Riga is experiencing a craft beer boom, with a number of interesting and innovative local breweries – as well as specialist bars and pubs showcasing the finest Latvian brews – popping up throughout the city. In the past few years, the stunning capital has shaken off its reputation as a cheap bachelor/stag party favorite and emerged as an exciting new destination for fans of craft beer.
A history of beer in Latvia
In the 19th century, there were many working breweries in what is now known as Latvia, including the Aldaris Brewery, which was founded in 1865. In 1940, Aldaris brewed 8 million liters of beer; however, over the following years an uncertain political climate disrupted this output.
Upon the restoration of Latvian independence in the early 90s, Carlsberg acquired Aldaris. Smaller Latvian breweries also started to produce high-quality lagers, ales and pilsners around this time, paving the way for the current craft beer renaissance.
“For the last 30 years, Riga has been a German-style lager city. But the Aldaris Porteris is one of the few Baltic porters that has been continuously in production for over 100 years,” says Reinis Pļaviņš of Labietis craft brewery. “Craft beer styles are coming more into fashion, as are dedicated beer bars with a large variety of beers.”
Where to find the best beers in Riga
If you haven’t considered a visit to Riga, then why not? This beautiful Baltic city boasts awe-inspiring architecture, friendly locals and excellent nightlife. But drinking in Latvia isn’t just about getting drunk and partying hard. The Latvians drink to spend time with friends and family and really enjoy socializing over a glass of delicious ale. Sound appealing? Here’s where you can find the perfect pint in Riga:
A microbrewery and bar located in the creative district of Riga, around 20 minutes’ walk from the Radisson Blu Elizabete Hotel, Labietis is beer heaven. With a focus on using local ingredients to create distinctive and unique-tasting beers, Labietis has 8 to 12 rotating beers on tap. One of the knowledgeable bar staff (who also brew the beer) will be able to help you choose a drink to suit your tastes. Reinis recommends their bestseller, Mežs: “a stronger version of an Irish Red Ale brewed with juniper berries and dry hopped with Czech hops.” Labietis also have an outpost at Latvia’s Central Market, so you can relax with a chilled beer after browsing the local wares.
Folkklubs AKA Pagrabs
This traditional tavern has 28 beers on tap, including many Latvian lagers as well as interesting beverages like cranberry and ginger beers. This underground bar also serves deliciously hearty local fare (get the Beer Platter, piled high with bread, cheese and meats) and has live music most nights, making it a must-visit venue on your trip to Riga.
Run by an American beer fanatic, this bottleshop and bar stocks hundreds of varieties of craft beer from all over the world, as well as local beers from Latvian craft brewery Malduguns. You can pick something from the shop and imbibe it in the taproom next door, or choose from one of the guest taps. Try one of the special editions on offer, or ask the owner for a recommendation – you are bound to find a new favorite.
Located on Riga’s trendiest thoroughfare, Miera Iela (Peace Street), Taka is a cozy bar with a homely vibe. Dimly lit with lots of art on the walls, this place is an unexpected beer haven packed full of interesting craft ales. Enjoy a glass of their locally brewed beer or homemade apple wine as you sit back and enjoy good music in an intimate atmosphere.
Aldaris Beer Museum
Although now owned by Carlsberg, Aldaris still produces quality Latvian beer, and it’s well worth visiting their Beer Museum on the outskirts of Riga. Sitting alongside one of the working Aldaris breweries, this modern museum documents the history of Latvian beer and uses interactive exhibits to showcase the beer-making process. After visiting the museum, you can try some of the Aldaris beers in the tasting room, and in warmer weather, enjoy a beverage on one of the outside terraces.