Brew(Piwo)Travels: Poland and Slovakia

I don’t often get to travel, and I have not been to another country aside from Canada until now. However, this past month I traveled to Poland to visit family. I made it a point to sample as many beers as possible while there and figure out which ones are best and what the beer scene is like there. Since it’s so close, I also visited Slovakia, in the old town section of Kosice where my father’s father’s family is from.

I have to admit, beer is not Poland’s strong suit. Obviously, vodka is the drink of choice there. I definitely consumed my share of vodka as well, and surprisingly did not hate it. My favorite was Zubrowka, the bison grass vodka. Not just because I liked the buffalo on the label. It was smooth and easy to drink, which I generally consumed in a shot or mixed with apple juice and a blade of grass.

Now for the beer. The two most-common beers seemed to be Tyskie and Zwyiec. I have had Zwyiec here in the states. After having it in its’ native land as well as America, I have come to the conclusion that in the States, it is way too expensive for a simple lager. However, that said, Zwyiec is not a bad beer when in Poland and it is found pretty much anywhere. Tyskie is common as well; I’m not sure which one I liked better.

For beers at a bar, I liked the Ksiazce Cimene best. It was a dark ale that tasted similar to a bock- malty, somewhat sweet, and easy to drink. I had this in the old town section of Krakow, which was my favorite place that we visited. The nightlife is bustling and there are plenty of places to eat and drink. I liked that there were so many places to go outside, so you could enjoy a drink while watching everything going on in the main square.

I did get a chance to try some Polish craft beer, though. I went to Browar Wojkowka, which is a brewpub not far from the city of Krosno. I was curious about craft brews from Poland, as I noticed their water tasted quite different from much of the water in America. However, there were not many noticeable differences, at least not negative ones. I sampled their 4 brews: a witbier, a pilsner, a milk stout, and a pale ale. I liked the milk stout best. I thought it was so good that I needed to bring a bottle or two home!

More often, I spent time drinking beer at a house rather than a bar, and I drank what I could find at the local store. I found a bottled craft beer from a brewery called Rebel, which was a honey ale and a really interesting beer. I have not had a honey beer with this much flavor. Not sure if I liked it or not because of such a strong honey flavor. I have had a hard time finding more information about the brewery. As far as my research has shown, they are a fairly new brewery and seem to be a subsidiary of Browar Cornelius. I found a review of one of their other beers, a bohemian pilsner, here. My favorite canned beer was called Lech, which had a surprising packaging to me. Although it was more of a lager than an ale, and definitely not a bock, there were rams on the label.

In Slovakia, I had to try a pilsner since it was so close to the birthplace of the classic Czech style pilsner. I had a Staropramen unfiltered that was especially delicious, paired with a dinner of sheep’s cheese gnocchi.

I also found my birthday cake this year:

It really was a great trip, and I would love to explore more about the beers, especially the smaller craft brewing companies. Although they haven’t erupted like they have here in the US, I think that in a few years or less there will be many more smaller breweries throughout eastern Europe.