When one thinks of countries that are known worldwide for their beer, Poland is not the first, second, or maybe even 15th country to come to mind. Surrounded by heavyweight beer giants like Germany and the Czech Republic, it is hard for Poland to leave its beer-guzzling neighbors’ shadows. But while vodka might be the national beverage, Poland’s beer environment should not be ignored.
Polish people of all ages drink lots of beer, and thus there is a wide variety of Polish beers available to consume. Whether hanging out at a bar on Nowy Świat in Warsaw, or grabbing a drink to go for the party from the Żabka across the street of your Airbnb, there is always Polish beer available. If you are new to Poland, like I once was, it might be hard to decide just what to drink your first time out.
Below, you will find a list of 10 beer brands to try when you come to Poland. The first section has a list of traditional Polish beers, drank more commonly by Polish people, and available in most stores and many bars. Additionally for these bars, you will get personal insight from yours truly, as I have taken it upon myself to try each of those beers. Following the list of traditional Polish, there is a guide on how to find craft Polish beers to try as well. These beers are not as commonly found in stores, and you may have to go to a specific brewery or bar to buy them. Finally, as a bonus, there is information on how to order a beer in Poland, if you want to impress the locals with a few words in Polish!
Best Traditional Polish Beers
The beers you will find in this section are beers that you can buy in your local Żabka, bar, or grocery store. While these beers are not award-winning brews, these are what the locals drink, and are amongst the popular and highest-selling beers in Poland. If you are a self-proclaimed beer snob, and use ratebeer.com as your measuring stick for beer, I recommend skipping this section and heading to the craft beer section of this article! Otherwise, below is a list of 10 Polish brands you should try when you are in Poland, with insight provided from a tasting session completed by my roommate and I.
Dębowe Dojrzałe Mocne
This tasty amber-colored beer, made by Poznań-based Kompania Piwowarska SA, a heavyweight in Polish beer brands, differs from the typical Polish beer. My palate was pleased by the darker notes in this lager. It is marketed as a premium beer, with oak-tree branding consistent on its website and the bottle itself. You cannot miss the dark bronze bottle with the oak tree on the label when going to the shop. Plus, this beer provides more of a kick then the average lager, with a 7% alcohol content.
Beer has been brewed in the northern Polish town of Elbląg since 1309 in the time of the Teutonic Order. So, it is certainly worth trying EB’s classic golden lager, which was even the exclusive beer of choice for the court of Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany! While its popularity within Poland has fluctuated, it has recently resurged. Even if you do not like the beer, the can is the most unique of the Polish beers I have tried, with its kangaroo and emu mascots.
Lech is a name you cannot escape when in Poland. When you share a name with Nobel-peace prize winner Lech Wałęsa, you have big shoes to fill. And Lech does a good job of doing so, it is my personal favorite lager made by a Polish company. Brewed since 1975, this green-bottled beer is smooth, tasty, goes down easy, and is perfect for all situations, whether you want a refreshing beer while enjoying the beautiful summer nights of Poland, or partying with your friends at a club. Lech supplies a variety of beers to try, such as the Lech Premium, Lech Pils, and Lech Easy. Lech also provides more alcohol-free beers than other Polish breweries, with flavors such as Mango, Lemon, Lychee, and Watermelon! You can also do a tour of the brewery in Poznań if this interests you.
This beer takes the prize of “best beer to drink if you don’t like beer!” My non-beer-drinking roommate liked Łomża’s options the best, specifically their honey beer Miodowe. I too liked their Miodowe, as the honey taste is powerful, while still leaving room for the flavors of the lager beneath. Łomża offers plenty of other options too, being the fourth largest brewery in Poland, in spite of the small town where it is brewed. With renewed marketing strategies, Łomża is becoming more and more popular amongst Polish beer drinkers, so try yours now while it is still trendy!
Perła, brewed by the independently-owned Browary Lubelskie in the budget-friendly town of Lublin, is certainly worth a try! I enjoyed their 5% ABV Pils, which has actually won an award at an international competition before, something most big Polish beer brands cannot claim. So, if you get the chance, grab a bottle with “Claudy” the buck on the front, and enjoy the smooth taste of this beer! Other than the Pils, Perła makes a variety of other good beers, such as their Baltic porter. It is also available in the UK, US, Germany, and Australia if you want to try before arriving in Poland!
Named for the beautiful Tatra Mountain range on the southern border of Poland with Slovakia, this once-proclaimed “sacredly good beer” is worth a shot. I was told by a local Pole that this beer would not taste good, but I was pleasantly surprised by its flavorful taste and slightly bitter aftertaste. Additionally, if you enjoy collecting beer cans, Tatra has a wide variety of cans with quirky designs, akin to the eclectic vibe of the Tatran town Zakopane. So, look for the can with mountains and traditionally dressed Polish men, and sit back and enjoy!
You cannot get more heavyweight than Tyskie. Well, almost, more on that later. But, Tyskie is nearly as ubiquitous as vodka in Polish watering holes. The average bar and club are likely to serve Tyskie. Thus, it has a pretty standard taste, which explains its wide appeal to the Polish drinking populace. This beer still manages to pack a tasty punch, and even if it is not a beer you would write home about, it is an essential to try, as “Pole’s favorite beer.” Try the classic Tyskie Gronie to get the full Polish experience.
Next, take a trip back in time and try a beer made by Poland’s oldest brewery! Warka’s smooth taste has claimed to be perfected since 1478 when it was the official beer of the Polish royal court. It has won awards for its quality, and well not super distinct as the average lager goes, its history makes it a must try! While the Warka Classic is their specialty, Warka also offers Radlers, stronger beers, and alcohol-free options.
Żubr, named for the once extinct European wood bison, has been brewed since the mid 1700s, and is one of Poland’s most popular beers, currently with the second highest market share. This beer prominently features a bison on its packaging, and you will feel like a bison after drinking too much of it! This beer features heavily in clubs, due to its 6% alcohol content. And as so many Poles drink it, even daily, it is necessary to try!
Last, but most certainly not least, Żywiec is Poland’s heavyweight in beer production, with the sheer amount it produces every year vastly different from the small town it is made in. While it may not be the industry leader, it certainly seems like Żywiec-branded beer is everywhere. And for good measure too, since they make a wide variety of tasty beers. The must try for me is their Baltic Porter, a regional specialty, with the strong coffee notes, and just the slightest taste of chocolate as well. But you can also get the classic bottles, which are also quite tasty.
What about Polish Craft Beers?
Craft beer in Poland is not the easiest find in the average Polish store, but there is a plethora of Polish craft breweries that have sprouted up in recent years in major Polish cities! While these breweries may not yet be world-acclaimed, they have the variety and atmosphere to be a very enjoyable experience to visit, and also with enjoyable drinks. Since you are not going to find an IPA at the Żabka, visit stores such as Duży Ben. Or go to the amazing breweries themselves! You will find in this section a small list of Polish craft beers to try, and a list of craft breweries to try in some of Poland’s largest cities, such as Warsaw.
Craft Beers to Try
- Perhaps the most classic Polish craft beer is Grodziskie beer. Originating in the region of Wielkoposlki in the 16th century, this beer is a regional specialty, and legally protected. For a brief time, when the only brewery that made it was liquidated, it was hard to find. But since 2015, it has returned to the market! So, if you can get an ice-cold Grodziskie, take the chance to try it! This smoked beer is full of flavor, and smells of smoked malt with a slight bitterness.
- Another quintessential Polish craft beer are those with the name Komes. Komes are award winning beers made by Browar Fortuna, such as a Russian Imperial Stout and Baltic Porter, of which both can be purchased online and in occasional stores and bars. There are also a bunch of related beers under the Fortuna name, such as a Sour Quince, Honey Dark, and Black Whiskey Wood beer. Fortuna-made beers are worth a look for craft beer lovers.
- The final Polish craft beer company worth a try is Browar Pinta. Its most common beers include the Pinta Atak Chmielu and the Czarna Dziura, both award-winning beers amongst a long list of such beers made by them.
Of course, you can also get craft beers at local brew pubs in Polish cities. Below is a short list of breweries that have craft beer available to try, including beers that brewed in-house! This list is not exhaustive, but it is not difficult to find a craft brewery near you as long as you are in a major Polish city.
|Browar ArtezanKufle I KapslePiwPaw
|Browar LubiczCraftowniaHouse of Beer
|AleBrowarBrowar PG4Nowy Browar Gdański
|BierhalleBrowar Stu MostówSpiż
So, Poland certainly has a beer for everyone! While the mass-produced beers are easier to find, and Poland’s craft beer scene is not as expansive as other nearby countries, it is slowly growing, and in the near future, Poland might become a destination for beer lover! All the same, all zythophiles, whether new to the craft or seasoned veterans, should find something to their liking! I certainly have been able to, and have been pleasantly surprised by the variety Poland has to offer. I hope this guide will help you find your favorite Polish beer! Read on if you want to learn how to order a beer in Polish.
Bonus: How to order a beer in Poland
Now that you know what you want to order, it is time to get to ordering! In almost every place that serves beer in Poland, you will be able to order in English. Most bartenders speak decent English, and at the minimum know basic words related to the job. However, knowing how to order a beer in Polish is certainly a useful skill to have if you plan to drink your way through Polish bars in the spirit of locals, or want to impress your new Polish friends!
The simplest way to ask for a beer, in Polish called piwo (pee-vo), at a bar, or for any food or drink item for that matter, is to say “Proszę piwo,” (pro-shay pee-vo) which means “A beer please.” However, if you want to be extra polite in your request, you can say “Poproszę piwo.” (Po-pro-shay pee-vo) The final polite way to ask for a beer is the most complicated, as it depends on your gender. Males say “Chciałbym piwo” (hitch-ow-bim pee-wo) and females say “Chciałabym piwo,” (hitch-ow-a-bim pee-wo) with both meaning “I would like a beer.”
Depending on the situation, there are a couple of other ways that you could request a beer. If you are an 18-year-old traveling in Poland with your parents, not sure if they will allow you to get a beer, you could ask them “Czy mogę dostać piwo,” (chi moh-gay do-stach pee-vo) literally “Can I get a beer?” Finally, if you are with your friends, and you want them to get a beer for you at the bar, you can choose to say “Daj mi piwo,” (Die me pee-vo) which could be said to mean the same thing as “beer me.” However, do not use this turn of phrase in a formal situation, or you will get likely not be served. The Polish take formality seriously!With these phrases you should be set to order a beer anywhere in Poland! Another few useful words to remember include “duże” (due-zhay) which is large, “mały” (mah-way) which is small, “ciemne” (chem-neigh) which is dark, and “jasne” (yas-neigh) which is light. Good luck, and na zdrowie!