German art and Latvian crafts in Valmiermuiža / Article

Matthias Saile guides customers through the Valmiermuiža brewery near Valmiera, in northern Latvia. Proud and radiant, the master brewer demonstrates his polished brewing pots. They only put hops, barley malt and water in it. “Our beer is made strictly following the German Beer Purity Act of 1516,” says Saile.

For eight years now, this German brewer has been brewing amber colored beer with a malty, slightly bittersweet flavor in the brewery 100 km northeast of Riga. His personal recipe is used to brew this beer as well as the eight other varieties offered by the small brewery.

They started making beer in Valmiermuiža in 2008. At the time, Saile was making almost two dozen varieties of beer, and from these tasters they selected the most palatable for the Latvian palate. In the spring of 2009, the Valmiermuiža Amber Lager was launched on the market and the Dark Lager was added a year later. Now the range has been expanded with Wheat Ale, Winter Bock, Dark Smoked Lager, beers and an elderflower cooler as well as various fruit and berry sodas.

All varieties are made with careful methods; it is mostly manual labor. “We want to brew natural beer that will appeal to Latvians,” says Aigars Ruņģis, owner of Valmiermuiža. It took two investors and three million euros to transform the manor of Valmiera – which Catherine the Great gave to Peter Augustus, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Beck and Marshal of the Russian Army, in 1762 – into a small brewery.

It seemed like a crazy idea. At the time of the crisis, Latvia was among the hardest hit EU economies. In addition, according to statistics, Latvians are much more measured than their European counterparts when it comes to beer consumption. But the young entrepreneur relied on the know-how of his German master brewer, and on the taste quality of his beer. To this he added a marketing concept based on local history and tradition.

The success was swift indeed. In just a few years, Valmiermuiža has managed to carve out a small niche for itself in the Latvian beer market. Today, Valmiermuiža beer is very popular in restaurants and beer bars across the country. It regularly ranks among the best in surveys and tastings. During a visit in the summer of 2013, German President Joachim Gauck was also convinced of the quality of this beer.

As brewing is not professionally taught in Latvia, Matthias Saile received hands-on training with his own hands, introducing local workers to the mysteries of beer brewing and malt production. For this, the brewery received an award from the German-Baltic Chamber of Commerce.


The brewer, born in the town of Emmendingen in Baden-Württemberg, first learned the trade in a brewery in Riegel am Kaiserstuhl. In October 2016, Matthias Saile celebrated the 30th anniversary of his debut in this profession. But he’s not about to slow down, even now he’s working hard on new recipes.

Visitors can taste Valmiermuiža beer in the beer kitchen of the old granary and while touring the brewery. There is another Valmiermuiža beer kitchen on Miera iela square in Riga. They offer a tasting menu with a suitable beer. In this way, the owner of the Ruņģis brewery is trying to improve the beer culture in Latvia.

The German Traces series was first published as part of the Goethe Institute Riga project “German Footprints in Latvia” (“Vācu pēdas Latvijā” www.goethe.de/vacu-pedas). The linked mobile app “German Footprints in Latvia” can be downloaded from www.ej.uz/vp-iOS and www.ej.uz/vp-Android.

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James R. Rhodes