Sunday 21st July 2013
This brew pub has two names that reflect the two languages of the country. Swedish is spoken as a first language in many places along the south and west coasts of Finland. In addition, the origins of this pub go back to the time of Swedish rule. What makes this pub so unusual is that it is on an island. Well, I suppose that is not that really so rare, but it is a very small island in a very small archipelago. However, Suomenlinna is inhabited and even boasts its own grocery shop that is open all year round and of course, its pub.
There are four islands that are connected to each other by either bridges or a causeway. During the mid part of the eighteenth century, Sweden decided that Helsinki or as it was then, Helsingfors, should be protected by a sea fort and construction began.
In 1750 it was finished and named Sveaborg by King Frederick I. In 1788 King Gustav III of Sweden declared war on Russia. This war was started for mainly political reasons as there was considerable opposition to the King, and some of it was supported by Russia. The war was a complete waste of time and a peace was agreed in 1790. Nevertheless the importance of Sveaborg was established.
The next war against the Russians, the Finnish War, started in 1808 and lasted a year and a half. Britain was involved in this one. It ended in defeat for Sweden and they lost their Finnish lands. These became the Grand Duchy of Finland, an autonomous part of the Russian Empire.
This lasted for around 110 years and I have heard it said that these were the glory years of Finnish nationalism. Seemingly the Tsars were benevolent rulers. Although, it must be said, that through this period Sveaborg was a fortified Russian naval base. The building that the brew pub is housed in was built between 1868 and 1870 as barracks.
The destructive Finnish Civil War was in 1918 and this resulted in the country's independence. This was when the island received its Finnish name. During the three wars that Finland was involved in over the period of the Second World War, the fortress was busy and became a submarine base.
It was finally de-militarised in 1973. Since 1991 it has been a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The pub is easy to reach on the ferry from the Market Square. The pub is the very first building you see as you alight, with the lighthouse above. I have to confess that on all of my three visits to the island, going back 12 years, I've never got any further!
Inside the building, the Island's Tourist Office is on the left, and the pub is on the right. You walk straight into the main room; bar on the left, restaurant area on the right.
Should you continue through this room you will pass the brewery on the right and at the far end, there is a small garden.
There is a good selection of beers brewed and there were four available when I visited, along with my tasting notes. These were Höpken Pils (4.2%) which is a true example brewed with Pilsner malt and Saaz hops. Coyet Ale (4.5%) was rather innocuous, with medium bitterness. Helsinki Portteri (5.6%) was really good with all the right tastes. My only comment is that it was a little thin in body. Finally, Amphion Ale (4.5%) was a treat, being a well-rounded beer with a nice bitter aftertaste.
They also make two ciders and there were both on offer: Tin Soldier's Apple Cider (4.7%) and Tin Soldier's Hard Cider (7.5%). There is a full restaurant menu if you want more than drink. It features several Baltic specialities such as sprats, also Reindeer steaks, and a first sighting for me, Bear Burgers!
It's well worth making the ferry journey, especially as you get a great view of the city centre, including the Senate Building and the Orthodox Cathedral. To be seen on the way are historic ships and the huge luxury ferries of the Viking and Silja Lines, the largest of their kind in the world. All in just over fifteen minutes! Oh, and there's some good beer to be had at the end of the journey.
Suomenlinnan Panimo / Sveaborgs Bryggeri, Rantakasarmi, Suomenlinna. Tel: 09 228 5030
Summer: Monday-Saturday 12.00-22.00; Sunday 12.00-18.00
Winter: as summer yet closed Sun-Mon.
The way to get here is the HSL ferry with frequencies of fifteen to thirty minutes.
Other ferries are more expensive and don't take you to the pub.
The cost of a return journey was €5 at the time of writing.
If you have a city travel card for one day or longer this journey is included.