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In just a few years, Helsinki’s leisure scene has developed tremendously. Today, the city praised for its safety, tidiness and efficiency has plenty to offer: big seaside pools and saunas in the heart of the city, interesting local, Nordic and international cuisine, and thriving entrepreneurship throughout several industries like distilleries, art, design and fashion. And craft beer.

Finland still is quite strict when it comes to regulation on alcohol. You can’t buy alcoholic beverages over 4.7% ABV from regular stores; you can only enjoy them in bars or purchase them from a chain of government owned stores, Alko’s. This has made it difficult for Finnish micro-breweries to market and sell their products. Luckily, times are changing. Alko now has a better craft beer selection than ever and new bars are successfully distributing local brews.

Here’s my Helsinki beer guide, covering a few notable bars, breweries and restaurants that I, and other local beer lovers, visit regularly.

Helsinki Beer Guide City

Baarit Ja Pubit – Bars & Pubs

Helsinki’s bar scene is made up of a few old pioneers and some new ventures. Although I do recommend the experience of a truly old fashioned Finnish pub – likely in the summer, drinking a drab 4€ lager from a plastic pint outside on a street corner terrace – here are some alternatives that feature a good selection of local and imported beers. A pint in Finland is usually 400 or 500ml and a small beer is 330ml. If you just ask for a beer, you’ll likely end up with a pint of Finnish lager in your hand. Most of the craft beer bars serve portions starting from 100 or 200ml and offer tasting menus as well.

Bier-Bier. A stylishly renovated bar in the city centre with eight taps, one hundred or so carefully and regularly updated bottled beers, ciders from Spain and France and a few artisan wines they import themselves. While they don’t hold the world record for amount, what they lack in quantity they make up for in quality. Beer is sorted under categories like ‘Fresh & Crispy’ or ‘Sour & Strange’ to help you find something interesting.

BrewDog Helsinki. BrewDog needs no introduction if you know anything about craft beer. This cool and cozy punk army instalment opened in the southern part of the city centre in 2014. Rocking 24 taps and loads of bottled alternatives, it is somewhat of a must when visiting Helsinki. Yes, it is a big company and slightly less punk than it was ten years ago, but who cares when there’s such a nice staff, wonderful selection and even occasional tasting events like the recent ‘Bugs & Beer’, which paired brews with edible insects.

Kalaravintolat. Kalarvinolat, which translates to ‘fish restaurant’, are six traditional pubs around southern Helsinki each named after a fish. You can choose from “Thirsty Salmon”, “Hilarious Pike”, “Ruffe of the Opposite Shore”, “Perch of Punavuori”, “Beautiful European Flounder” or “Floating Bream”. One of the highlights is an event called Fish Trip, which features special menus, competitions and a bus that drives patrons from pub to pub. A bit fishy, you might think, but in a good way.

One Pint. While it looks like a typical Finnish corner pub, inside you’ll find an excellent selection of beers spanning all styles. I’m often excited finding new Finnish and Estonian beers on tap at One Pint. The place has a very local vibe and a nice terrace outside, and its location is away from the overly touristy areas so you can experience genuine Finnish pub life here.

Angleterre. The oldest and most authentic British Pub in town has been operating since 1976. It goes without saying that they focus on British beer, but other styles are quite well represented as well. There are about 20 taps, even more bottles and a certified Real Ale tap. Though not a sports bar, it has a small TV in one corner that works well enough, and locals know to head here to watch Premier League matches, particularly on Boxing Day. British pub, beer and seven hours of football – what more could you ask for after Christmas?

Pikkulintu. A very peculiar place in the middle of suburban Helsinki, this bar has an outstanding whiskey and beer selection. It’s located in Puotila, East Helsinki, 12km from the centre but is quite easy to reach. Just use the ultra-simple metro system and you’ll arrive in no time. They import a handful of foreign labels so a visit might offer an unexpected surprise. Once I was lucky enough to spot four-year-old “Bommen and Granaten” by Dutch brewery De Molen at the very back of the fridge. And yes, it was yummy.

Ølhus. There are four Ølhus pubs around the city named after the Scandinavian capitals Helsinki, Oslo, Stockholm and Copenhagen. They focus on Nordic labels and are run by the big retailing cooperative S-Group that also operates supermarkets, restaurants, hotels and service stations around Finland. It might not be the first choice for microbrewery purists, but personally I don’t mind their background as long as I find new and interesting options on a regular basis. And at Ølhus, I usually always do.

William K. William K is a chain of pubs also run by S-Group. It’s a very traditional pub interior and experience but if you can live with that, you’ll most likely find something tasty from the tap or fridge. A temporary beer menu offered a couple of months back featuring two- to five-year-old bottles of vintage Barley Wines, Imperial Stouts and Ales is a good example that dated décor doesn’t necessarily mean an unimaginative selection.

Panimot Ja Purtavat – Breweries & Better Bites

In Helsinki it used to be nearly impossible to find a wide selection of beer accompanied by anything other than snacks, sausages or fried stuff. This has changed, as has the local brewery scene. Quality basement microbreweries are exploring weird recipes, while pubs with shiny kettles and proper kitchens pop up here and there with a staff ready to pair your beer with tasty food. All for the best as it’s never a good idea to drink on an empty stomach, even less so today with ever increasing ABVs.

Stadin Panimo. Stadi is a local word for Helsinki and Panimo means brewery. The brewery started in 1998 and a small beer house on the site was opened two years ago. Stadin Panimo has no kitchen, but there’s a lot to like in the former industrial estate area of Suvilahti where the brewery is based. There are abandoned gas metres, tall chimneys and garages transformed into cultural venues. Over the past several years, the area has become a spot for local events and new business, Stadin Panimo brewery being amongst them. Enjoy local beer in a cool urban environment or book a brewery tour – “no mikä ettei” as we say in Stadi.

Sori Taproom. A trendy little taproom with a nice American style kitchen, this spot serves Sori Brewing beers alongside rotating guest brews. In Finnish slang “sori” actually means sorry. The brewers themselves say they used the name for two reasons: because Finns are humble and always apologize for everything, and because they wanted to rock some corporate boats. So, they are Sori. The actual brewery is located in Tallinn, Estonia. For anyone familiar with Finnish and Estonian history, it’s a bit ironic that these Finnish guys escaped to Estonia for freedom to kick off a brewery. But for anyone familiar with Finnish regulation, it’s not a surprise. By the way, Estonia has a really nice brewery scene and some of my favourite beers are from our southern neighbour.

Viisi Penniä. A hundred years ago, the border between the city and countryside used to go right up to this restaurant and tax was collected from those entering the city back then. History is still present in stylish restaurant Viisi Penniä, or Five Pennies in English. Operating since 1956, it’s one of the oldest restaurants in town. Football fans from the nearby arena bring an added dimension alongside a wide selection of beers, delicious food and regulars from Töölö. Twenty taps, more than 160 different bottles and a cask ale tap await you. You’re welcome.

Il Birrificio. I would go to Birri just for the food even if I had to skip the beer. Though I’ve never skipped a beer here. The food is so tasty – simple menu, great flavours. And they have a real brewery in there too. It was started by experienced baristas and chefs who believed a brewery would be a good fit. Then they bought the equipment, made it work in 25 square meters instead of the recommended 100, and started making beer. Good beer, good food, good coffee. Sunshine not guaranteed. It’s still Finland after all.

Helsinki Beer Guide

Bryggeri. Copper kettles, malt bags, conditioning kegs and other equipment occupy this neat brewery-restaurant located between Senate Square and Market Square. There’s both uncomplicated pub food and a Scandinavian style menu developed to match the season and pair well with the beer. Their brews are good quality, but what I have enjoyed the most are their events like the Estonian craft brew takeover that brought even more rare alternatives onto the taps and into the fridges. Bryggeri also has a small store to buy merchandise and their own bottles with less than 4.8% ABV.

Suomenlinnan Panimo. Our very own fortress island is my go-to location for sunbathing, swimming and picnicking. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and having a local brewery is an added bonus, though I’ve always found their beer to be a bit unimaginative. It’s good and decent quality, but nothing extra special in my opinion (wink wink if you’re reading this Suomenlinnan). Anyway, while the selection is small, the beautiful island, nice restaurant next to the brewery bar and sunny outdoor terrace make this pub worth the twenty minute ferry trip from the Market Square.

Oh, and if you want to take some bottles home with you, Alko Arkadia in the city centre has the best selection.


While this wraps up my Helsinki Beer Guide, the craft beer revolution is here to stay so let’s give a shout out to some other pubs serving new brews without prejudice: Teerenpeli Brewery and BarOljenkorsiMolotovSolmu Brewery and BarTommy KnockerOhrana Brewery PubKuikkaMaltainen RiekkoSt.Urho’s Pub, and Kaisla. If you end up near one of them, don’t hesitate to stop in. Kippis!

Antti Heimo is a blogger for Spotted by Locals Helsinki. Helsinki Beer Guide photos by Antti Heimo

About Spotted by Locals

This post was produced in partnership with Spotted by Locals – a series of apps and blogs with up-to-date tips by locals in 60+ cities across Europe and North America. To get more local tips, visit the Spotted by Locals website or download the app.

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Antti Heimo

Antti is an advertising copywriter from Helsinki who likes artisan beers, music, basketball, football and (graphic/industrial/city/UI) design. And good books. And swimming outside the official beach.

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