”What you can’t find in Tampere, you don’t need!” chuckles a young man in a moustache, when I ask him if Tampere is a city of beer culture.
He waves his hands vividly while telling me about his relationship with his hometown. “Here, you sort of have everything. I’ve never even thought of moving out from here”. The answers come before the questions do. “I wouldn’t talk about just beer culture or something, more than culture and vibes in general. If you for example take this music and food thing, we’re like totally self-sufficient here. Where are you from, by the way?” “From Olutposti beer magazine”, I answer. “No, I mean like where do you come from, Helsinki? Have you ever thought of moving somewhere else?” I see the roles in this interview take a turn upside down. I think for a bit and say “No”, although I can remember at least a dozen times I’ve seriously considered moving out from the Helsinki metropolitan area.
I’m a little jealous of the strong hometown identity of Tampere. When I think about some of the Britons I’ve met, and how they all seemed to wear their home team’s scarf or tattoo, and they seemed to have a really strong bond with where they come from. You can sense the same bond in the people in Tampere, even without any visual signals.
I walk along the streets in the city centre and landmarks just keep popping out. Hotel Ilves, Tammerkoski rapids, the Finlayson factories. I wonder why Näsinneula observation tower wasn’t built downtown. Wait a second… Restaurant Messi. ”I went to drink in Messi and she came to my table”, sang one of the most well-known artists from Tampere, Juice Leskinen. A quick peek in, just for historical reasons. Tampere is a great city of culture. Music, theatre, history and of course, beer culture. My first touch to the beer scene in Tampere was in the turn of the century, when a friend took me to Salhojankadun Pub to listen to jazz and taste some beers from around the world. A lot of water has run through the rapids since then. A lot of restaurants concentrating on quality beers have been established and self-sufficiency is the trend. The restaurants also set up their own breweries and vice versa.
It’s easy to get around in Tampere, even if the public transport is not on the same level as in Helsinki. You can get pretty much everywhere in the city centre just by walking. The distances are short yet full of thing to see. The tram system is being built in Tampere as we speak, and soon enough the city districts will be connected even easier. I’m not a big bar hopper, but the nightlife in Tampere has a certain appeal. One of my brewery friend was able to give me recommendations on about half a dozen restaurants just like that, offhand. I asked what is it in those places that he likes. He chuckled (they chuckle a lot in Tampere) and said that nothing in specific. “Those are the joints I’m planning to go to tonight”. I call up a bassist friend who nowadays lives in Tampere to take me around some bars in Tampere, but with a sneezy voice he declines, recommending I should start from Plevna.
Located in an old factory building, by the flowing rapids, Plevna really is one of the royals when it comes to beer restaurants. It feels as if I was walking into a castle. After being recommended to try out all the house beers, I choose my dinner: a delicious liver steak with hefty mashed potato. There’s style and dignity in this restaurant. I imagine how it must have looked like when this was still in industrial use, and the historical feeling makes my pint taste even better. I even get a sneak peek to the brewery premises behind the scenes. It reminds me of some brewery in Central Europe, where olden times meet with the modern era. Koskipanimo brewery and restaurant Plevna are a well-working unit by any measures. The products are all high-quality as well as traditional. This brewery doesn’t try to play around or ride the newest trends to stay on top. Respect.
My journey continues to Pyynikin Brewhouse, likewise located in a historical former industrial building on the other side of the rapids. The classy tap room is all in all a model example of a beer restaurant. Old bricks, wood and shiny copper taps invite to order already, and then sit down and enjoy. The clientele seems very classy and I believe this is their usual hangout, everyone seems to be familiar with each other. The beer, once again, is exquisite. I wouldn’t have expected anything less of Pyynikki. I do feel a bit under-dressed with my safety shoes and jeans, so I decide to move on to another recommended location, Gastropub Nordic.
The light, German-style Gastropub is like a living room. The laid-back staff is chatty and the youngish guests seem to feel comfortable. There are several spaces, including the mysterious Nordic cabinet. I can imagine some secret societies having ritual meetings there, cheering over beer jugs.
“May I help you” startles me from my imagination. The friendly voice asks if I might want something to drink. I return to the counter and order, as recommended, beer spiced with carrot or pumpkin. I forgot which one it was, but the taste brought a smile on my face.
When approaching Tampere, you can’t avoid noticing the tall, skyscraper-like building rising next to the railway station. Out of interest, I walk towards Tampere’s newest landmark. Innovatively named Torni (the Tower), this hotel is interestingly twisted in its architecture, standing out quite a lot from the rest of the buildings in the city centre. I introduce myself and ask for permission to take a look at the view opening from the top floor. The perky receptionist points me to the elevator, which takes me to the spacious scenic restaurant. The view is gorgeous. Surprisingly, the drink list offers also artisan craft beers. I order a Brewcats’ product and sit by the window. I need to pull the chair back a little – the view from the windows taking up the whole wall is making me feel a bit dizzy.
Planning my brewery tour for tomorrow. Soundville, Pyynikki, Kaleva, Nordic and Brewcats. There’s so much to explore and study in Tampere. I stop by a kebab joint on the way back to the hotel, and read the morning paper while enjoying my meal. I like it here in Tampere.
Lying along excellent traffic routes, Tampere has always been a vivid beer and culture city. The beer scene can be very well compared to the city’s music scene. Many bands and artist have hailed from Tampere to nation- or worldwide fame, all sharing the same type of local identity and humour – not to mention the quality of music. The same can be said about the beer culture in Tampere. Strong, original attitude and high quality make Tampere one of the best Finnish beer cities. And that’s the way it is.
Text: Mikko Hentunen, Olutposti & O2O event producer
Photos: Laura Vanzo, Visit Tampere