In case you haven't noticed, Poland is exploding with beer! We talk often about the vodka stereotype and we'd love to think that Poland is first in that race too (over Russia's claim to the throne) but you can rest assured that beer will win the debate without contest!
Regionally-speaking, Poland is also a shining example of quality brews and is currently the 4th biggest producer of beer in Europe, producing 38.2 million hectolitres (the UK is just a smidgen ahead on 38.4 million hL; Russia is 82.12 million and Germany is around 85.4 million hL). Of this veritable ocean of amber, Poland's three largest breweries, Tyskie, Żywiec and Okocim, are the main tributaries, but it's the stream of some 200+ microbreweries around the country that keep the industry and the country's love affair with beer afloat. Furthermore, these are not just items that you can only find on the shelves (refrigerated or otherwise) of local supermarkets and bottleshops. Breweries embrace the transparency of the beer-making process and want you, the aficionado, to come and visit! So why not? There's almost certainly gonna be something to sample along the way. And, by the way, who said drinking was the only way to enjoy beer? At Beernarium in Kraków, you can actually bathe in the stuff! (see picture below) It may sound a little crazy, but we can assure you that it's incredibly relaxing and surprisingly good for your skin! Others places are more than just great beer. Piwnica Rajców, the old ratskeller in Gdańsk, is a labyrinth of cellar rooms furnished with incredible brewing equipment and an opportunity to learn more about the city's fascinatingly-complex history!
The new epicentre of Warsaw's Wola district is the redeveloped Browary Warszawskie complex, and at its epicentre you'll find the flagship Browar Warszawski (note the subtle name difference), or Warsaw Brewery. Paying homage to the historic Haberbusch and Schiele brewery that once occupied this entire area, Browar Warszawski is one of the largest and most modern brewpubs in the region, producing 19 excellent varieties of craft beer on site, including four types of IPA, as well as grodziskie and porter varieties that are direct callbacks to original H&S ales from yesteryear. Choosing isn't easy, which is why we'd recommend the tasting sets that allow you to try nearly all of them without losing your lunch (offered 12:00-18:00). The food menu at Warsaw Brewery is tailored to complement your liquid meal, and includes classics from the 'dishes that go with beer' category like burgers or fish and chips, but also fresh seafood, a variety of meats prepared on a Josper grill, and plenty of vegetarian options. The modern post-industrial interior offers several intimate tiers (there's even a bed and bathtub you can get horizontal in), ensuring there's plenty of space, and an added bonus is seeing the brewmasters at work amongst the silver vats. Not only that, but DJ's turn the decks on Friday and Saturday nights. All around, this is probably the most worthwhile venue for drinking and dining in Browary Warszawskie, and aptly so. Check it out!
KATOWICE & UPPER SILESIA
The Tyskie Brewery, in the town of Tychy (German 'Tichau') some 10km south of Katowice in Silesia, has been brewing beer continuously for nearly 400 years. Originally German-owned, today Poland's most famous brewery produces over 8,000,000 hectolitres of ale annually, and 13 varieties of beer, including Tyskie Gronie lager - Poland’s bestselling beer. The enormous historical brewing complex, much of which is open to the public for guided tours, is an architectural marvel, and one of the cornerstones of the Silesia Industrial Heritage Route.
In addition to the Tyskie Brewery in Tychy, those with their beer goggles on and a good map in front of them are going to notice another famous name associated with beer on the map of Upper Silesia – that of Żywiec. A small, picturesque town about 90 kilometres south west of Kraków, Żywiec is home to a 13th century castle, several fine cathedrals and a large protected landscape park, in addition to Poland’s most famous brewery. Chosen for its crystal clear mountain waters, the Habsburgs (yes, they of royal origin) founded the brewery here in 1852, and the first batch was produced four years later. The brand developed into a symbol of national identity as exports began in 1913. Nationalised under communism, the brewery was acquired by the Heineken group after a drawn-out court battle and was thoroughly modernized in the '90s. Today over 20 rooms of the brewery are open to all with a museum and brewery tour (available in English and German) showing you the different ingredients, stages and methods of beer production, as well as the history of the site itself from its beginnings, through the world wars, under the PRL and on to today. Much is housed within the original Habsburg buildings and part of the site has been recreated as it was in the 19th century, including a Galician Inn. Ticket prices include the obligatory half-litre, and you even get to keep the commemorative glass. Due to its popularity and the high volume of guests, a tour reservation is recommended.
Bringing modern art, street food and craft beer together under one roof: what an absurdly fantastic idea! When you first walk into this exceedingly colourful bar you could mistake it for an art gallery as the large front room hosts a rotating selection of edgy contemporary art. Keep heading deeper and you’ll find several rooms filled with funky furniture and all sorts of nifty nooks for you to snack and sip in. When you finally make it to the bar you'll be delighted to find a 16 tap bar serving a rotating variety of beers brewed in their own microbrewery located only a few streets away (Starkraft). The street food menu offers tasty plates of cheap sides and mains.
This alabaster ape drapes itself in cool and drowns itself in sudsy pools of amber nectar nightly. This premium primate has achieved cult status among Katowice beer lovers. You’ll see why as soon as you squeeze through its monkey bars. Warm woods, exposed brick and a new heated outdoor beer garden greet you before you even see the star of the show... the famed Biała Małpa wall of beer! Recently replumbed and given some elbow grease, altogether there are 24 beer pipes, with 6 of them on the wall itself and customers can pour their own beer!! The biggest and oldest Silesian multitap bar has over 400 bottled varieties of Polish, Czech, Belgian, English and Irish artisanal beers and ales on hand plus a rotating cast of 24 brews on tap! And don’t fear the beer, the knowledgeable staff is eager to offer advice and help you navigate their seas of suds. Come for a coffee during the day and fight with all your might to order that first pint of the night or try out their whisky offers! If that doesn't tickle your fancy, the good folk here have now opened Biała Małpa Mexico in the same courtyard, offering Mexican dishes prepared by a Mexican, along with tequila tasting boards and fantastic margaritas!
Originally founded in 1840, this historic brewery has reinvented itself and risen again as a snazzy post-industrial brew-pub producing craft beers. If you can't drink them all in one sitting, don't worry - you can take their full assortment home in bottles, plus other stylish brewery swag from their shop. Offering tours, tastings and a full card of delicious regional cuisine and beer snacks, this is also a great place to catch football league action on the tele. Overall, a lot of care has gone into the rising of this phoenix, and it's a welcome return.
The flagship bar of Brokreacja - a mad decent microbrewery in Szczyrzyc, about 45km away. BroPub offers 16 taps, almost exclusively of their own stuff, with 1-3 reserved for non-beer beverages (vodka? prosecco? cold brew coffee? - oh the suspense!), plus their own pub grub in the form of burgers, quesadillas and pizza. Most of the space here is outside with the actual bar quite small, most of the decor is straight off their beer labels, and they definitely need more toilets, but you can't argue with the quality of their craft (that's why you're here). There's literally a piwo for every palette, from Peated Ris to Pils to Whiskey Rye Double Brown Porter, and these boys know what they're doing. Tucked back in a courtyard in between the Old Town and Kazimierz, the location makes a perfect pit stop if you're on a pub crawl. Bottoms up, Bro.
VIVA LA PINTA
Pinta has been one of PL's most popular and most-awarded microbreweries since 2011 when it began producing craft ales in Zawiercie, just 70km northwest of Kraków. Hidden off ul. Floriańska, this - their flagship brew-pub - is rightfully one of the trendiest locales in town for hipsters and hop-heads, who keep the taps flowing and the tables occupied at this enormous (albeit seasonal) beer garden. Offering 14 delicious draughts and plenty more in the packed fridge, the selection isn't limited to Pinta ales alone, showing an admirable solidarity among PL's small indie breweries. They also serve a solid selection of burgers and bar food to soak up those suds.
GDAŃSK & TRI-CITY
Piwnica Rajcow is the Polish name for what was once the city's Ratskeller, the cellar of the Town Hall, where food and drink were served often to the council employees. The place itself is remarkable with a labyrinth of large and small rooms which have been beautifully remodelled. The major draw is the beer, which you will see being brewed in huge vats in the main bar area by the owners, a family-owned brewery from the Warmia region of Poland. There is a very good and well-priced menu as well making this a perfect spot for those who enjoy that bierkeller experience and you’ll also find a number of screens which are used to show sporting events. Make sure to try out their beer dispensers which allow to serve yourself as little as a taster or as much as a jug by using one of their debit cards.
Though certainly not the first microbrewery in Poland, they were definitely in the first wave of the early 21st century and are generally considered to be the first in Gdańsk. Opened in 2008, Brovarnia have since inspired younger brewers in Pomerania to try their hand at the big time, and now the Tri-City is red hot with competition! But, despite the 'cooler' brands and brew sites that now exist in the neighbourhood, Brovarnia still remains a top pick. The beers – including an award-winning dark beer are brewed on-site – are faultless, while the smoking ban does its bit to really exaggerate the pungent smell of malt and hops. Found in a restored granary building, this pub features stout wooden fittings, black and white pics of dockside Danzig, and small little hatches that allow beams of sunlight to slant inside. Even better, if your head goes boom after test-driving their beer menu then just check into the excellent Hotel Gdańsk upstairs. The chow here is top drawer with excellent mains to go with your beer such as traditional Gdańsk duck, pork knuckle in beer and a beer bites menu that includes a selection of flavoured lards- including spicy pepper, plum, eco cheeseboard and sausages with fried cabbage. It's a good way to try beer!
Gdańsk has a number of stunning red brick-gothic buildings around the old centre, but there's only one that houses a brewery. Browar PG4's impressive exterior is matched by its indoor space - a two-floored, 300-seater, microbrewery and restaurant, with that old-school aura that the city is known for. There are 6 homemade brews on offer including a Pils with the others regularly changing and all are brewed on-site in one of the 8 huge vats you’ll see. Additionally, there's a very decent menu including an excellent cod in a beer dough, dumplings with veal, fish soup and kotlet schabowy (schnitzel) and a rather novel range of beer cocktails too.
STARY MANEŻ BROWAR VREST
While your main reason for visiting Stary Maneż in the Garnizon complex will be to see a performance in the main hall, it doesn't have to be the only excuse. The bar/restaurant on the ground floor offers an eclectic menu of snacks as well as a concise choice of starters, salads and mains, including ribs and seafood curry. They also have, as you’ll immediately notice from the large brass vats, their own beer called Vrest, which is made using German hops and named as a wordplay on an early name for the Wrzeszcz district – Wrzos (English: heather). The light and dark are both pretty good by own-brew standards and pair up well with the tapas to provide some sustenance before and after a concert next door. Also, it's not uncommon for the brewery to host tours of the facilities and a chance to sample some of the goods! Inquire first before rocking up!
This craft beer temple offers a 15-draught rotation of some of the best and most diverse brews available in Poland, including several from the Jabeerwocky Brewery this multi-tap pub is affiliated with, plus a large selection of non-alcoholic beers and other strong alcohols for variation. Ask nicely, and you can sample one of two taps before committing to a half litre. Meanwhile, the kitchen is open until 23:00 (Fri-Sat until 01:00), allowing you to indulge in Neapolitan-style pizza, tasty snacks like onion rings and fries, and the local specialty - bacon-wrapped plums (try it!). This is no small operation either, boasting a capacity of more than 100 seats, an additional room for larger group bookings and a ridiculously long bar (6.5m!) rumoured to be able to withstand nuclear blasts. With exceptional craft beers and a rock soundtrack, all that's missing is your mates (children and animals are also welcome). They now also boast an Iqos smoking bar, and there are plenty of events like pub trivia and karaoke as well!
Brovaria feels an integral part of Poznań life, and it’s certainly become established as the main expat haunt since the demise of Dom Vikingów. Yet while it feels an ingrained piece of Poznań one look at the design reveals a modern, industrial space, one where steel and glass combine to create a sharp looking area that looks as edgy now as when it first opened. However, coming here to admire the interiors would be missing the point; this place is all about beer, namely the excellent house lagers that are brewed out back in the copper vats. Here’s one of the best microbreweries in Poland, quite possibly the best: enjoy it.
BROWAR STU MOSTÓW
Wrocław already had a winning case for the title of 'Beer Capital of Poland', and then these guys came along and closed the argument. Opened in 2014, The Hundred Bridges Brewery has Wrocław's rich brewing tradition at the heart of what they do. Though outposted well outside the centre, if you know your hops you'll be happy to make the trip to this riverside brewpub, aptly positioned near Warszawski Bridge. Their mezzanine-level bar puts you directly over the action taking place in the ground floor production plant; work your way through their ten taps - including their own Salamander AIPA and the idiosyncratic Nigredo Chocolate Mint Foreign Extra Stout, munch on beer snacks, or tuck into hefty entrees like rump steak with fried iceburg lettuce and hoppy custard - each of which comes with a recommendation for which beer will wash it down best. Though you'll find their Salamander and WRCLW beer brands all around town - including at their downtown pub (ul. Świdnicka 4), of course - here you can see exactly how they're produced during their free brewery tours (Tues at 18:00, Sat at 16:00, Polish only; English-language tours must be arranged in advance). There's also a bakery and concept shop on-site so you can stock your hotel mini-fridge with craft goodness, as well as pick up pastries, pretzels and other products they make on-site. Worth the trip, to get there catch tram 6 or 11, getting off at 'Most Warszawski' (journey time 25-30mins); or just pony up for the cab/Uber fare.
PERŁA BEER HOUSE
Perła is one of Poland's most recognised beer labels, hailing from the south-eastern city of Lublin, and Perłowa Pijalnia Piwa (ENG: The Perłowa Beerhouse) is the brand's unique flagship bar. Amongst both locals and visitors, it's popular for its range of beers, including in-house brews, the excellent slow food menu, including dishes inspired by and incorporating beer, as well as its unusual interior design, with the 30-metre bar and a mirror ceiling. The Beerhouse is complemented by the Lublin Room – a low-key space intended for events, special celebrations and business meetings for up to 24 guests – and a quaint beer garden open in spring and summer.
PERŁA BREWERY UNDERGROUNDS
Nearby the beer house is Podziemia Browaru Perła (ENG: The Perła Brewery Undergrounds), providing an extraordinary walking tour experience through spaces of the former Reformanti church and monastery, in which (after adaptive adjustments) beer used to be brewed between 1846 and 2001. Travelling through and exploring every nook and cranny, you can learn about the rich history of this place, as well as events and people that once lived and worked here. It's also a great opportunity to find out how the production process of beer works and what ingredients are used to make it. The perfect finale of every tour is a beer-tasting session in the brewery's former lagering room. Note that visits to Perła Brewery Undergrounds require prior reservation (min. 1 day in advance). More information here!