IT’S a good day on this blog when I can tick-off a ‘must-try’. Today is just such a day. That is because I have here a bottle of Švyturys Baltas, bought for £1.70 pence from nearby East-European supermarket, Russkija Bazaar. Why is Baltas a ‘must-try’ in the first place? Well, it’s an unfiltered wheat beer and it comes highly recommended by you. Few other beers have been recommended by so many people in the comments sections on my other ‘reviews’. Švyturys Baltas even got a mention in a recent edition of Fuller’s First Draught magazine. It is, apparently, Lithuania’s most popular beer, and has won lots of awards. It’s taken years to finally find a bottle, so let’s get straight down to business.
This Švyturys goes for the neck-foil approach, showing off their excellent embossed bottle. It’s a good looking thing, with an embossed Švyturys logo with the 1784 established date, and predictable hops and barley imagery at the bottom.
If you know your beer, it won’t be that which catches your eye. What you will notice is that it’s not dark or transparent, but opaque and white. Very noticeably so, when next to other bottles on the shop shelf. Who can blame Švyturys for wanting to show it off with as little obscuring it as they can get away with.
All the way up on the bottle top is the name “Baltas” and the words “Kvietinis Alus”. “Kvietinis” sounds a little like “wheat” and “Alus” I know means beer. So by clever deduction, “Kvietinis Alus” must mean “Rhubarb Crumble”. Or “Wheat Beer”, which frankly, is much more probable.
Down on the front of the neck-foil, in English, is pretty much all you need to know about Švyturys Baltas. Under the Švyturys logo are “White” “Baltas” and “Unfiltered Wheat Beer”.
If you couldn’t already tell by the opaque white hue of the bottle, those words confirm it. If you like your beer cloudy and wheaty-white, any lingering uncertainty about choosing Švyturys Baltas will have just vanished.
The neck-foil doesn’t end there. It wraps around on both sides with some very hard to read text on both sides. For the benefit of the detail junkies out there, here is a photo of the right-side of the neck-foil.
The only interesting things I can read on it are that it’s best stored, or served, I can’t tell for sure because of wrinkles in the foil, at between 2 and 20 degrees C. Also, that it is pasteurised. Now that is a surprise. Under my admittedly limited knowledge, I would have thought that an unfiltered wheat beer wouldn’t be pasteurised. Shows how much I know.
For completeness, here is a photo of the other side of the neck-foil.
This side has the vital statistics. That Švyturys Baltas has an alcoholic volume of 5% and that the bottle is 500ml. Next, in a multitude of languages, comes the list of ingredients. For the incurably detail hungry, they are “water, wheat malt, barley malt, hops, yeast”. Credit where it’s due, these imported bottles do a better job of the ingredients list than most domestic ones. Lastly, that imported status is confirmed with “Product of Lithuania” and a web address of www.svyturys.lt. A spot of clicking through product pages featuring photos of other Švyturys that you want to try finally brings me to the Lithuanian language product page for Švyturys Baltas: http://www.svyturys.lt/index.php/produkcija/91.
At long last, I’ve reached the good bit. What does Švyturys Baltas taste like? How will it compare to the other wheat beers that I love so dearly? Will I like Baltas as much as all of my blog commentors do? I’ve no idea, but I’m looking forward to finding out. So, from fridge-cold, here is Švyturys Baltas poured into what is probably the wrong glass, but will have to do because it’s all I’ve got.
After an easy, non-glugging pour into my pint glass, everything looks and smells delicious. Unlike some other wheat beers, you can’t see yeast floating around. Instead, you get a vivid straw colour with a thick white head. Helpfully, everything fits neatly into a pint glass, so I’m happy.
What does Švyturys Baltas smell like? Beer writer Richard Morrice described as smelling of vanilla. I’m not so sure. It is vanilla-like in how immensely rich, fresh and uplifting it smells. I think it smells wheaty and citrusy. Like bread baked with oranges and lemons somehow stuck in the dough.
What does Švyturys Baltas taste of? One gulp and a sip in, and first impressions of Švyturys Baltas are that it is another example of good wheat beer. On the flavour side of the gulp, everything is light and mild. Pay close attention, and you notice wheat and malty, leading to a taste of fruit. This then smoothly transitions into the aftertaste and finish which taste of… Almost nothing, strangely. Okay, there is a light, beery, maltiness, but the bitter finish of nearly every beer I’ve ever tried is nowhere to be seen.
What am I enjoying about Švyturys Baltas? A lot as there is much to enjoy. I’m loving how light, refreshing and easy to drink it is. This is compared to other wheat beers, to lagers and so much else. This has to be down to the distinctive and unusual way it tastes. Yes, it tastes somewhat like most other wheat beers at first, but it has almost no bitter aftertastes. This makes it supremely easy to drink and no wonder it is so popular. Švyturys Baltas can easily be drink of choice for the boys and the girls. And it manages it without being sugary sweet and syrupy. I also love how good it smells. That it’s not gassy at all, so no big burps to worry about in social settings. It is rich and thick enough to feel like you’re drinking a real beer. And, outside of Lithuania, you get a sense of superiority by drinking something exclusive.
What don’t I like about Švyturys Baltas? If I had to nit-pick, I’d start with parts of the taste. Is the absence of aftertaste deliberate or an accident? What would it be like if that gorgeous wheaty-fruitiness lasted longer? Then there’s availability. The exclusivity, outside of Lithuania is awesome, but even my persistence was tested with trying to find a bottle. At least the price at £1.70 pence isn’t bad.
To sum up, Švyturys Baltas is one of the more distinctive and easy to drink wheat beers I’ve tried. In fact, it’s one of the most easy to drink beers I’ve tried. It’s right up there with watery lagers for being easy to drink, yet it is a ‘proper beer’. No wonder it’s won awards and become as popular as it is. You can glug a bottle down in a minute or savour every sip. And with no bitter aftertaste there’s nothing holding non-beer drinkers back from trying it. Švyturys Baltas is practically a beer without drawbacks.
Have you tried Švyturys Baltas? What did you think of it? Can you translate the Lithuanian? Do please share your comments, corrections, recommendations and places to buy, here in the comments.