Friday, 17 February 2012

In search of Polish beer

In 2004, when EU nationals arrived in the UK in greater numbers, they brought with them a range of new and strangely titled beers.  This was manna from heaven for a intrepid beer hunter like me: suddenly a range of new names were glowering at me from the shelves of the most unlikely community vendors.

Now is it me, or are these new arrivals starting to become slightly rarer now?  Perhaps you are not overly bothered either way.  Frankly, I'm not sure I am..... but then again I wouldn't like this trend to disappear completely without feeling like I'd really had a good go at trying them all.

We spend lots of time talking about exciting beer trends like Black IPA.  Instead, let's talk about beers from the other end of the my scale. 

So let's review, and then perhaps you can tell me about any East European treats I've missed.

Now in Birmingham, the vast majority of these post-2004 beers were Polish lagers, often rather strong ones.  For my money, Lech Premium is the best: a very well balanced, firm and quite fresh-tasting lagery beast.  Also good was/is Okocim, which is quite unrelenting and full flavoured.  Other ubiquitous names have been Zywiec (pleasant, but slightly metallic), EB (OK, but lacking oomph and a teensy weensy bit greasy) and Tyskie (which I don't like, hardly much at all, cos it's too unbalanced).  The use of brackets was a bit over the top there.  Sorry about that.

In the field of normalish Polish Lagers, other 'highlights' include:

Perla Chmielowa - some flavour

Specjal - quite sweet

Warka - malt

Lech Pils - fairly plain

Perla Export - almost no flavour

Brok - flat, metallic

Harnas - nice label, but a taste of fog, tissues and fizz


Even more 'interesting' were the slightly stronger lagers, often with Mocne suffixed to the title.  Of these, I enjoyed Tatra, Zubr and Debowe; but has less success with Warka Strong and Okocim Mocne.

I have a particularly soft spot for Debowe, because for 2 months, I used to walk past an empty can of it, on the way the collect my child from nursery.  The hope that I would one day drink this enticing creature, made my stomp down the road through hail and rain, safe in the knowledge that it would be a taste sensation (it wasn't).

My only sadness about the Polish beer importers, is that that they never seemed to bring their best beers with them - after all, how often did we see any delicious Baltic Porters, apart from Zywiec???  

Sadly, beers from our other Eastern European brethren seemed slightly more reticent in travelling to the UK, although I did grab an Utenos and a Syvturys from Lithuania (and really enjoyed the latter actually), and an Aldaris from Latvia.

People of Birmingham - please tell me where I can pick up more of these wonderful lagers and which ones.

Much gratitude.


  1. We get a bunch of that kind of stuff in Notts too, but they're much of a muchness (and generally all big beer group owned). Be good to see some variation making the trip, I did have one really good dark beer when I was in Warsaw once - I think it was a Zywiec brew so probably the porter you mentioned.

  2. My biggest disappointment is the (otherwise rather wonderful) Czech & Slovak Club in West Hampstead which has been in its current location for longer than anyone can remember but latterly has only seen fit to carry two draught Czech beers - Budvar & Pilsner Urquell. They have relatively recently managed to stock Budvar Dark and, rather an enforced addition this one, Zlaty Bazant in bottles. But, considering the possibilities out there, it's a pretty piss poor effort. As far as Polish beers go, I did once stumble across a shop in Ealing that sold Zywiec Porter but it was conspicuously absent last time I looked (which, to be fair, is only once a year when I go to the Ealing Beer Festival). Otherwise, the range of Polish pales we get in my neck of the woods seems to be contracting.

  3. Gareth - keep an eye out for Mocnes and Okocim Porter, which sounds good.

    Chris, yes, I believe the peak has passed. Still Polish Lagers being exchanged for hoppy UK beers - sounds like a fair swap!

    1. Have you visited the Polish Club in Digbeth? Wondering what beers they may stock there (they have a restaurant that looks quite kitsch but is open to everyone, not just members) - maybe they'll only have one or two mass-market lagers also, but could be worth checking out?

  4. Tania, I'll have to check out the Polish club - if I can pluck up the courage!