Beer Culture

Stories about great beer from the countries that invented it.

Tasting Notes: Two Polish Brews


Since the EU entry of Poland and the Czech Republic in 2004, many Czech brewers have been expanding their exports to the north, and just about every year a sizeable contingent from the Polish Bractwo Piwne comes south to check out the winners at the Czechs’ SPP beer awards. However, both cases are about Poles enjoying Czech beers, and the interest does not appear to cross the border in both directions: the Czech Republic does not import many beers of any kind, and certainly very few come from the land of Lech.

However, a few Polish brews have showed up recently at Pivovarský klub, so I picked up bottles of Perła and Ciechan Miedowe Niefiltrowane for a tasting.

Perła Chmielowa Pils (500-milliliter bottle / 6% ABV)
Pours a bright clear gold and quite fizzy with a loose white head that disappears within moments. The nose has only a slight touch of malt. In the mouth, a thin body is followed by a thin finish and just a hint of hop bitterness by Czech standards, in contrast to the “chmielowa” on the label. Despite being brewed at 12.2°, it ends up with a strong 6% ABV (versus 4.4% ABV for Pilsner Urquell). The alcohol is well-incorporated, but the deep fermentation reduces its heft: this is a fairly watery “pils” rather than the rich malt body of Pilsner Urquell or the similarly busty brews from Rychtář, Bernard, Opat or Svijany.

Ciechan Miedowe Niefiltrowane (500-milliliter bottle / 6.2% ABV)
This unfiltered honey beer pours a cloudy gold with a loose chalk head that dies quickly. The nose smells strongly of honey, most likely from the addition of “natural aroma” listed on the label. In the mouth, an initial sour bite fades to a lush saccharine rush and a medicinal flavor akin to that of honey-flavored candy. Compared to the Czech honey beers from Sentice’s Pivovar Kvasar and Rambousek in Hradec Králové, this is far sweeter and much more chemical in taste. The label says that this is Piwo Roku (beer of the year) 2006 from Browar Roku (brewery of the year) 2006.

It’s interesting to note that the two Polish brews are quite high in alcohol, compared to similar Czech beers, and I should point out that this is just a random sampling of what showed up at the local bottle shop — I’m certain there are even better surprises hiding in Poland. Like Ron Pattinson, I’m hoping for the return of Grodziskie, described in Michael Jackson’s Beer Companion as “an extremely pale golden beer, with a faint haze of sediment, a dense white head, and a surprisingly light body,” and with “a sourish, sappy, oaky aroma (like a box that had held smoked herring), and a smoky, dry, crisp palate.” Mmm, smoked herring boxes…

Checking out the neighbors can give you an interesting perspective on things at home. Next I’ll be writing about a syrupy new 10% ABV lager from Velké Březno that seems to be brewed exclusively for the German market, as well as an interesting dark beer from Slovakia. And if you’ve got a recommendation for a good beer from Poland or anywhere else, please drop it in the comments box.


Beer Cosmetics: Beer Shampoo, Shower Gel and Soap


Březňák Doppel-Doppel Bock


  1. I travelled around Poland in 2003. I liked the country, specially Gdansk and Wroclaw, but was not too impressed with the beers, the only ones that seemed to have any sort of character or distinctive taste were the stronger ones (starting with 7%ABV maybe). The regular stuff always felt heavy on the stomach and rather thin in the mouth. I was also at a brewpub in Wroclaw, right at the main square, and back then, the beer there didn’t strike me as better than a regular lager you can get here at every corner.

  2. I’ve spent a lot of time in Poland, although for most of that I wasn’t a beer enthusiast, and I still eagerly pick up any Polish beers I see in London that I haven’t had.

    So far, I agree pretty much wholeheartedly with Pivni Filosof – you don’t really get much flavour until you get strength, and even then it seems to be pretty one dimensional. A good exception to this is Kozlak, by Browar Witnica, which manages to be tasty and under 6%. That’s about the only one I can think of.

    I’ve also been to that brewpub in Wroclaw (probably also around 2003!) and I don’t remember much about the beer (wasn’t that bothered at the time) but it was an absolutely fabulous pub, I thought. They were giving out free “Chleb z smalcem” (bread and dripping).

    A point that has always vexed me – given the quality of Czech and German beer, why is the Polish stuff consistently uninteresting? And the fact that a lot of modern-day Poland was Germany for so long – whatever the politics and history, you would expect there to be more of a beer heritage in places like Wroclaw (Breslau), Poznan (Posen) and of course Gdansk. I wondered whether it had anything to do with the fact anything or anyone German was forceably removed post WW2 – but then Ron Pattinson has pointed out that beer production was already on the decline well before WW2. I can’t find the link to where he said that. But he had some tables to prove it.

  3. As far as I know beer in Poland,never had as deep cultural roots as it has in Germany or here. That is one of the reasons. I read an interview with Jan Šuran once where he said that Poland is not a beer country, like Russia, but that beer consumtion is increasing slowly. I think that is the case.

  4. Well, indeed, and it’s noticeable that the older generation seem to prefer vodka. But why should it have evolved that way?

    You could pose a chicken and egg style question – did the Poles historically prefer vodka because the beer was bad, or is the beer bad because the Poles prefer vodka?

  5. Martin

    Beer in Poland is not bad, it’s just different. Poles prefer stronger beers (just like other alcohol).

    But another problem is that almost all production of beer in Poland is in hands of just few big international companies. Especially SABMiller that owns Kompania Piwowarska and they have almost all important brands

    (They also brew Pilsner Urquell in Poznan – Poland! Believe me it’s not Urquell you know from Czech Republic :( )

    Another big company in Poland is Grupa Zywiec SA. Unfortunately it’s also owned by German company ( that has 59% in Zywiec and Harbin B.V. from Rotterdam (35%).

    So, in fact we only have few really traditional Polish companies that can offer something different than mass production that you can tell only by label on the bottle.

  6. Hey Martin, thanks for stopping by. So which Polish beers would you recommend we check out? Which traditional companies offer something different than mass production Eurobeer?

  7. PMK

    Polish beer usually sucks. It’s all light lager and Pilsners, but I do happen to like Ciechan Miodowe. Unfiltered beers (like Harpoon’s UFO) have a special place in my heart. Stuff like Lech, Tyskie, Zywiec: it all tastes like Budweiser (or like Budvar.) I have a full report here:

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén