lithuania and part of the Carlsberg group. If you went to Lihuania, there are much better beers from smaller breweries. Actually I would say that only beers worth drinking from Lithuania and Latvia are porters and other dark beers.

  4. Procrastinatory Says:

    Somehow i missed the point. Probably lost in translation :) Anyway … nice blog to visit.

    cheers, Procrastinatory!!

  5. Steve Says:

    Just returning back from a trip to Lietuva, I would have to say I drank Ekstra about 85% of the time I was there. I have to agree with you…from the tap, this is a beer & I drank heartily and often. When presented in a bottle, I opted for the Ekstra Draught but still something was lost in the transfer. Nevertheless, it was still a great great beer. The other beers of this brand that I enjoyed while there were Gintarinis & Svyturio.

    Upon returning back to the good ol’ USA, I find myself jonesing more and more for these beers. Its so bad I am now seeking out places around my area that sell Svyturys and it’s quite depressing…. ONE PLACE in the DC/MD/VA area sells it to take home. It’s a bar/pizza place named Ledo’s but they only have two options; Baltijos (Dark & Caramelly – Yum) and Premium Pils (Lighter and less tastier than Ekstra). Both 22oz. bottles sell for $6 each, so basically I buy 6 packs now for $25 with tax incl. *Sigh*

  6. Steve Says:

    As an update… I have found a place that sells Ekstra, Baltas and Baltijos in the District of Columbia. The place is called Chevy Chase Wine and Spirits and a case will run you $45. Much better price than the $6 a bottle I was shelling out. A simple email to the email contact on Svyturys’s website put me in touch with the distributor in my area and they helped me find CCW&S. The guys at CCW&S are more than helpful in placing orders for whichever case I needed.

    Just last night I discovered Ekstra DRAUGHT (in bottles) available in Balitmore. The draught is not pasteurized which I find interesting. Since I was there for only one night, I ended up buying the remaining 15 bottles left at a small concert. A very rare find in the US or atleast in my neck of the woods! The lady said it was available at some store called Leggins (sp?). A search on Google brought up no results.

  7. Terry Says:

    I am an older man whose palate has lost much of its sensitivity to subtle tastes. Yet, I totally dislike American beers but find Svturys (chevy tour ees) robust and satisfying. In Chicagoland we can buy a 6-pack of the small bottles for $5.99 at Binnys. Best beer in the world for the price to me. As they say: Good is what you like.

  8. Metalmicky Says:

    Just had a few cans of Ekstra & have to say does not do much for me it does not taste like a beer with a 5.2% vol all in all i have tried it as many others but as far as lager goe & have ried 100,s of em i still lgo back to the Brussels brewed ( not UK brewed) Stella Artois.
    In my opinion although they have brought the vol down by .2 to 5.0 recently it still delivers the best all round average lager taste.

  9. Paul Says:

    Very thorough evaluation. Of course taste is very subjective and depends on what you are referencing it to… Or as I say ” beauty is in the eye of the beerholder ” Feel free to use that. I’d rate it slightly on the higher side of average . It improved after a couple. As does the fairer gender. there are nicer , fuller bodied micro beers in Lithuania . And that building is a lighthouse or Svyturys- Labas

  10. Matt Says:

    Currently sitting in a bar in lithuania, exstra has a light crisp taste but 6 pints later, it carries that %age through. i will leave my bar stool but my craving for snacks is now very high, and that surely is a good sign for a lager?

  11. Anonymous Says:

    I don’t wholeheartedly agree with the review. I travel to Lithuania 4 times a year and I prefer to drink Svyturys Ekstra than any other lager. Utenos is quite nice too, worth giving it a try. Its a perfect Summer drink because it doesn’t taste too strong, but it is crisp and thirst quenching!

  12. Damien Orchard Says:

    Hi guys,

    My gf is from Lithuania and upon reaching the country i of course had to try every beer available! All in bottles of course- i still dont understand why people buy in cans, it ruins the taste!

    Utenos Dark- 4/10 (i just don’t like dark beers!)

    Svyturys Baltas- 9/10 (better than hoegaarden!)

    Svyturys Ekstra- 8/10 (very good beer, nothing like it in the UK)

    Svyturys Svyturio- 5/10 (quite boring, no real taste)

    Utenos- 6/10 (Light fairly boring but ok beer)

    Kalnapilis Pilsner- 7/10 (Decent beer but just nothing special)

    Thanks

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