Lithuania is perhaps not the most famous place for beer. However, the Baltic nation has a unique independent brewing scene that dates back centuries. We found some of the best beer here that we’ve sampled anywhere in the world. During a short visit to the country’s capital city, we explored as many Vilnius pubs as we could on a mission to discover the best of Lithuanian craft beer.
In this article, we compile some of the best bars in Vilnius for beer lovers, along with our recommendations on what to drink. We’ve also put together a suggested self-guided Vilnius beer route, including a map of our favourite pubs.
I’ll throw in a disclaimer: we are by no means beer experts. We’re just a travelling couple who like a good beer, and love to explore local brewing traditions. If that sounds like you too, then consider this your handy guide to discovering Lithuanian beer in Vilnius.
Many of the Vilnius pubs we visited also serve excellent Lithuanian food. For more about that, check out our guide to 7 Vilnius restaurants to try authentic Lithuanian food. For inspiration on how to spend your time in the city, read 17 things to do in Vilnius, the historic capital of Lithuania.
Lithuanian beer: a very brief history
The first records of beer in Lithuania date back almost a millennium. The golden stuff has a special place in the country’s heritage, being an integral component of celebrations and festivities over the centuries.
Lithuanian beer production is unique in that the country’s independent breweries do not simply mimic styles from abroad. Many purveyors of the craft follow farmhouse brewing techniques that are rooted in ancient traditions, utilising local ingredients.
While beer is produced and consumed throughout Lithuania, the traditions are most firmly rooted in the north. The small city of Biržai, close to the Latvian border, is considered by many as the homeland of beer in Lithuania. With around 80 breweries dotted across the country, however, you’ll never be lacking for places to sample craft beer in any Lithuanian town or city.
Lithuania’s beer-making history is coupled with an even older drinking tradition. Mead, a drink made by fermenting honey with water and spices, has been produced for over 6,000 years and is the oldest alcoholic drink on record. In Lithuania, Midus is a national heritage product.
Beer, however, has for many years been – and today remains – Lithuania’s most popular drink. Considering that the country drinks more alcohol per capita than anywhere else in the European Union, you can conclude that Lithuanians drink a lot of beer.
From industrial-level beer producers to the microbreweries that hold up the farmhouse and home-brewing traditions of old, Lithuania is a delight for any beer enthusiast to discover. Now, let’s delve into the pubs we tried out in Vilnius, the capital city.
1. Būsi Trečias
We began our Vilnius beer adventures in Būsi Trečias, a bar in the heart of Vilnius that has a microbrewery in its basement. Set over two floors, Būsi Trečias is popular among locals and gets busy at the weekend. It’s a homely place with large wooden bench-tables and simple decor.
Our visit to Būsi Trečias came at midday on a Saturday after it was recommended to us by our local guide on a free city walking tour. We also took the opportunity to sample some of the traditional Lithuanian dishes on its menu for lunch.
To wash it down we tried one of the house stouts, Būsi Trečias juodas (ABV 5%, €3 for 0.5l). We were immediately impressed with our first sip of Lithuanian beer! This dark ale was smooth and light with excellent flavour.
2. Šnekutis (Šv. Mikalojaus)
Šnekutis is another favourite pub-restaurant among locals in Vilnius, and has three different premises around the city. We made it into two of them, the first on Šv. Mikalojaus. This is the largest of the Šnekutis establishments. As we entered in the late afternoon it was packed with millennial revellers crammed in groups around the large wooden tables.
I have to admit: I do not have a single word of Lithuanian to my linguistic repertoire. “Do you speak English?” I sheepishly asked the bartender. “No – Lithuanians only speak Russian,” came his reply with a grin. I liked the place immediately. He then proceeded to give his personal recommendations on the beers to try.
Sticking with the dark beer theme, we went for Gutstoutas (ABV 5.2%, €2.50 for 0.5l), produced by Dundulis, one of Lithuania’s oldest breweries, based in Panevėžys. This one had a malty flavour with almost a hint of chocolate. We enjoyed it with a side of Lithuania’s national snack, kepta duona (fried bread chips with cheese).
3. Nisha Craft Capital
Some ten minutes’ walk from Šnekutis, we made our way to Nisha Craft Capital. As the name suggests, this cosy little bar on the outskirts of the Old Town is somewhat of a craft beer haven. We loved its little decorative quirks, like the varied hand sculptures on each of the beer taps.
It’s not the easiest bar to spot on the street – we walked past it at first. On the second attempt, we parked ourselves on a couple of stools at the bar and set about perusing the giant chalkboard displaying the huge selection of draft beers.
We tried a couple of varieties produced by Kaunas brewery Bravoras Apynys: Green Monster (ABV 6.3%, €3.50 for 0.5l) and Mango Milkshake (ABV 5.2%, €3.50 for 0.5l).
Green Monster is an American-style IPA with a soft and simple flavour. I preferred the interesting taste of Mango Milkshake, an amber-coloured ale with a fruity scent from which its name derives.
Bambalynė is like a cross between a cellar shop and an underground bar, located just off a side street in the middle of Vilnius Old Town. Just as with Nisha, we found it hard to locate at first. Once we found our way downstairs we were greeted by a friendly barmaid.
She guided us to a section of the cellar under a bricked archway, where a row of fridges was laden with hundreds of Lithuanian bottled beers to choose from. The first we tried was Rinkuškių Tradicinis (ABV 6%, €3.50 for 0.5l), a beer made from hops grown in Germany, with a light and slightly bitter malty taste.
Second, we tried Cow Lady Is Crazy (ABV 4.5%, €3.50 for 0.3l), a vanilla coffee milk stout by Black Light Brewing Co. This was our favourite beer of the evening! Sweet and smooth, it almost seemed like a dessert beer.
5. Šnekutis (Šv. Stepono)
Feeling hungry, our next beer stop would also be our setting for dinner. A smaller branch of Šnekutis on Šv. Stepono seemed like the perfect place. It has a reputation for serving authentic local dishes at very cheap prices, as well as a great selection of beers.
We loved the rough-and-ready, no-fancy-stuff ambiance. In a compact area at the front, friendly staff were busy at the bar (no table service, which we liked). To the rear we found a seating area for food, with plain tablecloths draped over wooden benches.
To accompany our delicious soups and dumplings, we ordered a half-litre each of Jovarų Šnekutis (ABV 6%, €2.80 for 0.5l), a full-bodied, country-style ale. A deep amber colour, it had a satisfying flavour with fruity and bready hints.
After dinner we also took the opportunity to try the famed Midus. The sweet and strong honey drink gave us a chance to digest our heavy meal before moving on to the night’s final destination.
6. Bix Baras
We ended our first session of Vilnius beer exploration at Bix Baras, a popular late-night hangout. It’s a typical rock bar with a couple of pool tables and a basement dance floor. Definitely our kind of place to end the night.
Bix Baras is by no means a specialty place for beer-drinkers, but it does have a small selection of craft ales on tap. We befriended a local at the bar, who suggested we tried Varniukų (ABV 5.6%, €2.70 for 0.5l), a dark beer by Davra, a northern Lithuanian brewery.
The blackest in colour of any of the beers we tried, it had a somehow agreeable pang of burnt wood and roasted malt. Not our favourite really, but not unpleasant, and enough fuel to keep us dancing into the small hours.
7. Baras Baziliskas
Feeling a little delicate, we had a full day off the beer before embarking on our second self-guided tour of Vilnius pubs. This time our mini-crawl was on a Monday, so everywhere was a lot quieter.
Arriving at Vilnius bus terminal after an afternoon trip out to Trakai, we stopped by for a drink at Baras Baziliskas on our way back into the Old Town. We found it on a street corner not far away from Šnekutis Šv. Stepono. It was nice to escape from the bitter cold to the bartender’s warm welcome and the rustic surroundings of wooden-paned walls.
Lisa opted for another taste of Gutstoutas, while I tried out another classic from Dundulis: Humulupu IPA (ABV 5.5%, €2.80 for 0.5l). The first commercially brewed IPA in Lithuania, it was one of my favourites with a dry, bitter and citrusy flavour. Our beers were served with a little bowl of nuts to nibble on, which we thought was a nice touch.
8. Baras Šuo
After a short relaxation break at our guest house, we set off again on our beer mission. This time we headed away from the Old Town to Baras Šuo (‘bar dog’), on a back street just off the western stretch of Gedimino Prospektas.
This was the smallest of any of the pubs we visited, and we instantly loved it. At 7pm on a Monday it was dead, but still somehow full of character. The walls were plastered with beer mats, dog pictures, t-shirts and guitars, and with crates dotted around and metal music blasting out, we felt at home.
The owner wasn’t in that night (he’s somewhat of a local legend, a bearded biker) but the barmaid on duty helped us to choose from the craft beers on offer. We also noticed a tempting selection of bar snacks, such as spiced olives.
Lisa tried another Dundulis beer, this time Simkala (ABV 5.2%, €2.80 for 0.5l). This one had a somewhat floral aroma with a lingering bitter aftertaste. Not bad though! I had Apynių Sodas (ABV 5.3%, €3 for 0.5l), a hop harvest ale with a sharp and hoppy flavour.
9. Alaus Namai
Next, we walked even further away from the Old Town to find Alaus Namai, which literally translates to ‘beer house’. Located by the Neris River, from outside we were convinced that it was closed. It looked empty, even abandoned. But we pushed the large wooden door, and, when it creaked open, followed some stairs down to a huge barrel-filled hall.
We settled in here for a couple of hours, ordering some plates of classic Lithuanian bar snacks. On our first round we ordered two beers by the Pilialaukis brewery: Pekla (ABV 4.2%, €2.50 for 0.5l), a stout, and Ciklonas (ABV 5.5%, €2.50 for 0.5l), a porter.
For our second round we tried something a little more adventurous. I had a Ramūno Čižo Kaimiškas (ABV 4.7%, €2.70 for 0.5l), a countryside ale served in a large clay tankard, low-carbonated with a light, bready taste. Lisa opted for Paliūniškis Medutis (ABV 5.5%, €2.70 for 0.5l), a sweet honey beer.
With few places open late on a weekday, we made our way back towards the Old Town while the night was still relatively young. En route we stopped for a drink at Alynas. This beer bar had a more modern feel, and a wide selection of Lithuanian beers.
Running out of beers to try, we went for Alyno Šventinis Elis (ABV 5%, €1.85 for 0.5l), a new dark beer on tap. This was perhaps the blandest and least flavoursome of any of the beers we tried in the city. I’m sure we’d have had a better experience with one of the many other choices on the beer menu, but we didn’t hang around to try.
Maybe it was the disappointing beer, maybe it was the TV screens showing English football – but we really didn’t click with the ambiance in Alynas. It lacked the charm and character of the other bars we’d visited, feeling more like a chain pub from back home. Supping up, we moved swiftly on.
11. Piano Man
With the hour now past midnight, only a couple more places were open. We headed into Piano Man, and it seemed many others had the same idea – it was a lot livelier than anywhere else seemed to be. Mainly a young crowd, and definitely more tourists than locals.
The bar mainly stocked the typical international beers – Guinness, Heineken and the like – but there were a couple of local options. We ordered Ore (ABV 4.3%, €3.30 for 0.4l) by Lithuanian brewery Kuro Aparatūra. This was a pale wheat beer with flavours of citrus and tropical fruit. We liked it a lot, so ordered a second round!
Then we thought the night was over, but…
12. Gringo Bar
On the way back to our guest house, not more than a few steps round the corner from Piano Man, we walked past Gringo Bar, which happened to be open and fairly busy. Why not stop for one more?
We really liked the feel of this place, with flags draped and maps scrawled over the walls. Feeling at home, we took a seat at the large wooden slab of a bar.
For our last drink of the night, we kept it simple and ordered a Dundulis Humulupu, which we had of course tried and tested in Baras Baziliskas earlier in the day. A great beer to begin and end our session.
13. Etno Dvaras
Before we’d even set foot in a bar in Vilnius, a friend of mine had told me to try a beer by Švyturys. A few hours before our flight home, the day after our second beer session, we realised we hadn’t yet tried it.
The Švyturys brewery originates in Klaipėda, on the Baltic coast in the north of the country. These days it is owned by Carlsberg and is part of Lithuania’s leading beverage company. While independent and smaller breweries are more our thing, we had to give it a try.
For lunch that day we went to Etno Dvaras, mainly due to its close proximity to our guest house. From outside it has a tourist-trap look to it, heightened by its location on the popular Piles in Vilnius Old Town. But inside we found great Lithuanian food on offer, and even better – Švyturys beers!
We ordered two variants: Baltijos (ABV 5.8%, €2.75 for 0.5l), a dark red beer, and Ekstra (ABV 5.2%, €2.75 for 0.5l), a classic golden beer. Baltijos is the brewery’s oldest brand and has won awards – of the two we preferred this, with its malty, hoppy aroma. A fitting finish to our Vilnius beer adventure.
Map of Vilnius pubs: plan your Lithuanian beer route
We’ve picked out our favourite eight Vilnius pubs for craft beer and formulated them into a self-guided craft beer tour. Our suggest route begins at Šnekutis on Šv. Stepono, where you can enjoy a traditional Lithuanian meal, and ends by the river at Alaus Namai, open until 3am at weekends.
See the map below for our suggested pub route:
- Pub 1: Šnekutis (Šv. Stepono)
- Pub 2: Baras Baziliskas
- Pub 3: Šnekutis (Šv. Mikalojaus)
- Pub 4: Bambalynė
- Pub 5: Nisha Craft Capital
- Pub 6: Būsi Trečias
- Pub 7: Baras Šuo
- Pub 8: Alaus Namai
Have you been to Vilnius and tried any pubs we didn’t make it to? Let us know about your experiences in the comments below.
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