Beer Culture

Stories about great beer from the countries that invented it.

Two Beers From Hungary's Szögedi Sörfőzde


Hungary is wine country, but it has a long tradition of brewing as well, with the legendary name of Dreher — as in Anton — the brand of one of the country’s best-known pale lagers. Unfortunately, finding good craft beer from the country’s small producers is tricky. Just about everywhere you go, you’ll come across Dreher (part of SABMiller) and Soproni (a Heineken brand). But great local beer? Microbrews? Not so easy to spot.

We spent most of the last two weeks in Hungary, first at Lake Balaton, then in Budapest, where we I finally found a couple of interesting beers. Or at least, what looked like interesting beers. My Hungarian is limited to the five words most commonly found on restaurant menus, but when I saw the sign above, I was pretty sure that “házi” might be something like “domácí” in Czech, the equivalent of “house-made,” and I knew that “sör” meant beer. So I picked up a bottle of each brew: a világos, or pale, called Gutberger, and a barna, or dark, called Braunger.

Both come from the Szögedi Sörfőzde, which says it was established in 1993. Both were bombshell-shaped plastic (PET) containers of 1 liter, or just about two pints. Each cost the equivalent of $1.50.


Unfortunately, the packaging and price turned out to be the high points of the bottles from Szögedi Sörfőzde. The dark Braunger had a decent appearance of clear amber with thick-set beige foam. There were some light cola flavors in the mouth, as well as a touch of gingery spice, and I detected some not-so-fun cardboard flavors in the finish. That was still better than the Gutberger, which poured a very light gold with an industrially white foamy head that immediately died. The Gutberger’s nose was only slightly grainy, and there was no discernible hop aroma or flavor. Or any other aromas or flavors of any kind.

It brought to mind Jean-Pierre Van Roy’s proclamation about industrial beers: like him, I would rather drink a good industrial beer than a bad artisanal beer, and in this case I’d rather have a glass of SABMiller’s Dreher (not a bad pale lager) or a dark Soproni Démon, which I quite liked, regardless of how much I want to support small producers.

And of course Hungary does have better craft beer producers: there’s the Gyertyános brewery at Miskolc, which has a great reputation among Hungarian foodies, and which was part of the V3 Rauchbier miracle produced in conjunction with Pivovar Kocour Varnsdorf and Slovakia’s Kaltenecker. There is also Budapest’s “Only Good Beers!” store, Csak a jó sör!, which sells La Chouffe and other international specialities which are not found even in beer-loving countries like the Czech Republic.

When I return to Hungary, I’ll keep looking for good local brews. But I’ll probably settle for my favorite discovery from this last trip: a few bottles of cserszegi fűszeres, a lovely indigenous white wine, from an excellent local producer like Jásdi. “Only Good Beers” is a great name for a beer store. But sometimes good wines will have to do.


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  1. judas

    When you will return, don’t miss the Black Rose double-bock beer. A must try Hungarian brew. You can get at Only Good Beers.

  2. I definitely will check out the Black Rose, which I’ve heard is very good:

    What other beers should we look for from Hungary?

  3. armando629

    You should try a beer called Korty! It was brewed with the famous wine,Tokaji Aszú…
    You can drink it only on tap and at the city of Miskolc. The beer has an own pub, called Kortyolda.

  4. Hey Armando, I’ll have to make it out to Miskolc next time. I keep hearing great stuff about their beers.

    In fact, we’ve got a Tokaji Aszú beer in the CR as well — Kocour has a version produced, I believe, in conjunction with Serforrás in Miskolc. Interesting flavors, though a bit sweet for an extended evening of it. How sweet is the Hungarian version?

  5. Try Stari Brewery in Tapolca (north of Balaton). They brew very nice, classic Házi Sör, called Stari, based on a classic bavarian recipe.

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