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Arriving in Helsinki as our first stop on this epic adventure was ridiculously exciting. We often casually remarked to each other “What the F’ are we doing?” and we are still not sure if it’s actually settled in.
Anyway, of course we cracked on as there was a list of bars and breweries we wanted to visit, as well as some classic Scandinavian sites to explore.
Our first stop was Kaisla Oluthuone a deceptively massive bar, specialising in beer near the main railway station with two entrances and a bar at each one. Over 200 beers (mostly bottles but over 12 taps) greeted us – all listed on their vast chalkboards. Keen to try as many Finnish beers as possible, the obvious choice was their Finnish “Tasting Log”.
The décor in Kaisla left a little to be desired – it was a cross between a Berlin beer hall and a living room in 1980’s Britain, complete with household board games, but this just goes to show that great beer can be enjoyed in any setting. What was great to see was how busy the place was for a Monday night with both tourists & locals.
We dropped into The Black Door on our way further in to explore the town centre, and whilst quiet, the beer selection was good. A sample of Teapot by Radbrew was a delicious take on an English style pale ale.
(NB there is a separate story here about how we ended up in a Karaoke bar on the first night until 3am but perhaps that’s for another post?!)
Tuesday brought a visit to Teerenpeli for a quick beer (see aforementioned karaoke bar comment as to why it was only one.) They had an excellent range of own brewed classic beer styles and ciders, as well as a micro distillery specialising in whisky, with the odd seasonal/special thrown in.
Mike went for the rhubarb ale while Luci tried one of their 4 ciders on tap. In the Nordics, cider, unlike in many other countries is very popular, due to the variety and availability of apples (one for the fact fans).
Wednesday started with an early boat trip out to Suomenlinna – the sea fortress based on the Finnish archipelago, held at different points in time by the Swedes, Russians and the finally the Finns. It was a surprise, but a great one to find a Brewery here (or “Panimo” in Finnish), allowing us to sit in the sunshine, enjoying the culture whilst sipping on a delicious pint. Established around 20 years ago, Suomenlinna brewery follows a tradition of over 250 years of brewing on the islands and, like the rest of the fortress, is steeped in history. It was great to see one of their ciders, Tin Solider, available on the mainland at our next stop, Bryggeri Helsinki, another huge brewpub with a great selection of own brewed beers.
Notably these seemed to be the cheapest craft beers we found in Helsinki. Ah yes, cost, make no mistake, Helsinki in general is an expensive place to visit, made worse by the current exchange rate from GBP. So safe to say we wouldn’t recommend it as a cheapo stag do destination!
Mathias, head brewer at Bryggeri passed on a tip for our final destination in Helsinki – Stadin Panimo. Very much off the beaten track (though you can easily hop on the tram – we may have gotten a little lost) it was in a setting reminiscent of a few spots on the Bermondsey beer mile back in London. Aside from an excellent bottle selection from all over Scandinavia and the rest of the world, their own brewed beers were on tap – the tropical stout was magic but sadly, the American IPL had run out before there was a chance to taste it. Interestingly Stadin also produce their own Gins and Schnapps – the dry gin was sampled with glee; some really pungent lemon and peppery fragrances coming through.
All in all, watching the sun set over a deserted industrial park and enjoying some great locally brewed beers was an excellent way to end our very brief but very enjoyable stint in Helsinki. We are sure we will be back, but for now, onwards to Stockholm!