I pulled up a stool next to the bar in the tiny, atmospherically lit tap room at the back of Same Krafty. In front of me sat a line of 8 gleaming beer taps with enticing names such as ‘Oatmeal Hoptart’ and ‘Tango z Mango’, a fridge stocked with what must have been 100 different varieties of bottled beer and a shelf lined with dozens more. A lone waiter buzzed by me carrying pizzas to the front facing restaurant as the barman perused the fridge, trying to find another customer the perfect brew.
“As you’re in Poland, you can’t leave until you’ve tried a brown beer” he yelled as he triumphantly fished a bottle from the back of the fridge. Grodziskie – or brown beer – is a polish classic, brewed for centuries since the days of Cistercian and Benedictine monks owning land and brewing all over the country. Throughout the years it has fallen by the wayside as mass-produced lagers and pilsners became more popular. Names like Lech, Żywiec and Tyskie are now the ones that most people around the world associate with polish beer. With beer powerhouses such as Germany so close by, it’s surprising that these 3 bland concoctions are what Poland seems to offer to the world.
It hasn’t always been this way, though. As Grodziskie shows, Poland has a long history of craft brewing. At the turn of the last century, almost every town boasted its own brewery and distinctive style. Then came two world wars. Most of the breweries were forced to close or were even destroyed, leaving just the aforementioned behemoths of Zywiec and Tyskie. With communism came nationalisation. The surviving breweries now under state control until the Soviet Union fell and they were bought by huge conglomerates in the 90s. For the next two decades, they came to dominate the country’s beer landscape. It is only in recent years that the country has seen the craft beer revolution that exploded in other parts of Europe a decade ago.
“It’s been maybe 5 or so years,” said Same Krafty’s Anna as she poured me a small glass of Baltic Porter. “It’s happened so fast.” She looked enthused as she waxed lyrical about the bars popping up all over the city. “I love it though, there can never be too much choice.” Her enthusiasm was typical of most bartenders I spoke to in the city, all of them knowledgeable and excited about what was happening. Same Krafty was typical of the bars too – a multitap pub stuffed with hundreds of small batch, local Polish brews that put Britain’s craft scene to shame.
It seems that the tide began to turn back in 2013 when two of Warsaw’s most popular bars opened, just days apart. Cuda Na Kiju holds the title of being the city’s first multitap bar and set the trend when it set up shop in the grey facade of the old Communist Party headquarters. Kufle i Kapsle soon followed, opening a hip, cosy venue just a few streets away. Its exposed brickwork and gleaming bar now seem to be the reference point for everything that followed. Slowly but surely new beers and pubs began to pop up around Warsaw.
Since then there are new openings every year and the city now boasts over 20 multitaps bars, serving mostly Polish brews from award-winning names such as Artezan, Pracownia Piwa and Ursa. There is even a huge, twice-yearly craft beer festival.
During my few days in the Polish captial, I took it upon myself to hunt down as many of these places as possible (all in the name of research, of course). I’ve listed my 7 favourites below.
The Best Craft Beer & Multitap Bars in Warsaw
Stanisława Moniuszki 1A
What better place to start than one of the true originals. Established in 2012, Artezan was at the head of the vanguard for Poland’s craft beer revolution. It began as a hairbrained scheme by 3 homebrewers who decided to develop one of the first independent craft breweries in the country. Gradually, over the years, they have been refining their brews and even opened this bar in 2016. It is one of the only self-brewing craft taphouses in all of Poland to feature just its own products on tap. That doesn’t mean its lacking in variety, though. Its signature brew is a Pacific Pale Ale but you can expect to find Stouts, weissbiers and even a tropical IPA.
Located just a short stagger from the old town’s Market Square, Same Krafty – with its stylish ambience and seriously good beer menu – is the perfect place to settle with a drink and rest your feet after a hard day of sightseeing. So much so that it became my little home from home while visiting the city. Despite its old town location, it isn’t a tourist trap. The prices are reasonable and you will find just as many locals drinking in there as tourists. Up front is a dining room where they serve a small selection of pizzas and burgers but most people come to settle for a few in the cosy taproom in the back. The bartenders are welcoming and knowledgeable and the beer selection is great. Although there are only 8 taps, they have a well-stocked fridge with dozens of different brews, mostly polish.
Offering 16 taps of some of the finest Polish brews, Jabeerwocky is has a modern yet industrial interior and, although nothing special, its a perfectly cosy place to while away few hours. Like most places on this list, it can get fairly busy on an evening but luckily it reads itself over the ground floors of a few connected buildings meaning it is one of the few that can host big groups.
PiwPaw is a giant of the Warsaw craft beer scene. I mean this both figuratively and literally. It is constantly heaving with people and has a seriously massive beer selection – 91 (yes that’s right, 91!) drinks on tap and a couple of fridges with plenty more. It may not be the best place for the indecisive drinker but with such a vast choice and the option to taste any of the beers for 1zl, you don’t really have an excuse for not finding something you like. Although huge, it gets full pretty early on in the night so it is always best to reserve a table if you are drinking there with friends.
Kufle i Kapsle
My personal favourite and one of the more seasoned establishments on this list. It sits on a street of busy bars, competing with the likes of Jabeerwocky and the nearby PiwPaw. However, despite PiwPaw having the numbers, Kufle i Kapsle has the variety. Where else can you follow up a pint of Strawberry Milkshake IPA with a glass of 10.4% ABV Mexican Coffee Cake Imperial Stout? They serve a good mix of established names and up-and-coming local breweries and the 16 taps are on constant rotation, meaning no two evenings will be the same. Luckily, the tasting trays mean you won’t have to stick to one and the friendly staff are always happy to help you choose. Did I mention that they also have 150 bottle options to choose from?
Cuda Na Kiju
Nowy Świat 6/12
There aren’t many stranger places to enjoy a cold one than the former Communist Party headquarters but with Cuda Na Kiju, that’s exactly what you can do. There’s nothing particularly soviet feeling about this bar though as it now boasts airy floor to ceiling windows in which the menu is scrawled in white marker, 16 taps and even pinball machines in its minimalist interior.
This is a nice cosy pub on Wilcza street, just a short walk from Plac Konstytucji, is only small but perfectly formed. It shuns the hipster decor of many of the places on this list to instead have a slightly ‘divey’ air with walls covered in old beer mats. There is only space to comfortably fit around 20 patrons and only 4 taps but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in friendliness.
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