UPDATE 8 Krakow, Poland
The first thing to do upon arrival was lunch. Bill devoured a plate of pierogis, silky dumplings filled with meat and or cheese, which were absolutely delicious. Nina explored a Peasant Plate, a slow roasted pig’s knee, with cabbage. We sampled glasses of porter and lager brewed by Poland’s national brewery, Zywiec. Then we got a quick look at the city via a tour bus to see St. Mary’s Basillica and Wawel Castle. The beer scene in Krakow for the last ten years has been growing quickly. We visited three beer bars. The House of Beer had a wall of bottles and a dozen on tap clearly marked and changing quickly. The bartenders were very beer educated. Viva la Pinta is a pub tied to a microbrewery Browar Pinta, which also serves guest beers. They had a great tap list and a nice beer garden. CK Bowers, the oldest brewpub in town was located underground. It was a good looking place, very busy, with table service and food.
UPDATE 9 Arrival at Kazimiersz Dolny, Poland
We’ve rented a car in Krakow and plan to drive 4 hours to Kazimierz Dolny, a small town in Central Poland, on the right bank of the Vistula river. You can never trust your GPS guide fully. Our last mile was on a ferry! It was fun, but a surprise. I pick up a couple of local beers, from Browar Jagiello, for the room. This will be our base for our visit to Pawel a local hop farmer with his Dad. Pawel has planned and invited us, and others, to tour his hop farm. The tour will be followed by a beer festival.
UPDATE 10 The Hop Farm tour at Karczmiska, Poland
Pawel the Hop Farmer is part historian and part scientist in the field, his laboratory. About thirty of us went by private buses into his hop fields for a hands-on tour. Home and professional Brewers from surrounding areas of Poland, Ireland, and England came to see and smell these Polish Hops. Pawel is passionate about saving hop species grown in Poland years ago, re-introducing them to the brewing world, and growing the Polish Craft Beer scene. The processing of the harvested hops is done mostly by hand. The result; plump bright green hops ready for market. We wanted to help with the work…but everything was running well without us. It was a pleasure and a treat just to admire the tall rows growing in the field.
UPDATE 11 The Beer Festival Palace Piotrawin, Poland
After the tour of Pawel’s hop farm we rode a bus for a few miles to Palace Piotrawin. Situated on the banks of the Vistula River, there was plenty of room to barbeque sausages, tap some beers, and have a beautiful room to sleep in at this centuries old mansion. Many of the guests were local brewers and we were able to taste their brews. Nina was welcomed with a Polish introduction and set up a table to sell her Hops Jewelry. We brought some gifts for our new friends, namely Stuff Yer Face T-shirts! Shown below is Adam, a leader in the Polish Craft Beer scene, and head Brewer at Perun. He is figuring out the translation of “Stuff Yer Face”! We also brought some Tito’s American vodka for tasting with fresh American Idaho hops soaking for three weeks. The hops are courtesy of our friend Debbie of Alpha Hop Sales in Idaho. WOW! What a powerful kick those Citra and Cascade hops gave to the vodka! Thank you Pawel at Polish Hops for inviting us to Poland, and introducing us to your hops and your craft beer friends. It was a great day and night. Tomorrow we sojourn across Poland in our Travels for Beer adventure. We HOPe to find some great flavors and beautiful sites, pun intended.
UPDATE 12 Warsaw, Poland
No more hiking, no more biking, no more hopping, just time to relax for three days in Warsaw. Maybe we can do some serious beer hunting here. Poland is geographically situated between Germany, Russia, and the Czech Republic. Two of their neighbors are big beer brewers and drinkers, and two were big military powerhouses that destroyed Poland’s beer industry in the mid-20th century. Now their excitement for craft beer is rejuvenated and they are making a strong comeback to revive their status in the beer world.
We start at the hotel bar with our maps and guides. The beer offerings are good enough to quench our thirst. We decide to see the sites and save the beer for later. While touring we realize the touristy “Old Town” area is newer than the “New Town” area because Warsaw was sadly flattened by Hitler before his departure, and Stalin’s arrival. The Monument to the Jewish Uprising in 1944 is emotionally moving with it’s larger than life heroes rising from the street and walls of the city.
As we approach Kufle I Kapsle we are surprised to notice a Stuff Yer Face T-shirt in the crowd outside the bar! It was our new friend Pawel L., whom we met at the Hop Tour two days earlier. Pawel L. is Chairman and Coordinator for the Warsaw Beer Festival, and also tends bar here. A Polish beer aficionado, Pawel was a wealth of information on which beer bars to hit or skip, and he was also able to describe the beers available from the 12 taps.
Across the street is Jabeerwocky, with its 18 taps and vast offerings by the bottle. The bartender patiently helped us with our selections. We focused on the Polish brewed beers. On our way home we made a quick stop at Hoppiness, with a tempting outdoor beer garden and a sign reading “Food”, but decided against a second beer and headed for the hotel.
Browarmia Krolewska is a brewpub headlining Polish food. A touristy location the beers were respectable along with the pierogis we tasted. When it was ice cream time we strolled the streets of Old Town and noticed a tower of beer taps outside a storefront window. We weren’t sure if it was help yourself or not. We’ll have to return later to Same Krafty, a multi-tap beer bar. But, I noticed the bike parked in the corner…and it triggers some recent memories that scare me.
Beer Heaven offered 86 on tap and 200 in the bottle! A great place to start an early afternoon. The bartender was friendly and let us sample what we wanted. The walls were covered in bottle caps and the ceilings painted with colorful and regional beer art. A few doors down the street we stumbled into Browar Ciechan. No brewing is done on the premises here, but this Polish brewery had some delicious brews. The manager was eager to explain the history of the brewery and enthusiastic to pour samples and explain their tasting profiles.
During our stay here we also continued to mix in some restaurants that were recommended to us for their Polish authenticity, and our hotel restaurant Chef was a winner on “Top Chef”, Poland. Chef Martin prepared and presented for us a five course dinner paired with wine. It was extraordinary. Nina and I felt like we were on TV! During our travels we found the Poles very friendly and wish them the best in growing their country.