The Warsaw Beer Festival is held twice a year, in spring and autumn, and is probably the best kept craft beer secret in Europe. I knew that Poland has a strong and proud traditional beer culture, but did not expect them to have such an impressive craft beer scene. I spent the better part of my first ever trip to Warsaw in March 2023 sampling all that the beer festival and bars have to offer. Most of the Polish breweries were showcasing modern and traditional beer styles, which not only tells me they are still proud of their Polish beer history, but that they have the quality and creativity to make both, effectively marrying the best of two worlds.
Warsaw’s fantastic 3-day beer event
The first edition of the Warsaw beer festival was held in 2014. At that time Poland’s first craft brewery PINTA was just 3 years old and still contract brewing. The festival venue is the Legia Warsaw Stadium, which is a great choice as it can accomodate quite a few people inside and provides a unique view and experience. The stadium seats are open for sitting if you want a little break and some fresh air. I noticed a few other unique aspects that I think set it apart from other festivals I’ve been to and that all have one thing in common: it’s extremely consumer-friendly and reflects the Polish generosity and general friendliness. The entry ticket is not expensive. A festival glass can be purchased, but most brewers bring their own glassware, which you can buy at their stand and use throughout the event (or bring your own). You can choose from a staggering 1200 beers and 60 breweries. There are generally three pour sizes available: 0.1 l, 0.3 l and 0.5 l. It is pay as you go (card, no cash) and the prices are very reasonable. I was impressed with the variety of beer styles! Polish (e.g. Grodziskie), English ales, American styles like IPAs and other interesting experiments, such beers with local herbs. I even found my favorite beer style Black IPA, which is not a common find at festival nowadays. Traditional Polish (and also veggie / vegan) food is available outside from foodtrucks. Last but not least, there is plenty of entertainment: games, live interviews on stage and interesting masterclasses you can sign up for. All in all a very fun and immersive experience.
I was a bit surprised this festival is not well-known or much visited by the Dutch beer (geek) community. It should be at the top of your list! Not only for the festival itself, but for all Warsaw has to offer. The next edition will be held from October 19-21, 2023. Click here for more information.
Warsaw Beer Street
Proof of the Polish love of craft beer can be found in the impressive number of beer bars in the city. To make life easy for us beer lovers, there are at least five bars on or near ‘beer street’ Nowogrodzka, which is just a short walk from the Palace of Culture and Science, so you can do a proper pub crawl! There are several more scattered around the city. I managed to visit eight on this trip and will update this page with more bars after my next trip in 2024. The city’s first craft beer bar Cuda na Kiju is high on the wish list. Most bars and their taplists are included on this very helpful site Ontap.pl.
People are very friendly and the beer selection on tap was excellent. What blew my mind is how popular pastry sours are here, I couldn’t believe how many times I saw people ordering pint-sized (!) Funky Fluid Gelato Ice Cream pastry sours at Kufle i Kapsle (bar nr 3). Crazy!
This popular bar is just around the corner of Nowogrodzka. I excitedly started my pubcrawl thinking this was a Brewski bar (by the Swedish brewery Brewski), silly me. It’s totally unrelated! They have a large selection of Polish craft beer (59 taps) and serve bar food. It’s a big place, with plenty of tables and booths, and seems quite busy on weekends.
Address: Żurawia 32/34
Right next to Brewski you will find one of the two Hopito bars in town. Several of the 20 taps are reserved for their own beers, though I don’t know if they have a brewery or are gypsy brewers. The bar seems to focus on a young crowd with its modern bright interior, tv screens and pizza menu. When I was there it was very crowded and the loud music was too much, especially the extreme bass vibrating through my table. I heard that their second location on Chmielna is more comfortable and has better acoustics. I will have to check that out on my next visit.
Address: Żurawia 32/34 (entrance on Parkingowa) / Chmielna 24
This bar on Nowogradzka was totally my kind of vibe! Unfortunately the lighting didn’t allow for a good picture, so I have added a photo of their 2nd bar just a few blocks away. Very laid back, friendly staff and an interesting selection of beers when I was there including local Polish craft beer, Belgian Kasteel and Berlin-based Schneeeule. I noticed that all the bars I visited they had at least one Belgian sour beer on tap, often a Lindemans Kriek or something similar. What’s more, at this bar they have two handpumps they brought from London! KiK has three locations in the city and I believe this one was their first. The name means ‘mugs and caps’.
Address: Nowogrodzka 25 / Nowy Swiat 27 / Popiełuszki 21
The Jabeerwock is a creature in Lewis Caroll’s Through the Looking-Glass. Cool name for a bar, though it looks nothing like an Alice in Wonderland scene. It has a bit of industrial look and feel to it, with its brick walls and bright lights. The vintage tile floor hints at an older history of the building. There are 2 handpumps and 17 beer taps of which a few are for their own beers. They serve bar snacks and pizza. The nachos were good, but the salsa sauce was to die for.
Address: Nowogrodzka 12
Piwpaw means ‘peacock of beers’ in Polish, which you will recognize straightaway from their logo. They were previously located in what is now the Brewski bar. The current venue is about a block away from PINTA and has an impressive amount of taps, over 70. Like most bars the majority of beers is from Polish brewers, ranging from popular styles like IPA to more traditional lager beers. Guest taps include other Central and Eastern European breweries and a few Belgian beers. The walls and ceiling are covered in bottle caps, which looks very ‘crafty’. You can’t sit at the bar, but under the bar there are jacket hooks, so they seem to be prepared for big crowds. What I noticed at all of the bars: they don’t use coasters anywhere.
Address: Foksal 16
A bit different than the previous bars, this is a large, bright space with two floors, big glass windows and colorful bar stools. I would say comfortable, but not cosy. That works for me, since I am constantly writing in my notebook and prefer not to sit in the dark. This was formerly a Mikkeller bar before PINTA took over in the summer of 2021. Of the 20 taps, a little more than half is reserved for their own beers. I didn’t try the food menu, but it looked impressive with lots of options.
Address: Chmielna 7/9
Located in the quaint old town that was beautifully restored after WWII, Same Krafty is split into two bars on either side of Nowomiesjka. One side, Multitap, is a looks more basic with white paint and brick walls, while the other side, Vis-a-Vis, is a colorful mix.
Address: Nowomiejska 10
Similar to Rotterdam, a city risen from the WWII ashes, Warsaw had to totally rebuild itself after the war. In contrast to my hometown, they decided to rebuild the old town exactly as it was. Many of the city’s most historic buildings, including the Royal Castle, are restorations or total recreations. Compared to the size of Warsaw itself, the ‘old’ town is small and easy to cover in a short time. You really feel like you are going back in history, it’s marvelous. There are many wonderful sites to visit scattered throughout the city that include famous parks, castles and museums, such as Lazienki Castle and Park, Wilanow Castle, Warsaw Uprising Museum and the Museum of the History of Polish Jews. You’ll also see many references to two of Poland’s most famous inhabitants: Copernicus and Chopin.
The city is divided by the Vistula River. The festival took up most of my time, so I never made it to the East side, but I hear the Praga Quarter is well worth visiting. I also read that the city offers good shopping. In addition to so many interesting highlights, I found the city to be very affordable. Extra bonus points for being very vegan friendly. Did you know Warsaw ranks in the top 10 of most vegan friendly cities? I am sure you can guess that I will be going back!.
All images by Tina Rogers unless otherwise specified.