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Põhjala Brewery Leads Quiet Revolution in Estonian Beer

The Estonians are Coming, and They're Bringing Beer (Issue 24)

 

The Estonians Are Coming

Even if you can’t come to Estonia to get a taste of Põhjala’s unique take on Nordic flavour, the chances are, they’ll be coming to you soon.

Two years since their brewery doors burst open, Põhjala are now the largest and most commercially successful craft Brewer in Estonia. In Ratebeer’s 2015 Awards, Põhjala scored not only the award for best brewery in Estonia, but also saw two of their brews in the top 15 in the world by style - Must Kuld (Black Gold) coming in at 14 in the Porter category, and their first ever commercial brew, Baltic Porter Öö (Night) hitting the 12th spot. Endearingly, the team had not even scanned the ‘Best in the World’ listings until a friend called with the news. Having only 18 months of commercial production under their belts, they were pleased at the ‘Best in Estonia’ moniker - but the crew are certainly not lacking ambition on a global scale.


With tentative partnerships in place for export to the US, Põhjala look likely to be the first Estonian brewery to make it big across the pond.


In fact, Põhjala’s whole strategy is to compete on the world stage – producing best-in-class beers, and developing a worldwide reach. "We are ambitious guys, from a business background. The hunger for growth is in the DNA of the business," Enn explains.

With close to twenty export markets open already, Põhjala’s main challenge is in meeting the demand of their fan base at home and abroad. “It might sound flattering," Enn says, “but we really don't want to piss off our customers." Already, export demand has swelled so that between 50 and 70 percent of current production capacity is shipped overseas, resulting in Estonian fans taking extreme measures – like skipping over the Baltic to neighbouring Finland – to track down their favourite limited-run brews when local supplies dry up.

As specially invited guests to Cigar City’s Hunahpu’s Day in March 2016, and with tentative partnerships in place for export to the US, Põhjala look likely to be the first Estonian brewery to make it big across the pond, meaning the increased capacity of the planned new brewery is crucial. Hopping over to Helsinki to buy a beer is something a dedicated Estonian fan will tolerate, but having to track down their favorite brew in a US liquor store is going to make even the most laid-back Estonian pretty cranky. So, if you find Põhjala pouring near you, snap it up, and join the Estonian ‘beer guys’ in a toast. Terviseks!



(All photos courtesy Põhjala)

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