I recently came back from a trip to Poland. I always try to make every trip I take in to a beer experience, big or small. This time it was a small but interesting beer experience. I spent most of my time in Bydgoszcz, coming in and leaving through Gdansk. After talking to some of my Polish colleagues I get the impression that the Polish beer scene is young
and growing slowly. As with many other countries the big dragons like, SAB Miller, Heineken and Carlsberg have a tight grip of the beer market. There are a few independent brewers but they are slowly increasing. The pub culture is new and young. There were never any American or western European style beer pubs available before the end of the 1980:es. Draft beer was a rare treat back then. More and more beer pubs are popping up but the people going there is quite different from what we are used to. The average age is probably 25 and below and not 30 and up and predominantly male like in America and Western Europe. The older generations never had any pubs to go to and just haven’t gotten the habit. The variety of beers served at a pub is little compared what we are used to. The beer style of choice is European light lager and Pils, which isn’t much different from European light lager. A beer style that is popular and has survived the light lager invasion is porter.
Most breweries have a porter beside their many varieties of lagers and pils. Many years ago I had a Black Boss Porter from Browar Witnica S.A that I really enjoyed. It’s a 9.5% bottled fermented beer with a rich roasted flavor. Poland actually had their own beer style. Grodziskie is the only beer style that survived the second half of the 20th century. It’s a top fermented smoked wheat beer that is not brewed anymore.
Bydgoszcz is not an exiting beer town. This is Tyskie (SAB Miller) country. Everywhere you go you will find this beer and it’s often the only available beer. Bydgoszcz once had a brewery called Kujawiak Browary Bydgoskie that was started in 1858 but bought by the Heineken in 2007 and closed down.
I flew in to Gdansk that is located in northern Poland, along the Baltic sea. The collapse of the communism across Eastern Europe started in Gdansk with the trade union The Solidarity. Gdansk has an extensive shipbuilding industry that was almost total destroyed during WW II. Much of the old town in Gdansk was destroyed at the same time. During the communist regime little was done to restore the old town but since the fall of communism Gdansk’s old town is
flourishing again. There are buildings dating back to 1453. During the renovation new and old have been mixed in a delicate way. When in northern Poland visiting the old town in Gdansk is a must. In one of the old buildings, a little bit outside of the actual old town is Hotel Gdansk. Hotel Gdansk is located in an old granary dating back to 1690 that through history has been used as warehouse and a customs office. It’s considered a lucky building. During WW II all building surrounding the old granary was destroyed. Now it’s a hotel and a brewery. There are only 5 or so pub breweries in Poland and Brovarnia Gdansk is one of them. They brew 3 different kinds of beer all influenced by south German beer styles, a Lager, a Dark Lager and a Wheat beer. The wheat beer is a typical Bavarian style wheat beer with a lot of citrus and a rich wheat flavor. My favorite is the Lager. It has a malty body with some light bitter notes, good balance and only a light carbonation. They had a October fest theme on their menu so I started and finished my visit to Poland with good beer and good food.