Kalnapilis is a Lithuanian brewery, established by Albert Foight in Panevėžys in 1902. A landowner of German origin, Foight named the brewery Bergschlösschen, meaning a small castle on the hill. In 1918, the name was changed to a Lithuanian equivalent of Bergschlösschen, Kalnapilis.
The brewer at Kalnapilis Brewery, Asta Briedienė, talks about how beer is produced today in a modern brewery using innovative solutions while preserving traditions.
A wide palette of flavours from a few ingredients Since 1902, the Kalnapilis Brewery, which has been in continuous operation since then, has brewed around 100 million litres of around 40 different types of beer every year.
According to Briediene, it all starts with recipe development and the search for unique flavours.
“The most important ingredients in beer, which largely determine its flavour characteristics, are malt and hops. Malt is sprouted grain. You could say that it is a kind of base for beer, because it is the malt that gives the drink its texture, colour and to a large extent its flavour. Thus, mixing different types of grain and roasting the malt produces different flavours and colours in the beer. For example, the more roasted the malt, the darker the beer,”says Briedienė.
Hops also play an important role. According to Briediene, hops, together with yeast, help to shape the character of the beer.
Hops are usually imported from countries such as Germany or the Czech Republic, and sometimes even from very distant places such as New Zealand.
“Hops have a similar effect on beer as spices do on food – they are an important ingredient in the different styles of beer. Hops need to be added at the beginning of the boil to add bitterness, whereas hops for aroma are added at the end of the boil. It is the experimentation with different types of basic ingredients and their combinations that allows us to create different beer recipes,”says Briedienė.
The brewing process requires the most attention In order for the flavour of the beer to be fully revealed and preserved in the final product, the brewer says that it is essential to follow the entire brewing process closely.
“The whole production process can be divided into several main parts. The first and most involved is the brewing. First, the malt is ground and mixed with water to produce the mash, which is then filtered to produce the sweet wort. The wort is then boiled in the kettle with hops, which give the beer its bitterness and aroma. The wort is then cooled to fermentation temperature and fermented. In the much longer maturation phase, the yeast does the main work, converting the sugars in the wort into alcohol. They also come in many different varieties and have a major influence on the characteristics of the final product. Temperature is a key factor in the yeast’s activity and must be carefully controlled,” explains Briedienė.
In addition to supervising the production process, another very important part of the brewing profession is checking the product being prepared. According to the brewer, this is a very interesting process that surprises and inspires new recipes every time.
“First of all, I assess the head, its colour, and whether the beer is clear or cloudy. Then you have to smell the beer – it really has an incredible variety of aromas that gradually reveal themselves. Then I taste the newly brewed beer. This requires a developed taste, intuition and a lot of experience,” says Briedienė about her daily routine.
Yeast is also an important ingredient in non-alcoholic beer production.
The Kalnapilis brewery uses special yeast to produce non-alcoholic beer, which works in the same way as conventional yeast but produces virtually no alcohol. According to Ms. Briedienė, these yeasts make it possible to produce non-alcoholic beer with a mild and light taste, with a subtle hop bitterness.
“Lithuanians have become very fond of non-alcoholic beer in recent years, which is why we pay so much attention to it. I am happy that consumers appreciate it, and in the category of light non-alcoholic beer, Kalnapilis is the first choice of Lithuanians. This inspires us to continue working to raise the bar for the quality and taste of non-alcoholic beer,” says Briedienė.
In 2020, the international market research company Nielsen estimated the sales of Kalnapilis non-alcoholic beer for the previous year. The company’s data shows that Kalnapils non-alcoholic light beer was the first and main choice of consumers in its segment. In the light non-alcoholic beer segment, it accounted for almost a quarter of the market (24.2%).
According to the brewer, the whole journey from brewing to filtration is very interesting and at the same time very demanding – even the slightest mistake at any stage can negatively affect the characteristics of the product and spoil the batch.
“The whole brewing process requires a lot of attention and care. If they say that food cooked with love tastes the best, the same can be said for beer. Except that, unlike lunch or dinner, brewing beer takes a lot more time. Although most of the process is automated today, it takes a lot of heart and a lot of time to create a really good product,” says Briediene, who has worked in the beer industry for 14 years and studied brewing at the Nordic Brewing School for more than a decade.