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Placed on: 2008-01-18 12:40   Updated on: 2009-08-19 13:05   Comments: 0   Views from 2009-08-25: 0

Lithuanian Beer
2008-01-18 12:38

 Among the multitude of things that make any Lithuanian swell with pride (rich history, amber, beautiful nature, basketball, etc.), there is one that has a special place in his heart. This source of pride is the Lithuanian Beer. Today, Lithuanians are among the best beer producers in the world, enjoying numerous international awards for the subtle taste and high quality of this drink. But is beer a truly “Lithuanian” drink and how deep are the traditions of brewing beer in Lithuania?

Despite the fact that beer was found in Egypt as early as100 B.C, local people in ancient Lithuania did not know this drink, as it became popular here only in 14th century, after Lithuanians had converted to Christianity. However, before getting to know beer, Lithuanians had been making mead. This beverage is one of the oldest drinks in the Lithuanian history. It was created by farmers, who were picking wild honey in the woods. They noticed that water mixed with honey starts fermenting, if kept for a longer period of time. So they started to make mead, boiling honey mixed with water and special herbs. One of the best receipts for this drink is to boil honey with cherry juice: local people believed that such kind of drink is better than any wine. Mead was widely used in Lithuania, according to numerous famous travelers who have mentioned this drink in historical chronicles.

As soon as beer started to be used, it became very popular, especially in the Northern and Eastern parts of Lithuania. Unlike these days, it wasn’t a casual drink - people would make it only for holidays. Beer was mainly made from wheat and  corns, or beetroots with brewers malt. Every family had its own beer-making traditions, some of which, however, were known to everybody. Thus, beer had to be made by the oldest member of the family, and there was a tradition to serve it first to the family’s favourite neighbour. In the16th century, people began to make business by selling home-made beer at town markets. However, this work wasn’t that easy, as the King strictly controlled it. It was only him who could decide who could take up this business and who could not. As beer was an outlandish drink, local beer brewers had little experience at the beginning. To solve this problem, the King invited many German brewers to Lithuania, encouraging them to share their experience in making high-quality beer. Soon Lithuanians gained valuable knowledge in brewing beer to become ones of the best beer makers in the world, as they are today. Most breweries at that time were church-owned, but due to economic reasons they were soon privatized by rich landlords.
In the 20th century, during the Soviet occupation Lithuanian beer was  replaced by Russian, so its quality deteriorated seriously. However there were some positive things that Russians did: for example specialized beer bars were opened in 70s, according to the Soviet Union government’s order. Beer-drinking traditions saw some changes as well. Beer became a more casual drink and young people started to use it more often, especially artists, who liked to gather together in bars, sitting there all day long and sharing their thoughts. What is more, beer price lowered, so it was widely used by alcoholics and asocial people.
Today, Lithuanians are ones of the biggest beer producers and consumers in Europe. Beer has become a truly national drink - according to the statistics, an average Lithuanian drinks 50 liters of beer per year.


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