Offered the opportunity to spend a week working in Poland, I naturally jumped at the chance to escape the monotony of office life in London. My prior research into the city consisted of Googling the location of the hotel and so I arrived armed with the misconception that Krakow is a bit grim and is mostly is a city favoured by large groups of English men out to get as lathered as possible on stag do’s. I vaguely hoped to track down a few tasty beers.
Luckily for me, I found that Krakow is currently experiencing a revolution in the Polish craft beer scene. On the first night, according to a barman I got speaking to, I was drinking the first ever IPA brewed in Krakow. I’m not sure how accurate this is or if the fact was somehow lost in translation but either way, I believe it’s a clear sign that new and exciting beer styles are now becoming more visible at the bar alongside the mass produced lager/pilsner styles which have which have traditionally been commonplace.
Krakow is a beautiful city and a fantastic place to discover some new beer. The Old Town is a easily navigated, surrounded by a city wall and centred around an impressive open Main Square. The Main Square is the focus of the Old Town and is dominated by a huge Church, meeting hall/market hall and Clock Tower which act as an ideal compass point when you are wandering round the medieval streets of the walled city.
Like many other European cities, the square also acts as a central destination for cultural events and gatherings of tourists and is unsurprisingly flanked by hundreds of bars and restaurants. Unlike other European cities you thankfully do not get hounded by waiters bullishly ushering you into their establishment. There are four fantastic beer bars within the walled city (Multi Qlti, The Tap House, The House of Beer and Viva La Pinta) two just on the outskirts (Brewpub C.K. Browar and TEA Time) and a further two which I visited in the Jewish District (Omerta and Beer Gallery). The Jewish district, favoured by the young of Krakow is only a short walk from the old town and here you will find a high density of eateries, drinking spots and some quirky beer bars.
The price also helps. Beer tasting is extremely affordable pastime with benefit of the exchange rate. A half pint of local micro brewed beer costs around 4-6 Zloty (80p-£1.20) with pints ranging from 9-12 Zloty (£1.80 – £2.40). In one bar it was only 1 Zloty (20p) to ‘upgrade’ from a half to a pint! No Brainer.
I asked around and did a little research at my desk to I seek out the best beer bars in the city and I was delighted by what I found. The RateBeer website was helpful, as was talking to locals since it seems some of these bars have literally only been open a month or two. The language barrier and the fact the bar websites are pretty much non-existent does makes beer-discovery a bit of a tricky task.
Here is my list of bars in order of favourite:
Opened in August 2014
The newest and coolest. It’s a trendy urban hangout so naturally I got the vibe immediately. Up a set of stairs onto the first floor which is unlike other bars in Krakow which which are predominantly ground or basement. The huge floor to ceiling windows are flown open so you can people watch and snigger at the people below who are clearly not as cool as you. Decked out with comfy retro chairs, an orange and grey colour scheme and 20 taps serving local beers, Lindemann’s Kriek and Brewdog and groovy chill out music, you can hang out there all evening.
Very good choice. 2 bars serving local and foreign pints. Good vibe and clearly a place where people come if they enjoy good beer. Nothing stuck or hung up about this place, just rock up and discover some great beer. Served Arbor and Brewdog from UK).
Viva la pinta
Tap room for the Pinta brewery. The space is cave like, with arched curving white washed walls. Decent tap selection, spacious outdoor area, nice staff who speak good English and are happy to recommend beer and give (multiple) samples. Really laid back and friendly place. Arbor Ales from England on tap and Brewdog bottles (noticing a theme developing here?).
The House of Beer
This literally does feel like a house or your front room, with sofas, carpets and wooden coffee tables scattered about and The Beatles playing on repeat. Lovely friendly staff as well as an impressive ‘wall of beer’ proudly displaying their current bottle list.
This is a Brewpub with beautiful copper Kettles built into the back of the bar and lots of fermenters lined up neatly just visible behind the bar. Basic but tasty food. Great atmosphere once it gets going (world Volleyball champs on TV), nice range and good quality beer served in sample sizes or up to 5000ml tubes. Classic fun, great for groups and bit of novelty with the beer tubes towering over the tables.
The Tap House
Also opened in August 2014
Uber cool, minimal, Scandinavian and hipster. White washed walls with clear, wooden tables. It reminds me of a Mikkeller bar in Copenhagen. Couldn’t stay for long to taste all the beer but it has about 15 I think from memory. This probably deserves more of a mention and should potentially rank higher but I just didn’t have the opportunity to give this one more of a chance.
Bit of a strange one, dark and gothic feel on the inside, we were the only people there on a Thursday evening. Was recommended an 8% Sahti, a style I’ve not encountered before which was a collaboration between local brewery Pinta and Pracawonia Piwa.
By the time we arrived at Tea Time we had already been to numerous establishments, reviewing my notes on this place, they seemed very harsh! I’ll say It’s a nice little spot with communal style tables and exposed brickwork. It’s got a great atmosphere to drink in but I was a little disappointed by the beer which they brew on site.
Look out for beers from:
Brouwar Lwowek Slaski (Jankes American Pale ale is incredible)
Brouwar Amber (tasted their Bock which was superb)
Pinta (the most available local brewery, Imperium Atakuje [imperial IPA] was brilliant)
Pracawonia Piwa (their collaboration with the above brewery called Happy Crack was the first Sahti style I’ve tasted)