Põhjala Brewery is more than a tap room
Text Susanna Poikela Photos by Andrei Chertkov, Katrin Press, Joosep Kivimäe
Shiny silver tanks rising from the ground to the roofline catch the eye in the vastness that is the brewery’s former submarine factory site. The silence is only broken from time to time by a low rumbling sound.
Peeter Keek, Põhjala’s export and marketing director and one of Põhjala’s founders, heads to the center of the brewery hall.
“We started as a gypsy brewery in 2013. The first product was “Balti Porter Öö”. The following year, we moved to our own production premises in Nõmme, Tallinn. By the way, there was excellent water, which was obtained from a well several meters deep,” explained Keek.
“Estonia has a strong craft culture, everything is collected, preserved, and made by ourselves. Beer has also been brewed for centuries and it is not a new skill for Estonians,” adds Keek.
Then he heads to the back of the brewery, where large oak barrels are stacked on top of each other. Põhjala’s “Cellar Series” beers are matured in them. Cognac, Marsala, wine, bourbon or whiskey have been stored in the barrels before. Over the years, the flavours of the different alcohol have been absorbed into the barrels, from which they now give subtle flavours to the beers.
Moving to Noblessner’s old submarine factory
During the first five years, demand for the brewery’s products grew at a steady pace, and by 2018, Põhjala’s premises started to become too small. “The capacity of the Nõmme brewery was only sufficient for the domestic market, but as exports grew, larger facilities and more tank space were needed,” shared Keek. A move to larger production facilities in Noblessner came, that a century ago contained a tsarist submarine factory.
“It was an unexpected surprise that Noblessner became such a popular area so quickly. We immediately opened our own restaurant, Põhjala Tap Room, next to the brewery. We now also have a sauna here that can be rented. Canadian-born Michael Holman has been the master chef of our restaurant since the beginning. Our kitchen staff is really international, and that’s good,” continues Peeter Keek joyfully.
The spacious restaurant hall designed by Tarmo Piirmets makes you feel comfortable. 24 different Põhjala beers are available in the restaurant, one of which is the so-called “guest beer”. This time an Italian pilsner. The most popular are Põhjala beers No. 5 Laager, No. 6 Kosmos and No. 8 Virmalised. Keek says that the current trend in the beer world is simple beers, such as lager. People don’t seem to crave complex flavour mixes right now.
The restaurant serves authentic Texas BBQ
Põhjala Tap Room serves meals at long tables. The restaurant’s specialty is Texas barbecue food, which goes well with the beers made on-site. There are also themed days, such as taco Tuesdays and chicken wing Fridays.
Texas professional Andrew Dilda arrived to teach the secrets of Texas grilling to the head chef of Põhjala Tap Room. This wasn’t enough, the head chef was also flown to Texas for a one-month food trip. Keek recommends trying the Brisket meal, which costs 28 euros. The beef breast is cooked for several hours before serving. The meal is easily enough for two to share.
Brewery tours and sauna rental
Brewery tours are organised weekly, and the sauna can be rented for two hours or longer. The first hour costs 70 euros and thereafter 50 euros per hour. For the eight-person sauna, you should buy your own beers from the brewery store located on the ground floor of the restaurant. Food can be ordered in advance at Põhjala Tap Room.