Craft Beer in Poland and 15 Must-Visit Places for Beer Lovers
Even though vodka is our national drink, it’s not the only boozy beverage we’re proud of. Craft beer game in Poland is really strong. Our beer revolution is in full swing and the scene is flourishing and thriving. Polish brewers are getting really creative too, combining modern-day trends with old traditions.
We believe before you go out drinking you’d love to know what to order so below you will read a little story of Polish craft beer revival. But if you’re in a hurry and just looking for our address recommendations, click here to jump straight to the list;)
Beer in Poland
When you order Polish beer (let say whatever they have on tap) in a regular bar or pub in Poland, you’ll get commercial Polish lager, most likely Tyskie, Żywiec, Okocim, Warka, Kasztelan and the list goes on. All of them are similar-tasting meaning more malty than hoppy with a light grainy sweetness, refreshing and drinkable. This is by far the most popular beer style in Poland and a go-to beer for a lot of people here.
If you see Polish people drinking their beer through a straw it means they’re having „piwo z sokiem” (beer with sweet syrup). Yes, we actually do this sometimes! We put a splash of syrup on the bottom of the glass (usually raspberry or ginger, but some bars carry more flavors), pour the beer and serve it with a straw. We like our beer quite sweet, so flavored beers are very popular in Poland, especially with the ladies. You’ll spot a lot of honey beers on the shelves.
Before craft beer revolution reached Poland, it wasn’t that easy to find something other than lager. But even than, baltic porter was a specialty of many Polish breweries. Żywiec Porter is no craft beer (Żywiec brewery is now part of a huge international brewing company) but it’s a great, award-winning beer brewed with with a recipe dating back to 1881 (and to roast their malts they’re still using 1910 oven!). It’s „black as night”, thick, super rich, but smooth, strong (9.5% ABV), yet well-balanced.
Craft Beer Revolution Polish-style
In the last 5 years the drinking scene has changed dramatically. Former home brewers started to rent the equipment from bigger breweries to produce their beer on a larger scale and then sell it. Now, new craft breweries launch every month with new beers debuting every week. Just in 2015 57 new breweries opened and there were 1164 new beers debuting (commercial beers also counted) in 271 styles. Poland is becoming a craft beer lover’s paradise. Even though craft beer is more expensive than commercial beer, it’s still really affordable (in a bar, typical 1⁄2 liter serving or a pint will cost 10-15 zloty and a store-bought bottle 7-10 zloty).
Our first sips of „piwo rzemieślnicze”, as we call craft beers, were really hoppy. The craft beer revolution Polish-style started in 2011 with Pinta brewery. In May that year, they introduced an icon of Polish beer revolution: Atak Chmielu, the first Polish American IPA. Atak Chmielu means „attack of hops” and this name is definitely fitting. This aggressively hopped, citrusy beer shocked palates of people not used to intense bitterness in their beer. It truly was a hoppy attack on Polish beer drinking habits. Soon other breweries followed. AleBrowar and Artezan opened in 2012 and Pracownia Piwa in 2013. Today there’s no shortage of good craft beer. Among the most well known Polish craft breweries are Pracownia Piwa, Artezan, AleBrowar, Pinta, Doctor Brew, Piwne Podziemie, Perun, Raduga, Birbant, Olimp, Trzech Kumpli, Profesja.
At first we were very much into all of those „new wave hops”, mostly from USA and New Zealand and IPA is a style that defined our revolution. Now, brewers are getting really creative, drawing inspirations from old Polish beer and culinary traditions. Poland has long and rich hop culture – we’re world’s six largest hops producer. And Polish craft brewers put a lot of effort into showcasing Polish hops. Kormoran has PLON line where they only use Polish hops from their own plantation. AleBrowar released hop-heavy Hop Sasa in a style called Polish IPA or PIPA. Perun brewery has „Dziedzictwo” (Heritage) line with pale ales single-hopped with Polish hops: Marynka, Iunga and Puławski. Pinta collaborated with Irish Carlow Brewing making delicious stout Lublin To Dublin with Polish hops.
We’ve also witnessed the resurrection of Grodziskie, a historical beer style, dating back to 14th century. This style is unique to Poland and is sometimes described as „Polish champagne”. It’s a very light (2,7-3,3 % ABV) and refreshing beer, made with oak-smoked wheat malt with a distinct smoky aroma and flavor. Perfect drink for a hot summer day. Today several breweries produce grodziskie and Sophia (brewed by Olimp & Absztyfikant) is regarded as one the best.
Our brewers love using funky ingredients in their brews. Some of these experiment are delicious, while some feel a bit gimmicky. Piwoteka introduced Ucho Od Śledzia, a stout with a truly Polish ingredient – herring. Browar Stu Mostów released spelt beer (dinkelbier – vintage variety of wheat beer) with carrots. Metalheads should get interested in Perun’s collaboration with our death metal powerhouse Behemoth. The brewery is behind Behemoth signature beers: Sacrum (Belgian IPA), Profanum (Black IPA), Heretyk (American Amber Ale) and Bafomet (Russian Imperial Stout).
So where can you find all of this hoppy goodness? If you’re interested in buying some bottles, the best way to find them is to visit beer specialty stores. They usually have huge selection of Polish and imported craft beers and real beer geeks behind the counter, so they can give you some expert advice. Not all regular liquor stores (labeled Sklep Monopolowy, Alkohole, Sklep całodobowy/24h) carry and specialize in craft beer, so you have to know what are you looking for. But these days quite a few regular grocery stores (in Poland most grocery stores carry at least beer), supermarkets and even gas stations are stocked with craft beer so have your eyes wide open!
More and more Polish restaurants and eateries carry craft beer as well. The beers are usually rotating so they may not be listed on the menu, just ask the waiter. While regular bars and pubs (not dedicated to craft beer) usually have commercial beers on tap, ask about craft beer, they may be well stocked with bottles. A place you’re really looking for is a craft beer bar. In Poland we often call them „multi tap bar”. Check out the list of great places in Warszawa, Kraków and Tricity.
If you think that tending the bar and pouring the beer is super easy, at The Alchemist you can try it yourself. Thanks to the self-serve beer-wall (the first one in Central Europe) you get to play a bartender and pour your own beer. Don’t forget about ordering some food – their menu is really nice and you don’t have to serve it yourself 😉
Tap House is Pracownia Piwa’s signature brewpub. This is the place where one the best Polish breweries is premiering their new beers and showcasing they classic like Dwa Smoki or Huncwot. With 20 beers on tap (most brewered by Pracownia), and modern design this craft beer bar is a must for every beer geek.
This cosy dive bar in Kazimierz is always well stocked with Czech beers. But don’t worry, they have plenty of Polish brews as well. This is also the only bar in the city that has Randall. This device, created by American brewery Dogfish Head, infuses spices, fruit, or other seasonings into the beer.
Signature bar run by the first Polish craft brewery PINTA. This is definitely the place, where you can and should taste Atak Chemielu, the beer which started Polish revolution. They also have food menu with bar classics like burgers and onion rings and a really nice outdoor sitting area, making Viva la PINTA perfect choice for summer.
Tricity (Gdansk, Sopot, Gdynia)
Offical brewpub run by one the best Polish craft breweries Ale Browar. This is probably the first time we recommend a place we haven’t visited ourselves but that’s merely because it hasn’t opened yet:) It will in the coming days, though, and we’re sure it will become a mecca.
Pułapka (a trap) will trap you for long, hoppy, delicious hours. It’s located on a pretty quiet street Straganiarska, that comes to life in the summer evenings. And it’s super close to the Old Town! They’re buddies with Pracownia Piwa, so you’ll always find there some great beers from Kraków-based brewery. Oh, and Pułapka has Randall device too.