My first visit to Tallinn in May 2019 turned out to be an unexpected and fantastic beer experience. The beer scene is pretty big there and the quality of beers and bars is excellent. During my 4 day trip I visited one craft beer festival, two bottle shops, three breweries and six craft beer bars, all which I have listed below. There are many more bars and breweries to discover, so this is definitely a city worth visiting multiple times! I recommend exploring the sights, too, as the city is gorgeous and authentic, which definitely adds something valuable to the craft beer experience. The food is also fantastic and the people are very friendly. Tallinn is not an expensive city, so you can enjoy it to the max!
Brewing in Estonia dates back many centuries and though (like in many countries) they had a bit of a beer ‘drought’, beer is making its comeback in a big way. Estonia has around 84 active breweries according to RateBeer, of which many are independent, and a population of 1.3 million. That’s a pretty healthy brewery per capita ratio! What makes it even more special and fun for us beer lovers is that they are not shying away from using their local ingedrients like rye, birch and juniper, to create interesting and tasty brews. The breweries are spread out over Estonia, with a few in the capital city of Tallinn. Below are three breweries in Tallinn that I visited during my trip, but there are many more. If you get the chance to venture out beyond the city, you might also like to stop by Lehe Pruulikoda, Tanker Brewery, Pühaste or PURTSE just to name a few.
Humulakoda is lovely greenhouse style brewpub next door to the popular Balti Jaama Turg (Baltic Station Market) just outside the Old Town. The back wall of the bar is actually a window into the small 40K liter brewery, which opened in 2017. The name of the brewery Humalakoda is a pun on the word jumalakoda which means ‘house of the lord’, combined with the Estionian word for hops, humal. During the tour we tried a few beers from the tank, always fun! The beers are tasty, the food is good and the staff is very friendly.
Kopli 1, Tallinn
Pohjala was started in 2011 and officially launched their first beer in 2013: Öö Imperial Baltic Porter. Chris Pilkington, their head brewer who formerly worked at BrewDog, also joined in that same year. In 2014 they opened their own brewery and in 2018 they moved to the current location, a huge and beautiful building in the Kalamaja neighborhood in Tallinn. They are doing extremely well and have expanded the brewery capacity to 50.000 hl if I remember correctly. About 70% of the beers are produced for export to 32 countries. As they are not near a natural water source, they use tapwater that they deplete of all minerals to be able to use for brewing. The two big black silos outside (see photo) is where they store their base malts. The bottle line can fill 6.000 bottles per hour. The brewery does not sell their beers in cans (yet). When I asked them about this, they said they felt it doesn’t fit their style. Never say never though!
The taproom has 24 taps, including 5 guest beers. The restaurant is a big open space with a view of the brewery through a glass window. A flight of 5 tasters costs 10 Euros. They even have a sauna room you can reserve, that is pretty crazy! The food menu looks very tasty (though unfortunately no vegan options). I heard from a reliable inside source that they are planning to open up a private dining room, too. So keep your eyes peeled for more brewery news soon!
Peetri 5, Tallinn
The exterior may not look like much, but the brewery tour was my favorite of them all! One of the two Finnish founders – Heikki Uotila – gave us a great tour, while telling his fascinating personal story. He was quite chatty for a Fin! The brewery name literally means ‘sorry’ and they are quite open about the fact that they left Finland, because of the extremely restrictive and expensive environment (I’ll refrain from paraphrasing haha).
The brewery is on the 3rd floor (!) in a former Soviet military building that was used to make galvanized steel. The production of steel requires a lot of water, hence the choice for this location: there is a 180m deep well about 50m from the building. They might actually move to the ground floor eventually if it works out. Sori has been active for about 4 years and has set up this 230.000 liter brewery partly through crowdfunding. He also touched upon the current trend and pressure of constantly having to come up with new beers. He feels the flagship beers don’t work anymore. They release two new beers every month, without testing it in pilot batches, impressive! Equally impressive is their barrel aging room consisting of 200 barrels, which I felt he may have been most excited about. Can’t wait to taste the beers that come out of there! During the tour I asked him my favorite blogger question – what was your biggest fuck-up? Of course I’m not printing it here, but if you’re curious, just ask me!
There is a small taproom (without taps) where you can buy (and drink) their beers, plus a corner with fun merchandise (check out my awesome new t-shirt in the photo!). About a 20 minute bus ride from downtown, but well worth a visit. Be sure to take the tour!
Suur-Sõjamäe 14, Tallinn
Craft beer bars and bottle shops
According to the Tallinn Craft Beer Map there are 16 must-visit craft beer venues in the city (for some mysterious reason Sori is not on there). Enough to keep you busy during a city trip! I managed to visit 11 of them. The others that I am keeping for next time are: Taptap (where I heard a friend of mine got a crowler of Cantillon, whoop whoop), Drink, Tuba, Pööbel, St. Vitus and Põrgu. All of them are interesting and fun in their own way, so I cannot recommend a favorite. I suggest you base your choice on your location, the vibe you are looking for and/or if you want a bite to eat. If there is one great Estonian word you need to learn before you leave it’s Terviseks!! (Cheers!)
The entrance of little Tavern of 100 beers is really hard to find, but totally worth it! Down in the cellar of what looks to be part of the medieval walls of Tallinn you’ll find a fun bar with 17 beers on tap and lots of bottles to choose from. The owner is extremely welcoming (as the photo shows). Make yourself at home and enjoy the beers! (I couldn’t find the entrance on the street listed as their address, so I went round the corner instead to Rüütli. You’ll see a sign for it there.)
Harju 6, Tallinn
2. BrewDog Bar
A little smaller compared to other BrewDog bars, what used to be a storage for flour is now a small and cozy pub in the basement in the Rotermanni quarter on a fun little street near the ferry terminal. There are 14 rotating taps (two of them nitro taps). Taptap is right next door and there is an excellent Asian fusion restaurant on the corner. However, you don’t need to leave the bar to eat. You can order hot dogs from Taptap & flammkuchen from Flammkuchen Bar, also conveniently next door.
Rotermanni tn 2, Tallinn
3. Hell Hunt
Hell Hunt is a cool bar in the Old Town that serves local food and beer (including their own brews). They claim to be the first Estonian pub, though I was not able to fact check that. The name sounds like an underground punk scene, but actually means ‘a gentle wolf’ in the Estonian language. It’s a pretty big place, with a terrace out back, and seems to get quite crowded on weekends. Some of the tables are the long biergarten style ones that you share with other guests. If you’re on your own (like I was a the time), make sure you sit down at one of those, you’re guaranteed a chat!
Pikk 39, Tallinn
This small tavern in the Old Town looks like it has been around for a while. Vintage furniture, a random collection of 15 bar taps (they’re set up all over the place, probably it originally wasn’t a beer bar) and a fireplace, this is the perfect place to stop for a local craft beer after a long walk or on a cold day. Nice selection of beers and a small bottle shop next door.
Lai 8, Tallinn
Next door to Koht is the relatively new bar Rebane, which opened in October 2018. It’s not on Google maps and I wandered in by chance, so glad I did! The bartender was really friendly and we had a lovely chat. The interior I would describe as minimalistic yet homey. Turns out this bar is owned by Lehe Brewery (and I got the sweatshirt on the wall, love it!).
Lai 10, Tallinn
I came here late at night with some friends after a beer festival, so admittedly this bar is a bit of a blur, but I remember a great ambiance and colorful lighting! It’s one of the few places I have been to that has a really nice beer selection on tap combined with music & dancing in the evening. And dance we did! It was the best fun I had in ages!
Telliskivi 60a-5, Tallinn
Around the corner from DEPOO, a little area with restaurants housed in containers and other industrial venues (another fun place to visit!), you’ll find beer store Sip Shop. Lots of Estonian beers to choose from and a few beers on tap. I love that you can drink and shop at the same time! The Netherlands seems to be the only country where this is not allowed :-(. First time I’ve seen a Mikkeller Spontan beer on tap!
Telliskivi 62, Tallinn
Just down the street from the Tallinn beer festival venue I found this fantastic beer store and taproom (20 taps). This is where the crowd comes to hang out before the festival opens (though why you would start drinking before going to an all-you-can-drink beer fest beats me, kudos to ya haha!).
Võrgu 3, Tallinn
Tallinn puts on a fantastic annual two-day craft beer festival! I managed to get a ticket for both days of the 5th edition last May (first time in my experience that a festival sold out in an hour!). It is organized by Põhjala Brewery and hosted in a former power plant now turned into a creative factory (Kultuurikatel), though it looks more like an old abandoned space ship or something from an Alien movie. Approximately 50 breweries attended. As always, a few sold out very quickly, so if you’re like me and you don’t like standing in line, you’re bound to miss a few great ones. But there are so many other great (local) beers to taste that I wasn’t too bothered about it. It’s quite a lovely chaos; be ready to rub elbows a few times, which is certainly a good way to start a conversation. The venue is within walking distance of the center and the food trucks were really good!
Don’t forget to tour the city, it’s gorgeous! Getting around the city is really easy. Most everything in the center and the Old Town is within walking distance. For a mere 6 Euros I purchased a 5-day public transport card, to take the tram from the airport to town and a few buses here or there during my stay. Eating out is not expensive and there are plenty of very good restaurants, even for vegans. A return-trip to Helsinki on one of the luxurious ferries is only 36 Euros. It’s 2 hours one way and well worth your while!
The weather seems to be a bit fickle though, so probably a good idea to check the forecast when packing. When I was there in May it was 5C and it snowed!
A few excellent things to do I can recommend are:
- Town Hall Square
- City Museum
- Orthodox Cathedral of Alexander Nevsky
- Walking along the medieval city walls
- Visiting the Old Town
- Freedom Square
- Baltic Station Market
- Day-trip to Helsinki
All images by Tina Rogers unless otherwise specified.