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Falling in love with beer has its stages. Many of us might get stuck at stage one, when you’re happy enough with the relationship you’ve forged and stick to your comfort zone. But for those who are intrigued to fall deeper will inevitably get to the stage of having an actual beer adventure and visit a bonafide beer festival. And that’s one of the best steps an intrepid beer lover can take.

As for myself, I have experienced several local beer events in Lithuania and festivals in neighboring countries, but there was always an inclining in the back of my mind that needed to be confronted. An inclining about the best international craft beer festival in the Baltic States, or perhaps beyond. Two years have passed since the very first one in 2015, but now I was finally ready to head to the third Tallinn Craft Beer Weekend in Estonia. And man was I right not to wait any longer.

Talllinn Craft Beer Weekend

The festival, or the weekend so to speak, is a two-day hop-praising marathon brought to light by the very lovable Põhjala brewery from Tallinn. How could you not love these guys: they make beers to die for (they have 15 brews in Estonia’s top 20 by RateBeer), an extremely well organized event with outstanding locations (this year the festival took place in an old industrial boiler house repurposed into a cultural hub) and a value worth repeating every year.

Let’s just talk about the numbers for a minute. The single-day ticket for Friday or Saturday is 60€, the double trouble for both days is 100€. The price gives full access to sample every beer poured that day for no additional cost. A beautiful tasting glass accompanies attendees on the journey. And the journey was eventful with around 350 different beers and 44 breweries represented over the course of the two day festival.

Talllinn Craft Beer Weekend

Tallinn Craft Beer Weekend inspires breweries to showcase their craziest beers. By crazy I mean the oddest and the strangest, although pairing brews with specific ingredients (i.e. rhubarb or sea buckthorn) or alcohol volumes (up to 22%) that you’d rarely see available on a regular basis. The range of breweries present this year spanned local Estonian, pan-European and even a few from the US.

Names like Mikkeller, Brewdog or Stone Brewing shouldn’t be a mystery to any beer geek, but there were more to be found in the festival than just these ‘trailblazing’ figures in the current world of craft brewing. Small breweries like Tanker (EST) and Bakunin (RUS) with their collaboration brew Black Currantine (Black Currant Sour Ale, with 8% ABV) or Pühaste (EST) with their incredible Dekadents (Imperial Stout with rum soaked vanilla beans and raisins, with 11.2% ABV) will remain incredible palate memories for long to come. Not to mention Sweden’s Omnipolo, who used different kinds of beer and ice cream or slush to top the head of a freshly poured beer. And this was just a sliver of the memorable moments at the event.

Talllinn Craft Beer Weekend
Talllinn Craft Beer Weekend

Just to be clear about the selection of beers – around 60% of the festival can be split into two categories: sour beers and strong beers. The sour category would consist of different variations of Gose, Berliner Weisse, Wild Ales and brett stuff, mainly interchanging with different fruits and berries that were added to the brews. The strong category was dominated by imperial, barrel aged concoctions (Stouts, IPAs, Belgian Quads, etc). Tasting these highly differentiated styles at once becomes labor intensive, which makes it more of a struggle to keep on your feet.

And if you’re planning on attending a similar event and making it through everything on offer, you can bury those thoughts six feet under. Attending a beer festival is a wonderful way to experience unique and obscure brews, but even the most experienced beer festival veteran wouldn’t be able to go through half of the beer list in one day, let alone two days in a row. And you shouldn’t worry about that at all. The strategy of making the most of a beer festival is to do some research in the days leading up, pick your highest ranking “I will hate myself if I don’t try this one” beers and challenge yourself with smaller portion of the primary list. Focus more on the styles and beers you do try instead of diluting your experience.

Talllinn Craft Beer Weekend
Talllinn Craft Beer Weekend

All in all, if you’re not yet convinced that beer festivals are proper fun and that Tallinn Craft Beer Weekend is just a great example of one to visit, there’s so much more that the city has to offer. You wouldn’t want to miss out on the best soundtrack you’ve ever heard while having a lovely beer in Põhjala’s Speakesy and sinking your teeth into the juiciest burger from Burger Box next door. Tallinn has a truly amazing atmosphere itself with all the great beer bars, bottle shops and alternative areas. Or at least consider a casual walk through the Old Town when you’re having the hangover of a lifetime from those brilliant last two days at the Tallinn Craft Beer Weekend.

Tallinn Craft Beer Weekend photos by Šarūnas Andriušaitis

Šarūnas Andriušaitis

Šarūnas is a Lithuanian born and raised beer hunter and blogger for Spotted by Locals. Once lost in the woods of dull macro brewed beers, he found himself a decade ago in Vilnius and has since home brewed, traveled for beer, and explored the closer to home Lithuanian beer scene. He considers beer to be his closest relative - sometimes irritating and inconsistent, but always welcome, but some of his best memories.

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