Saturday 13th July 2013
Please permit me a small digression first. On my way from the hotel to the Black Door I walked close to Helsinki station and observed a phenomenon on steel wheels. It was the Pub Tram, a Helsinki institution. It is literally a pub on wheels, with 24 seats, along with 6 standing places, a small bar and an attendant waiter / waitress. Most importantly, of course, there is a WC.
It is called Spårakoff, which is a combination word formed of Spåra, a slang word in Helsinki for a tram; and koff which is the nickname of the Sinebrychoff brewery, a national brewery whose beers are to be found on board.
It has been running since 1995 when it was converted from a normal tram built in 1959. Inside it has varnished wooden tables with circular holes, like you used to get on ships. This simple expedient will save your beer from spilling if there is a sudden brake application.
It runs hourly in the summer and operates a circular route past all the main sights. I didn't ride it this time, yet I have in the past and would recommend it.
I just thought you might like to know about it, should you visit Helsinki. On to the main subject of this piece: The Black Door is an English-style pub located in an area that has a lot of bars. On the pedestrian street outside there is a pleasant fenced terrace. Inside it could pass for an English pub. It has been there for some time and it has weathered well over the years.
Once through the door you'll find the main room with the bar on the right side. There is another smaller room at the back that contains a dart board, in addition to the seating. I did notice one thing that I'm sure wasn't there when I visited previously and that is a further room found on the right, situated behind the bar. As there was a private function going on in there I could only view it from the outside. It seems they have acquired the adjacent property to extend the pub.
I took a look at the beer menu on the wall and I could see that I was spoiled for choice. There were a few of the usual international suspects such as Bitburger, Fullers ESB, Thornbridge Jaipur and Kipling, Pillsner Urquell, Weihenstephaner Weisse and Chimay Red.
Amongst the other offerings I noticed Porterhouse Plain Porter (4.4%) from Dublin; Belhaven Twisted Thistle IPA (5.3%) from Scotland; Anchor Liberty Ale (5.9%) from San Francisco, USA; Summer Wine Oregon West Coast Pale Ale (5.5%) from Holmfirth, West Yorkshire and Brew Fist Green Petrol Black IPA (8.2%) from Codogo in Central Italy.
However, it was the indigenous Finnish beers that I was here for. These were: Mallaskoski Kuohu Valioluokka Pils (4.7%) from the medium-sized regional brewery of Mallaskosken Panimo in Seinäjoki. It was founded in 1921 and is located on the western side of the country about half way up.
Next was Keisari Münchener IV (5.7%) which was from the Nokian Panimo of Nokia, the same town that spawned the mobile phone. It's near Tampere, Finland's second city. I had this reddish-coloured beer and thought it all right.
The list continued with two beers from Stadin Panimo; Kohatu Pale Ale (5.3%) and Stadin Pils (5.3%). Stadin is a suburb of Helsinki. Then there was Malmgård H.O.D.A. (3.9%), which is brewed especially for the Black Door. This comes from an interesting brewery that is located on the estate of a stately home. The barley for malting comes from the grounds. It is to be found in the south of the country not far from the port of Loviisa, which I visited two days later. I also had this beer and thought it was lovely bitter session ale.
The final Finnish offering was Pikkupomo Ale (6.0%) from Ruosmiemi Panimo, which is located in an old farmhouse near to the western port of Pori, coincidentally another town I was to visit a few days later.
Last but not least, there were two cask offerings: Tripple fff Moondance (4.2%) from Alton, Hampshire, England and Weston's Wyld Wood Cider (6.9%) from Much Marcle, Herefordshire, England.
I make a point of visiting this pub whenever I'm in the city as it always has a great selection of beer.
The Black Door, Iso Robertinkatu 1, Helsinki, 00120. Tel: 093 508 4751
Open: Sunday-Thursday 11.00-02.00; Friday-Saturday 11.00-03.00
The pub is around 15 minutes walk away from the railway station and the adjacent bus station. Tram 10 terminates nearby and trams 3B and 6 also pass quite close.