Latvia is a land, where beer has been highly esteemed for centuries, and where a continual search goes on for new flavours, unique to this region, which explains why so many craft breweries are sprouting up in Latvia.
Look forward to Latvia’s centenary, Valmiermuiža Brewery and its friends have decided to renew Riga’s historical renown as a Northern European brewing citadel. All craft beer lovers are welcome to visit Riga Beer District – a place, where three large and famous breweries were in operation a century ago, and where, today, nine pubs offer craft beers brewed in Latvia and elsewhere, each of which has its own character, and some of which come complete with their own brewery. Riga Beer District is a place, which every self-respecting beer lover should visit at least once.
In a unique location, in the very heart of the city, between three historical breweries: the former premises of the Bier und Porterbrauerei und Malzfabrik C. Stritzky production plant on A.Briāna Street, the giant buildings of the C. L. Kymmel brewery on the corner of Bruņinieku Street and Valdemāra Street, and the buildings of the Bierbrauerei Gust. Kuntzendorff brewery, nine pubs have sprung up, which all sell craft beer brewed in Latvia and the Baltic region. The first to open its doors in this neighbourhood, was Valmiermuiža Brewery’s Beer Embassy in Riga. It was subsequently joined by other brewers and traders: Labietis Brewery, the small-scale Ziemeļu Enkurs Brewery, the bars Taka and Walters & Grapa, which sell products made small by breweries, a hang-out for progressive youth Vest, the alternative party venue Autentika, as well as Zobens un Lemess, a bar for heavy metal fans. A stone’s throw away, one will find the Alķīmiķis pub and brewery. Nine pubs with varying characters, contrasting locals, who all share a love of quality beer brewed by true masters, as well as a locale unique not only in Riga and Latvia, but in the whole of Northern Europe – the Beer District.
A VENERABLE HISTORY
In the 19th century, Riga was a capital of brewing, a place where sweet miestiņš beer flowed in streams and breweries worked non-stop to provide Rigans and neighbouring communities with the most delicious beer to drink from day to day, and with which to grace festive tables. The three biggest breweries were located close to one another – it was reputed far and wide that the most appetising water could be found in this part of the city.
The first was opened in 1796 by Baltic-German trader Gustav Kunzendorff, who opened a brewery named Bierbrauerei Gust.Kunzendorff on erstwhile Matveja Street. At the start of the 20th century its operations were so extensive that the company’s warehouses could not only be found in Riga and Liepaja, but as far afield as Kiev, Peterhof, Revel (Tallinn), Yuryev (Tartu) and Arensburg (Kuressaar). Unlike the majority of breweries, wars could not disrupt the operations of the Kunzendorff Brewery, which continued until the Soviet occupation in 1940.
In 1850, a brewery that had been owned for decades by the family of Peter Rudolf Kimmel, a trader in Russia’s third guild, relocated to a new beer and malt production facility on Bruņinieku Street, where it bore the name of Bierbrauierei und malz fabrik C.L.Kymmel, and operated right up to the First World War.
Last, but not least, in 1854 a brewery was opened on A.Briāna Street, which was subsequently bought in 1868 by Baltic-German trader and entrepreneur Karl Kristoph von Stritzky, in order to produce not only beer, but also porter and other malt beverages under the name of Bier und Porterbrauerei und Malzfabrik C.Stritzky. As late as 1913, the Stritzky Brewery was the biggest and most profitable of all Riga’s breweries, with the exception of the Iļģuciems Brewery operating in Pārdaugava. Unfortunately, the golden days of Stritzky Brewery ended with the advent of the First World War.