by James Beeson
It’s all been a bit frantic in the UK recently, with everything from craft brewery buyouts to talk of general elections and the England team’s campaign in Russia. Hence, it was a welcome break to head (metaphorically speaking) back to Estonia and road test a few beers from Pühaste Brewery.
Based out in the East in Tartu – the second largest city in the Baltic country – the brewery has been quietly building its reputation as one of Estonia’s most exciting new craft prospects. Head brewer Eero Mander started to brew in 2011 in a summer cottage in the village of Pühaste, fifty kilometers from the city of Tartu.
After producing for some time as a cuckoo or ‘gypsy’ brewery, Pühaste finally opened its own brewery in September 2016, and its beers are now exported to Finland, Russia, France, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, Latvia, Norway, Spain and the UK.
First on the table from Pühaste this particular sunny evening is the brewery’s 3.5% Lime Gose. Brewed with lime peel and added Himalayan salt, the beer pours a mid-to-dark orange with a slight haze and a very thin white head. It’s as true to type as you’re likely to find from a fruited gose; light, zingy and refreshing with a clean, tart finish. In this heat, it’s easier to knock back than a frozen margarita.
Next up on the agenda is Vulin, a 4.6% session IPA brewed with American hops. Billed as an “easy drinking” beer with “fresh citrus flavours”, I wasn’t overly optimistic, but find myself more than pleasantly surprised. Bold citrus and floral aromas precede a substantial grapefruit and tangerine hit, leaving me with a severe case of oneslurpmoreitis.
Beer number three of proceedings is Mosaiik, a 6.9% Vienna IPA brewed with Vic Secret and, yep, you guessed it, Mosaic hops. Much more lively than its preceding counterparts, Mosaiik pours a dark copper with a big, frothy off-white head. Huge punchy tropical aromas burst out of the glass, followed by an explosion of resinious, piney flavours. It’s noticeably more boozy than the Vulin and the Lime Gose, with a sweet, caramel malt base and a rasping bitterness that scrapes along the tongue into the finish.
Rounding off my selection, and the evening, is Dekadents, a monstrous 11.2% imperial stout aged on raisins and rum-soaked vanilla beans. As expected for a beer of its strength, this is a weighty beast that pours a thick, jet black with a brown, chocolate topped head. Texture wise the beer is incredibly silky on the tongue to the point of being oily, while there is a moderate roasted malt character, and a hint of vanilla that comes through as the beer warms in the glass. Ripe fruits and muscavado give way to a cloying boozy finish, heavy with a healthy dose of rum, treacle and chocolate.
Across the four beers I sampled from Pühaste there is enough to suggest this is a brewery well worth keeping an eye out for. The full range also includes a 3% Berliner Weisse and 9.3% Baltic Porter, which are currently sat in my fridge for another day in the not too-distant future.
James Beeson is the British Guild of Beer Writers’ Best Young Beer Writer 2017. You can read more of his work on his website Beeson On Beer, in The Morning Advertiser, or by following him on Twitter @jdbeeson16. Shop the full range of Pühaste beers here, or check out HonestBrew’s range of Estonian craft beers online.