Posts Tagged ‘Lithuania’

Beer Review: Švyturys Baltijos

29 March, 2011

SOME people complain that my recent reviews have all been East European beers. So, to correct the balance, here is a bottle of Švyturys Baltijos. From Lithuania.

Švyturys Baltijos bottle

Truthfully, this is one of the most requested and recommended beers out there. Thanks to the brisk growth of East European shops here, I’ve ended up trying a few Švyturys bottles. And each time, the comments section has filled with recommendations for Baltas, and for Baltijos. Commentors; you were right about how good Baltas was. Now you’ve got a reputation to uphold with Baltijos.

For the curious, and those in East London, this bottle came from Russkij Bazaar. The excellent East European shop on Cambridge Heath Road, near Bethnal Green underground station. The price was £1.70 pence, which could have been worse.

Luckily, I didn’t have to ask for it by name. Which would have been a problem. I think it’s pronounced Bal-Tee-Oss. But I’m probably wrong. Much more fun is my botched Anglicisation, in the form of Balty-Joes. As usual, leave your corrections and interpretations in the comments section.

I make a point of doing zero research with these ‘reviews’, hopefully persuading brewers to design more useful labels. With only a tiny scrap of foil around the bottle neck however, much of it in Lithuanian, I broke with tradition. You can read the description and see a photo of it in a fancy glass on the official Švyturys website at Then, you either need to ask a Lithuanian friend to translate it for you, or, use Google Translate, which spat out the following:

“Lighthouse in the Baltic (5.8%) – dark dreams / Oktoberfest camp,”Lighthouse “collection of traditional beer, brewed since 1965 Ethnographers believe that this “fighting ” style of beer its color and taste of the coming of the first “lighthouse” of beer in 1784 proposed brewery founder of German merchants Rainkės. Baltic beer category has its won the World Beer Cup Bronze Medal, and the international “Siberian Fair” at the time – the great gold medal. “Dark red, amber-colored beer is sweetish, rich, mouth, long lasting caramel taste. “Lighthouse Baltic aroma and flavor characteristics of the best demonstration of it in a special tasting glasses – large, bubble or tulip-shape with a strong leg. “Lighthouse” Baltic beer in perfect harmony with game, dark meat, oily fish dishes, a strong blue cheese flavor and hard, sweet desserts, predominantly caramel and chocolate combinations.

I don’t think I need to write any more. No one can possibly top that translation for entertainment value. To paraphrase the gist of it, Švyturys Baltijos based on the very first beer introduced to Lithuania by Germans. It’s won lots of awards and is yummy. Or is it? This is where I thrust my subjective opinions into the background noise of online beer reviews.

Starting with the bottle, it’s the same gorgeous bottle that Švyturys use across their Traditional Beer” range. The intricate embossing is exquisite. It looks great, but all the details is squeezed onto a flat of neck-foil.

Švyturys Baltijos front of neck foil

In fairness, almost everything you want to know about it, i.e. whether you’d like it, is in English, on the front of the foil. As well as the usual logos and medals, it describes it as “Dark Red” and “Made with Caramel Malt”. For an East European beer, this is surprisingly helpful.

It goes downhill from there.

Švyturys Baltijos left of neck foil

On the left is a multi-lingual block of text squeezed into a small, undulating foil flap. Some squinting reveals this to be a 500ml bottle with an above average alcoholic volume of 5.8%. The ingredients are water, barley malt, caramel malt and hops.

The other side is even more futile.

Švyturys Baltijos right of neck foil

It has a barely visible web address of And the out of context detail that Švyturys Baltijoshas been pasteurised. Don’t think about those details. Concentrate instead on the fact that my last mention of “caramel malt” was way back on Ukrainian Obolon Velvet. And that was marvellous.

Will Švyturys Baltijos be as tasty as Obolon Velvet? Will it live up to the hype? And, if you’ve never tried it before, should you go through the hassle of buying this expensive bottle? To attempt to answer those questions, I cracked open the bottle and poured it into the wrong shape of Pint glass. Well it’s all I had available. Okay?

Švyturys Baltijos poured into a glass

Pouring it, my first impressions are how different is looks to the photo on the official website. There’s almost no head, just a few thin cream coloured patches. The hue of the official photo is well off, too. Instead of the near-blackness of the official website photo, in reality, it’s red, dark red or copper.

Next, the fun and subjective opinions. How does Švyturys Baltijos? Rich, malty and slightly hoppy. I found it triggered memories of British ales. Not what you’d expect, but then I like the unexpected. Since you’re reading this blog, you probably will too.

What does Švyturys Baltijos taste like? The translation-mangled official description uses words like “sweetish”, “rich” and “long lasting”. I can’t disagree with any of them. The first couple of sips were very nice. I’m going to add “complex”, because you need much more than a couple of sips to figure out what you’re tasting.

On the flavour side of your gulp, Švyturys Baltijos is finely balanced between sweetness and sourness. When the aftertaste kicks in, you can’t miss it. A humungous hit of maltiness swooshes into your mouth and refuses to leave until long after your gulp. You can taste some caramel in the finish, but only if you pay attention. At one third of the way through, Baltijos has turned into a very rich, malty, drinkable beer.

What am I enjoying about Švyturys Baltijos? It’s not just different to other Lithuanian or East European beers, it is truly distinctive. You won’t easily confuse it with anything else. I love it when a brewer takes a risk or tries something new. Švyturys Baltijos with its heavy maltiness and hints of caramel does that, and it as ancient as flint arrowheads. I like how it manages to be a dark, heavy, full-on beer, and yet is still easy to drink. I like how accessible it is by not being bitter. The “sweetish” flavour could even help it pass the female test. And I like the exclusivity of having something hard to find.

What don’t l like about Švyturys Baltijos? That strong taste is going to put some people off. That’s the hazard of taking risks and being principled. Either the flavour-phobes who love lager, or ale fans that can’t stand rich sweetness could object to it. Then there’s the light flavours and massive onslaught of malty taste. Not smooth. And surprisingly burp-filled for a beer with little visible carbonation.

I tried to compare it to Ukrainian beer, Obolon Velvet. Sorry, but Švyturys Baltijos can’t quite match it for unqualified deliciousness. But that’s unfair. It’s the wrong product comparison. Švyturys Baltijos is more like British ale. And yes, I’m as shocked as you are.

How can I sum up Švyturys Baltijos? Not easily. It is special and well worth your effort to track down. It is even worth spending money on. For Lithuania and Eastern Europe, it is remarkable. I can see why so many of you recommended it. You can easily compare it to the great ales from Britain. And that’s the problem. Because that’s where I live, I can easily find good bottled ales for the same price, without the iffy availability of East European shops. That suddenly makes your location important. No wonder so many Americans are nuts about it. In summary: surprising and satisfying.

Rating: 4.175

Have you tried Švyturys Baltijos? Think you can you correct my mistakes? Leave your comments, opinions, recommendations and places to buy, here in the comments section.

Beer Review: Švyturys Baltas

30 October, 2010

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.

Švyturys Baltas bottle

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.

Švyturys Baltas embossed front logo

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”.

Švyturys Baltas front neck foil

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.

Švyturys Baltas right of 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.

Švyturys Baltas left 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 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:

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.

Švyturys Baltas poured into a glass

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.

Rating: 4.45

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.

Beer Review: Švyturys Švyturio

15 December, 2009

GOOD news! I’ve ‘discovered’ a new East European shop in London’s East-End. Called Russkiye or Russkija or something similar (I’ll have to check), they are on Bethnal Green’s Cambridge Heath Road. Expect some fun oddities to appear on these pages over the next few months.

As a start, I picked up a £1.45 pence bottle of Švyturys Švyturio. Why did I choose this, when the same Lithuanian brewers’ Ekstra and Ekstra Draught were so unmemorable? Curiosity. And I like the people from the Baltic states. So it would be useful if I could find something from there that I like, besides Estonia’s excellent Viru.

So here it is. A bottle of Švyturys Švyturio. It’s a brown bottle.

Is there anything worth mentioning on the neck-label?

No. It has the familiar (to anyone who has had a Švyturys before) crest, and the rather impressive date of 1784. The big, sort-of-roundel front-label is the real place to case your eyes.

The middle has the big “Švyturys” name and crest logo. Under it, the words “Alus” and “Beer” provide us with a useful translation for that all important word, should one ever be thirsty in Lithuania. There’s a picture of the barley and hops. And, under the Švyturio name, are words which must surely translate into the vital statistics. This must mean that this is your regular 0.5L bottle, and the beer is your Continental standard of 5.0% alcoholic volume.

There’s a red border. Which is important because in Lithuania, they know this beer simply as “Red”. The last little detail you notice is the very welcome “Lietuva”. Welcome because it must be the Lithuanian for ‘Lithuania’. And that’s good, because it means that it wasn’t produced here before being dressed up to look imported, like some big name brands.

So the front-label didn’t say much about what it will taste like. Will the back-label have much to say?

No. There’s almost nothing worth reading on this side of the bottle. We discover that it’s been “pasteurized”. There’s what looks like some sort of description in Lithuanian. In English, there’s the very briefest of ingredients lists. There’s what looks like the name and address of the brewer. A Švyturys-Utenos alus, from a city called Utena.

There’s an incomprehensible formulae to contend with. “Storage Conditions: +2 ÷ +20 °C” is the first time I’ve seen an equation on a beer bottle. Finally, there’s a web address of To save you time, the English language homepage for Švyturio is at According to which, Švyturio will have a taste somewhere in between that of the rich Ekstra and of light and watery Gintarinis; which I haven’t yet tried.

What am I hoping for with Švyturys Švyturio. Not much. I’m keeping those expectations low, in the hope of being impressed. It is, I presume, Pilsner style lager beer, so the hopes are for some taste of hoppiness and a light, refreshing and drinkable beer that isn’t watery. Will it manage that? There’s only one way to find out.

In my pint glass, my fridge cooled Švyturys Švyturio looks much like any other lager. Carbonated and pale yellow, with a thin white head.

What does Švyturys Švyturio smell of? Not a lot. You’d be hard-pressed to notice the slight whiff of hops.

What does Švyturys Švyturio taste like? The first couple of gulps are easy enough. The website described it as having a “rich taste and bitter freshness of hops”. That seems as good a description as any. I think I can reduce it even more. It’s a lager, and one of the most lagery lagers I’ve tried.

With no flavour, it’s all in the taste. This one has a mild take on the familiar malted barley theme. Where it really delivers is in that familiar lagery “bite”, so beloved of lager heads. And it’s a bitterness that lasts, long after the gulp.

What am I like about Švyturys Švyturio? I admire its straightforward lagery-ness. Instead of taking the full-taste or light route of its cousins, it is instead hitting the lager mainstream right in the face. It is light and crisp. It tastes like they used good quality ingredients. All of which make it fairly drinkable.

What aren’t I enjoying about Švyturys Švyturio? The same thing I admire it for. That most lagery of lagery-ness. Just personal taste mind. Bear that in mind before you fire off an angry comment. I’ve never liked that lagery “bite” that this, and others have. Compared to the great lagers, it doesn’t have the hoppy character. And that “bite” makes it less drinkable, and less refreshing than other lagers.

I’m not a fan of Švyturys Švyturio. But I’m sure a lot of you lager heads will love it. As a lager, it’s good. But I’ll have to keep looking for that favourite Lithuanian beer.

Rating: 3

Have you tried Švyturys Švyturio? What did you think of it? Leave your translations, corrections, opinions, recommendations and places to buy, here, in the comments.

Beer Review: Utenos Beer Premium Lager [Alus]

30 April, 2009

STRANGE East European beers keep arriving here in the East End. Days after I get through lots of Ukrainian beer, some from Lithuania turns up. So far, the only other Lithuanian beer I’ve tried was the adequate Švyturys Ekstra and its superior cousin, Švyturys Ekstra Draught. How then, will Švyturys rival compare? From a mini-supermarket on Cambridge Heath Road, for £1.49 pence, here is a bottle of Utenos Beer. Or Utenos Alus if you prefer the Lithuanian for “beer”.

Utenos Beer/Alus bottle

What is there to say about the bottle? Not much. It’s made of glass. It has some swirly embossed lines on the shoulder and around the bottom. They make it look like someone whipped it in the factory. And this is one of those occasions when a transparent bottle is a bad idea. It’s great if your beer is dark and interesting. Not if it’s a pale yellow lager.

Utenos Beer/Alus neck label

The neck label is a no-nonsense affair. It has nothing more than what you see. Good if all you want is beer. Not so good if you want to know what sort of beer you’re looking at.

What about the main front label? It’s a big, impressive, shield.

Utenos Beer/Alus front label

The “Utenos” logo has hope and barley, and, for some reason, an upside down horse shoe. It’s proudly “Brewed In Lithuania”. It calls itself a “Premium Lager”. There are what look like medals of various kinds, but, they’re too small to read. Nearly as hard to read at the top of the shield are the vital statistics. Utenos Beer is the ubiquitous, Euro-typical 500ml, 5% alcoholic volume.

Can the back label shed some light on what makes Utenos Beer/Alus special?

Utenos Beer/Alus back label

Yes it can. And, in a badly translated way that’s missing punctuation. To save their embarrassment, the gist is that they’re proud of the traditional, years old recipe that includes water from 615 feet down. They add that it’s a refreshing beer. “Obviuosly”.

The ingredients are much what you’d expect from a beer. But you won’t be able to read them because they’re in a big block of multilingual text that’s too small.

Under that, is a big list of importers for lots of different countries. Here in Britain, the importer is the appropriately named Lithuanian Beer Ltd from not the Docklands.

Under that, there’s something saying, I think, that it should be served between 2 and 20 degree Centigrade. And, right at the bottom, is a web site address of If you can’t read Lithuanian, you might get along better with the English language version at I wouldn’t bother clicking the link though. Utenos has fallen into the trap of making a slow, Flash-heavy website that’s more like a television advertisement than a useful website.

Something does shock, however. Right at the bottom of their website is this: © 2009 UAB “Švyturys-Utenos alus” I could be wrong, but does that mean this is from the same brewer that’s behind the two Švyturys I tried? It looks like I’ll have to try a few more bottles of Lithuanian beer to find any true variety. Oh dear.

So, what is Utenos Beer/Alus like? Will it be like nearly every other East European lager, or will it be good and interesting? I’m looking forward to finding out.

Utenos Beer/Alus poured into a glass

In the glass, it looks much as it did in the bottle. Only with a big, frothy head; which, to its credit, is how it looks in the photos on their website.

What does it smell of? If you’ve ever smelt a lager, any lager, from anywhere in the world, you’ll recognise the blend of malted barley. This one is particularly pungent. And not in a pleasant way. It’s causing memories of Polish “Mocne” and other strong lagers to pop into my head.

So it doesn’t look impressive. And I don’t like the strong smell. But none of those things matter if it tastes good. So, how does it taste? My two first gulps aren’t crisp and refreshing ones. Utenos Beer tastes as strong and as bad as it smells.

How can I describe it? Good lagers, like the Obolon Soborne I tried a few days ago were excellent because they were crisp, clean, refreshing and easy to drink because it tastes completely natural. Utenos Beer is not many of those things. With each gulp, you’re hit with a lump of bitter malted barley that lingers. Instead of a gentle, natural taste, what you get is an onslaught of flavouring and chemicals.

It can’t all be bad. What am I enjoying about Utenos Beer/Alus? Well, the basic raw ingredients are sound. That water and some of the other ingredients in a gentler beer could be outstanding. It has lots of taste. Arguably too much taste. At least it’s not lacking in that department. I also like how it’s proudly brewed in Lithuania. Not covered in Lithuanian imagery, only to find it was actually brewed in Bedfordshire like too many are. This is genuine, and I salute it for that.

What am I not like about Utenos Beer/Alus? That taste. No wander the smell reminded me of unpleasant strong lagers. It tastes like one. And it’s not a strong lager. All of the downsides without the benefits. If you’re going to make a middle-of the-road lager, make it clean, crisp, refreshing and easy to drink. This is not many of those things. But, there are others that manage it. So why choose Utenos over them?

How can I sum up Utenos Beer? Drinking it is as unpleasant as drinking the strong lagers, but without the benefit of the actually being strong. The smell and taste are strong and synthetic. If you want to pretend that you’re drinking a super-strong lager when you’re not, this is the beer for you. If you’d rather enjoy your drink, choose something better.

Rating: 2

Have you tried Utenos Beer/Alus? What did you think of it?

Do please leave your translations, corrections, opinions, recommendations, requests and places to buy, here in the comments.

Snack Food Review: Rivona Rokiškio Marinuoti Agurkai Pickled Cucumbers

21 March, 2009

IF Turkish pickles like Baktat Pickled Gherkins are salty. And sweet and sour pickles from Mrs. Elswood and Wardour were delicious. What will these Lithuanian pickled cucumbers be like?

Rivona Rokiškio Marinuoti Agurkai Pickled Cucumbers jar

This jar I bought for about £1.30 pence from an East European seller at the Brick Lane Sunday market. I’ve never seen them anywhere else. Although I’m sure you could if you scoured the East European shops around London.

I think the manufacturer is Rivona. But I could be wrong. Translators, do please leave a comment at the end of this post. What does Rosiškio Marinuoti Agurkai mean?

The ingredients list describes, in English fortunately, sweet and sour pickled whole cucumbers. So they should be nice. Sugar and salt are high on the list of ingredients. But something seems out of place. Normally, in a jar of pickles, they throw in lots of spicy and peppery things. This is no exception. But, for some unknown reason, it is mostly carrots. Just look at the bottom of the jar. It it literally packed with little pieces of carrot. One of the worlds least tasty vegetables. Why would they do that?

Rivona Rokiškio Marinuoti Agurkai Pickled Cucumbers ingredients side of label

Also looking into the jar, there’s something unusual about the cucumbers. Normally, they’re small, long and thin. Like a half-smoked cigar. But these look fatter.

Over on the other side of the label, and there are a three other useful bits of information.

Rivona Rokiškio Marinuoti Agurkai Pickled Cucumbers barcode side of label

The first is that this is a gigantic 760g jar. The second is that it comes from somewhere called Rokiškis in Lithuania. That would explain one of the words on the label. The last detail is the web address. The one printed on the label is Their English language version is at They seem to be an importer of everything except beer.

So, what will they taste like? What will they look like? And should you buy them? Let’s find out.

Rivona Rokiškio Marinuoti Agurkai Pickled Cucumbers open jarRivona Rokiškio Marinuoti Agurkai Pickled Cucumbers on a forkRivona Rokiškio Marinuoti Agurkai Pickled Cucumbers missing a bite

They are one of the most pungent pickles I’ve ever smelt. They smell pickly, so nothing unexpected. They’re also covered it bits of all the things they put in the jar. Just look at the photos. Pieces of carrot, onion and spices are strewn over the pickled cucumbers. The fatness of the cucumbers has an interesting side effect too. They are full of seeds.

What do they taste of? They taste sweet and sour. Neither really dominates. It has the tanginess of vinegar and salt balanced by sweetness. They are not bad at all. The vegetables and spices add something too. Is that carrot I can taste?

Texture is a bit different to normal as well. With them being quite a lot bigger than some pickles, the crunchiness is much more interesting.

What do I like about Rivona Rokiškio Marinuoti Agurkai Pickled Cucumbers? I like the taste. I like tastes of the sweet and sour and the other things they crammed into the jar. And I like the big pickled cucumbers they use.

What don’t I like about Rivona Rokiškio Marinuoti Agurkai Pickled Cucumbers? If you want strong tasting pickles, look elsewhere. Some people might not like the taste of vegetables, either.

To sum up, Rivona Rokiškio Marinuoti Agurkai Pickled Cucumbers are very good. I like them. I wanted something quirky, and these deliver exactly that. Their size and their funny taste make them an excellent snack.

These are much more interesting than the rather generic Wardour and Cypressa and all the other jars you see in corner shops. I like Lithuanian pickles. And I think you should try them too.

Have you tried Rivona Rokiškio Marinuoti Agurkai Pickled Cucumbers? Can you translate anything? Do please leave your opinions, translations, corrections, requests, recommendations and places to buy here in the comments.

Beer Review: Švyturys Ekstra Draught

2 September, 2008

THE last bottle to come from Kalinka sees the return of a familiar Eastern-European name. Do you remember my look at the high-quality yet ultimately bland Lithuanian beer, Švyturys Ekstra? No? Then click on the link and have a read. Because this, is it’s pricier and inadequately labelled cousin: Švyturys Ekstra Draught.

For £2.00, you might expect an even classier look than regular Ekstra. And that’s what it has. But at the expense of the labels. You won’t find any detailed historical descriptions. Nor information about awards won. Or even web address of None of which would fit on the tiny, foil, neck wrap around label.

But none of that matters. Because the embossed Švyturys logo, shield and other bits and pieces are some of the best you’ll find.

Švyturys Ekstra Draught front of bottle

It doesn’t show up very well in a photo. But believe me, it looks impressive. Not to mention the tactile quality this work adds to a bottle. It may not be to the insane extremes of bottles of Cobra beer, but the it sports all manner of moulded glass objects. The big, impressive, shield is there. As is the eagle. The year “1784”. And images of hops and barley. It doesn’t say very much. But then it doesn’t need to.

The front of the neck foil doesn’t add much either.

It gives away enough for you to make the connection between this bottle and that of regular Švyturys Ekstra. It’s clear enough that this is called “Draught”. Although the girl behind the till couldn’t see the difference between the two. The small, gold roundel isn’t big enough to make any sense of what look like medals though. You’ll need to look elsewhere to figure out what they are. It does help you learn that “Alus” means “Beer” however. And that’s useful to know.

Over on the back of the neck foil, and everything is a jumble. Partly because there’s hardly a trace of English. Partly because it’s foil and too crinkly to read in places.

There is enough though to learn that this 0.5L bottle has the respectable alcoholic volume of 5.2%. And that its ingredients include water, malted barley, rice and hops. Besides that, there’s practically nothing else on there to read.

Švyturys Ekstra Draught then, is a bottle that’s virtually insisting that you drink it instead of reading it. So let’s do just that. Will it succeed where regular Švyturys Ekstra failed? Will it have flavour and taste? What will it be like? And will it be that rarest of things; an Eastern-European beer I can wholeheartedly recommend? I hope so. Let’s pour.

Watch out for that head. It’s perfectly manageable, but you’ll need to go carefully to fit it all in your pint glass. After a couple of minutes, the foamy head dies down to thin blotchy layer. Not great, but at least it has something.

I do like the way Švyturys Ekstra Draught smells. A pleasant whiff of malted barley greets your nose. Not very strong. But not weak enough to make you question all the money you handed over for this bottle.

How does it taste? After three big gulps, I would say, quite nice. The flavour is of that malted barley. And that flavour changes, seamlessly I might add, to a lingering, bitter aftertaste. That must be the rice at work. Every beer I’ve tried that includes rice has this well-rounded flavour and balance. Then again, the word I thought was “rice” was half hidden by a crinkle in the foil.

Around a third of the way though, and what am I liking about Švyturys Ekstra Draught? And what will you like about it? Well, it is a good looking product. If people see you purchasing, and drinking it, chances are they will think you have taste. And refinement. And deep pockets. I like the way Švyturys Ekstra Draught tastes. It has a little flavour and enough taste. Something regular Švyturys Ekstra went without. Most importantly, it’s very drinkable. My bottle has been in the fridge for a few hours, so it’s cold and crisp. And not having an offensive flavour or taste, it is very easy to drink. Not too weak either.

Half-way through now, and there are a few niggles to report. I’m burping more than usual, so it must be gassy. Then there’s the flavour. It may be palatable, but there are problems. It has some flavour, but not enough, and not interesting enough for my tastes. Then the bitter aftertaste wears thin quickly. This stops it from being refreshing. And it will be too strong and too bitter for some. Lastly, we can’t ignore how expensive and hard to find Švyturys Ekstra Draught is in Britain.

To sum up, Švyturys Ekstra Draught is better than it’s cheaper, easier to find cousin Švyturys Ekstra. It’s got a stronger taste and is very drinkable. But it won’t be to everyone’s taste. Nearly at the end of the glass now, and that bitter aftertaste has become as tasty as a bar of soap. Recommended for fans of interesting European beers with a taste, and who have money to spare.

Rating: 3.1

Have you tried Švyturys Ekstra Draught? What did you think of it?

Leave your corrections, opinions, thoughts, requests and recommendations in the boxes below please.

Beer Review: Švyturys Ekstra

23 May, 2008

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 A bit of hunting takes us to their English language version, which is at

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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