XXXX Baltika Brew: Beer O’Clock
XXXX Baltika Brew // 11A Kamenoostrovsky Prospekt // Tel. 644 4446 // Open daily from 11 a.m. until the last customer // Meal for two with alcohol: 1,648 rubles($47.91)
Published: July 2, 2014 (Issue # 1818)
XXXX Baltika Brew is in a large brick building hidden in the back of a courtyard that abuts Kamenoovstrovsky Prospekt on the Petrograd Side. Its size and entrance are more reminiscent of a nightclub than brewery but once through the doors, one enters a large room that incorporates the structure’s original building material with some modern touches, most apparent in the large bar in the center of the palatial room.
The menu is essentially upscale bar food with a few touches of elegance. The appetizers and snacks on offer range from the simpler BBQ chicken wings (380 rubles, $11.30) to an Australian bass ceviche (490 rubles, $14.60), which most would consider a questionable choice in most places specializing in alcohol.
As for the alcohol, beer is the drink of choice and the craft beers all start at 250 rubles ($7.45) for a pint. The choices range from a Chocolate Stout to a Nordic Kolsch, a Cherry beer to a Belgian Brune and American-style IPA. The only non-craft beer available is non-alcoholic Carlsberg.
The beer menu also gives you a description of each drink that surpasses what I could possibly write about the noble beverage. For example, the Belgian Brune’s “monastery yeast created a powerful front of dried fruit (raisins, prunes, dried cherries) and a lingering spicy and wine aroma.” The caramel wheat beer, on the other hand, uses “shades of bread crust formed by the use of caramel malt, which only supports but does not cover the yeast character weitz.”
Unfortunately, the food menu’s descriptions are not accorded the same poetic account even though the aforementioned wings are an exercise in high-class: before you dig in, a large bowl of lemon-infused water is offered to dip your hands in once the sauce coats your fingers in spices and grease. Like in high-end restaurants as well, the portions are far too small and are to be savored instead of filling.
There is a sizable seafood section that includes lobster tails, fried pike and mussels (available only Thursday through Sunday). The grilled salmon with vegetable gratin (690 rubles, $20.50) is an example of the brewery’s attempt to be more than just the local bar. Served on a huge plate, the skinny piece is topped with sauce and served alongside a mound of sliced and diced vegetables. It is well cooked, with a nice crust that adds a bit of crunch to the otherwise soft fish, and the taste is enhanced by the addition of the flavorful sauce.
The brewburger (490 rubles, $14.60) is wrapped in paper on yet another wooden block and comes with a bucket of fries and a small bowl of ketchup. The first bite into the meat patty oozes juice that soaks the bread and assorted vegetables between the buns smothered in mustard. It’s superior to most bar burgers and, while pricey, it’s worth the price. The only moment of hesitation while eating it was when I found a piece of tin foil still attached to one of the pickle slices, which raises a lot of questions about the kitchen I don’t want answered.
In all, XXXX Baltika Brew is a place for the person who truly loves beer. Unlike the city’s cheaper establishments, this is not the place you come to drink in excess. It’s a restaurant where you can enjoy well-made beers along with well-made food that both pays tribute to its boozy inspirations and improves upon it. Not for the drinker on a budget, XXXX Baltika Brew is the perfect place if you’re looking to treat yourself.