Poznań beer gen
Last Updated : 14/02/09
ere's the report - at last - for our September 2008 visit to the Polish city of Poznań where we scooped beers, rode trams and... well, that's about it, really.
My updated Google map for Poznań is here.
After sweating through a long, dull summer avoiding chav-stuffed flights and brat infested airports autumn brought welcome relief in the form of our first trip abroad since Gothenburg in June and, fortuitously, it was to one of our favourite countries: Poland. We both liked Poland as it seemed very different from the affluent western countries of Europe in a grey, concretey kind of way plus it was reasonably cheap, had lots of tram systems to scoop, the food was solid and the beer scene was improving all the time… so, all in all, a country with almost everything we liked in one package!
After trips to Gdansk, Krakow and Katowice during the previous couple of years I’d hoped to visit Warsaw but, unfortunately, none of the fares I could find for our preferred week were anything like as attractive as I’d hoped and so plan B came into operation; find somewhere else! Our choice came down to Łódź and Poznań but, due to Łódź’ tram system undergoing some serious track renewal with corresponding service farces, Poznań was chosen for September’s destination and flights were secured with Ryanair for £32, whereupon the serious planning began!
Thursday 18th September 2008.
Relax and Shop.
The outward flight was from East Midlands at the slightly unusual time of 13:25 which gave us a welcome lie-in but, on the flipside, less time in Poznań when we eventually arrived and a busy drive up in daylight with a correspondingly greater chance of getting caught up in a traffic farce. With no options other than Stansted, however, I’d had to take this option although driving up to East Midlands on a weekday daytime didn’t exactly fill me with anticipation with the added risk of accidents and roadworks en-route. All went well until the A42 when we found out that a total shambles had occurred around junction 9 and all traffic was being diverted off the road; cheers then, it’s a good thing we always plan plenty of “recovery time” into the schedule, but in the end our enforced diversion via the A38 only added a few minutes onto the total journey time and we were soon in the long-stay carpark waiting for a bus back to civilisation.
Now I know I’m always railing against Pink Elephant parking at Stansted but East Midlands long-stay 6 must surely take the prize for the most desolate place outside the Kalahari desert with it’s expanse of grey gravel, chain-link fences marching off into the distance and not a living thing to be seen except the odd carload of normals struggling with outsized cases on wheels… it’s so bleak and inhabitable we half expected a tumbleweed and a posse of outlaws to come over the horizon in a cloud of dust, but nothing that interesting ever happens at East Midlands long-stay 6 so we staved off boredom by munching on butties and peering at the Vulcan just visible in the air museum on the far side of the airport.
After what seemed an eternity a bus lumbered it’s way across the crunching gravel and transported us the deceivingly long way to the terminal where we saw what had once been a small, rather folksy airport had completed it’s transformation – I prefer regression, as in a butterfly changing back into a caterpillar – into a hideous, garish “consumer experience” where finding the departure gates involved more luck than judgement; one lot are down a small corridor without an obvious sign which looks as if it may lead to the cleaner’s storeroom whilst reaching the others involves navigating through a “duty free” shop with strategically positioned displays of tat to disorientate you even further… honest, it’s true… the airport we once liked is dead! Checking the departure screens, we were told not to “wait in lounge” as at most airports but to “relax and shop”; looking around at a churning sea of cod-eyed, brain dead consumerist clones doing just that in a pre-credit crunch frenzy of capitalism and easy credit was one of life’s more dismal experiences.
Slow bus to Poznań.
As if we weren’t having a depressing enough a time already when we boarded our flight the captain informed us that due to dreaded “air traffic control slot restrictions” we’d be delayed by half an hour; just what we wanted! 25 minutes later we were airborne and heading off into the murky grey afternoon… and when we descended again 90 minutes later the weather was almost identical if a touch colder! We wasted no time in buying our tickets from the public transport stand in arrivals and heading out for the bus into town where it soon became clear that another downside of travelling this late in the day was that the buses from/to Poznań would be delayed by rush-hour traffic. When one eventually arrived it took a good 30 minutes to cover the few kilometres into the city along a main road so clogged with motorised vehicles it would probably have given Jeremy Clarkson a stiffy.
Eventually we were deposited at Bałtyk and immediately headed for our hotel to check-in and deposit our bags. We were staying in the Novotel and we could see it from our current position as it loomed over the city like some four-pronged Soviet bunker; I know that usually we try and get into brewpubs or small hotels, but the prices being asked in Brovaria, the city's only brewpub, were ludicrous so we’d gone for the Novotel as it was close to a supposed beer shop and not too far from the city centre on foot, plus I’d managed to get a decent rate too.
We took a tram to the bus station stop and managed to cross the very busy road after far more time than was realistic for the procedure and were soon at the hotel, mentally noting that the stop had been written off as a practical method of reaching the hotel due to the excessive road-crossing time required! The hotel was opposite a former brewery turned shopping centre, the Stary Browar, and so after checking in just ahead of a massive tour group comprised of various dullards dressed in a veritable spectrum of beige (if you haven’t guessed, I hate tour groups of any kind…) we headed out to have a look at the beery options within the old brewery plus a very decent-sounding beer shop just along the road.
One step back, three steps forward.
We soon located where the beer shop should have been but there was no sign of it anywhere on the street and no indication that it had moved elsewhere so, resigned to some crappy bottles from a supermarket as our “room beers”, we entered the bustling altar to Capitalism that was the Stary Browar shopping centre where, after a minor navigational issue, we quickly found the Piotr I Paweł supermarket in the basement where my research had promised some decent beers could be obtained from the largest beer range in the city centre.
First, however, we checked out a nearby health food shop which are generally a good bet for unpasteurised beer; luckily, we struck gold with two scoops, Kostancia Dawne and Ciechanów porter, which we filed in our rucksacks for later before exploring the cavernous delights of Piotr y Pawel which, I suppose, could be compared to Waitrose in the UK as it seemed to stock high quality food rather than the cheap stuff we’d seen in most other Polish supermarkets thus far. We acquired some bread and cheese for a post-pub snack before locating the beer aisle where I was amazed by the range available although, on closer inspection, it wasn’t Polish beers they majored on but Belgian! We managed to pick up a few Polish scoops, although if we’d been after Belgian beers such as Strubbe we’d have had much more choice than the home-grown brews!
After wondering why anyone would take a unicycle into a supermarket – there was a bloke carrying one around along with his basket – we deposited our beers and food back in the eyesore of a hotel (16 floors of Soviet concrete!) before taking a tram into the centre of town in order to have a few scoops. The Stary Rynek (main square) was impressive at night with arclights casting eerie shadows from the various buildings across the surrounding gabled buildings of which Brovaria, the city’s only brewpub, was one. We soon located it in an impressive townhouse and grabbed a table in the small and surprisingly modernist front bar whilst I scanned the menus to ascertain the beer gen; two winners plus a wheat beer was the score and so, with a limited amount of scoops likely to be on offer during the weekend, we braved the pszeniczne (wheat) and jasne (pale lager) and prepared to begin our scooping campaign.
We began with the pszeniczne, fearing it would be the worst beer, and despite it having all the repulsive bananary, clovey and spicy tastes I hate in weissbiers I could tell that it was a “proper” Germanic weizen and, had I liked the style, I may have appreciated it. The wheat was quickly disposed of before we started on the jasne which was an attractive hazy amber brew with a lovely honey-malt aroma and a touch of grassy hops; this was much better! Rich and malty, it was immediately reminiscent of one of the new-style Czech kvasnicové beers with a worty character and flavours of grain, yeastiness, honeyed malt and a decent grassy hop bitterness in the malty finish; this was undoubtedly one of the best Polish beers I’d had thus far!
Wishing we’d got a larger glass of this delicious brew, we drained the glass and I ordered another round to rectify this issue. We were soon in possession of more jasne plus the final scoop, Miodowy (honey), and I was delighted to see that this wasn’t simply the jasne with honey in but what appeared to be a separate brew, much darker in colour, with a simply gorgeous honey, malt and toast aroma. The flavour followed suit with some additional treacle and the finish built to a crescendo of treacle, malt and honeyed lusciousness… what a beer! With such quality beer the only issue we had with the brewpub was it’s excessive smokiness and resolved, the following evening, to try out the upstairs beerhall which seemed a lot quieter and less cancerous.
Under the gaze of V I Lenin…
With another evening to enjoy the beers we decided to head back to the hotel via another recommended bar which sounded like a tourist hellhole but had two winning house beers; so easily pleased, eh? We soon located Proletaryat and it looked as kitsch as we’d expected with a huge bust of Lenin in the window adorned with a suitably red tie but, having found it, I reckoned we may as well have a look and so in we went to see, rather than the hordes of tourists I’d supposed it would attract, lots of locals lounging around on chairs under the gaze of comrades Lenin and Marx (with not one single Stalin in sight… so maybe it’s not as anti-Soviet as I’d assumed?).
We bagged a table at the back under a colossal painting of Lenin whereupon I went to the bar to investigate the beer gen. Local brewer Czarnków apparently did a pair of beers for the bar under the house name and, as they appeared on the brewer’s website, I was cautiously optimistic that they might actually be distinct specials for the pub rather than blatant rebadges, although Czarnków also do a beer called Eire Noteckie with a suspiciously similar strength and tasting notes – on the website! – to the house Ciemne…
One bottle of each was soon acquired from the highly amused barmaids who laughed at my atrocious Polish (although they understood it well enough to give me the correct beers, so it can’t have been too bad!) and I bore them triumphant back to my table. The Jasne was a thinnish pale beer with a vague fruity sweetness and dry finish although nothing too exciting whereas the Ciemne (dark) was very deep red and had a cloying burnt sugar taste and, to be honest, wasn’t particularly pleasant. Our beers supped, all that remained was to bid Dobrú noc to Lenin and head back to the nearest tramstop for a quick trundle on route 2 back to Półwiejska and the hotel.
Back in our room, looking out over the old brewery gave a second wind to our scooping capacity so we made inroads into the admittedly small number of bottles we’d acquired thus far; Fortuna Zloty Smok (6.2%) was a very unusual beer, very unusual indeed, with a strange spicy, herby and almost cola-like taste to it… I wasn’t sure if it was supposed to taste like that but, if it was, then I didn’t like it! Next up was Zlatopramen Bursztynowe (5.1%) which had a reddy hue (Amber is the translation of Bursztynowe and it’s proper Czech name is Bernstein), a sweetish malt flavour and was decently toasty, malty and suppable although lacking any serious character. Konstancia Dawne nepasteryzowane (7%) was, as would be expected, hazy and smelt of yeast although what stood out was a good hoppy bitterness to balance the malt and a complex dry, malty and reasonably hoppy finish in a resiny, grassy kind of way; good stuff! Our final beer of the evening was Czarnków Eire Noteckie (6.2%) and although it was suspiciously similar to the Proletaryat Ciemne we’d had earlier it seemed dryer and not as obviously sugary, but maybe that was the scooper in me desperate for another winner? It did taste dryer, honest…
Friday 19th September 2008
A busful of Nuns, a historic tram and a pair of goats.
We were up early in order to try and scoop as much of the city’s extensive tram network as we could; Poland has many tram-fitted cities but, unfortunately, many are exclusively equipped with the “greenhouses on wheels” Konstal 105 vehicles which aren’t particularly interesting although obviously better than any new plastic piece of crap. Poznań, however, has a fleet with huge variation of vehicles obtained through buying second-hand kit from Western European cities which were upgrading and now their fleet contains such hellfire vehicles as Beijnes/Schindlers from Amsterdam, Düwags from Mannheim and Czech T3’s making it the most interesting system in Poland.
We were slightly distracted, however, by a coach outside our hotel which was busy disgorging it’s cargo, a whole load of nuns and assorted kids, although why they were there, what they were doing and where they were going wasn’t obvious… and, anyhow, who cares with the amusing spectacle of a busload of nuns? It’s just funny! (Honestly, it was… I know it’s not the sort of thing you see every day but it was rather amusing… but, then again, I’ve got a strange sense of humour!)
After gazing at this bizarre spectacle for a while off we went for some tram scooping which I’ll not bore you with (unless you’re as sad as me and really want to know, in which case email me and I’ll decant the full gen!) apart from one particularly top incident when we managed to scoop – through chasing it across the city – one of the system’s preserved Konstal 102NA’s on a regular service; what a beast! The tram was immaculate and the driver even gave a thumbs-up when I took it’s picture at the terminus but, just in case you’re thinking that most drivers do that, let me assure you that Polish tram drivers are even more miserable than their Czech counterparts!
We continued with our “city exploration” until it was time to witness the noon occurrence in the Stary Rynek where, on the Ratusz (town hall), the clock does some strange things including saints and a pair of goats. As we waited for this fascinating spectacle to occur the crowd grew noticeably with the inclusion of a school party; this was just what the dubious old pervert selling candy floss had been waiting for and he brandished sticks of it at the children in a very dodgy manner! With no takers, no doubt due to the brats being terrified of such a dubious character in a Claude Greengrass coat, he shuffled off to await the next crowd of fresh meat only to be replaced by some weirdo in a monk’s outfit who felt it necessary to stand around looking monky in the hope, no doubt, of acquiring some donations to his frugal lifestyle. Neither we nor the brats contributed…
The T.A shooting competition awards ceremony.
With the sun having come out we were full of the joys of Autumn and so, after spotting the bizarre sight of a cat on a lead beside what is probably the busiest road in Poznań, we headed off again for some more tram-based exploration. Whilst changing trams at Polna Sue noticed what looked like a beer shop and so we went to investigate; it turned out to be Koneser, the place we’d searched for on our first evening and, although it seemed to have moved out here and morphed into a bar, it wasn’t open and didn’t look as if it would be any time soon with pots of paint on the tables and building detritus scattered around. After a while peering through the windows we still weren’t sure whether this was a bar being opened or closed, although I have my suspicious that it had closed, so with the knowledge that we had a single bottle remaining in our room stash with little chance of acquiring any others, back we went on the next tram.
Eventually we stopped for a fortifying kava before heading for the Stary Rynek for some food in a restaurant I’d found plus another round of the delicious Brovaria beers. On the way, however, we heard army-style drums and marching noises and, on further investigation, we found Plac Wolnosčí full of army types marching around and generally being noisy. This parade turned out to be the presentation ceremony of a gathering of European TA “weekend warriors” for a shooting event and, as we watched with vague interest, pretend soldiers from various countries shuffled along for their certificates…
After a very short time we’d become bored of watching people receive bits of paper so it was, with rumbling stomachs, down to Chłopskie Jadło where we indulged in some surprisingly good Polish “peasant food”. I thought that the place seemed familiar and, as we read the menu, it suddenly came back to me that we’d visited another of the chain in Krakow the previous year! Okay, so the décor in these places is sickeningly twee and the fake cottage utensils and the like look crap, but the food itself is decent enough and the customers seemed to be Poles rather than tourists which, I’m assuming, was brought upon by the place being very difficult to find; buildings in Poland have an address for the whole building, not individual parts of it, so anyone who went to the advertised address of Stary Rynek 77 would have found a posh tourist restaurant and I’d bet that very few would look up narrow Francziskanska a few metres further along and even fewer see the small sign there!
Full of pierogi and bigos, next stop was our promised second go at Brovaria’s lusciously malty beers although we couldn’t be arsed to find a seat upstairs in the beerhall and stayed at the bar downstairs for our beer which was just as good as the previous evening and the Jasne cemented it’s position as one of the best Polish beers I’ve supped. Tearing ourselves away reluctantly, a wander around the backstreets was in order to see if any beery places would show themselves which, strangely, one did almost immediately in the shape of Behemot Café on Kramarska which promised Fortuna beers… now, thinking back, maybe I should have recalled the hideous cola-like concoction masquerading as beer from the previous evening but, predictably, my desperation got the better of me and in we went…
We bagged a table by the servery (for this is a café not a bar as such) and we ordered the two Fortuna beers on sale, Miodowy and Ciemne. Now I’m not blaming the café in any way but the beers were simply rancid with the same cola-like, herby and sugary taste the Zloty Smok had shown the previous evening and we left a considerable amount in each glass! We also ordered a portion of nachos, expecting melted cheese and guacamole, but instead we received a plateful of Doritos and a small bowl of spicy tomato ketchup… that’s not nachos as we know them although it did fill a small hunger gap which had opened since our feeding frenzy earlier.
With nothing else beery obvious in the old town we headed for another bar I’d located with an allegedly decent beer range, U Honzika, but on our way I noticed some unusual looking beers in an Alkohole shop window so in we went for a shufty. These turned out to be from Koreb, a micro from Łask, so both the “Baltic strong” and Miodowe were purchased as the shopkeeper began to close up – just in time there, then – and so, feeling as if we'd been gifted two bonus scoops from the munificence of Bacchus, we toddled off to U Honzika for what I hoped would be some of the interesting beers promised by their website.
On becoming a fully paid-up cog in the global capitalist machine.
We soon located it and clattered down the steps into a dimly-lit cellar bar where we saw a decent row of taps and a fridge full of different bottles, generally a good sign in my book! Sue went to bag a table we'd noticed whilst I headed for the bar where I found a beer I'd only tried once previously, Zlatopramen tmavý, albeit renamed for the Poles as Ciemne! The fridge contained lots of unidentifiable bottles so, conscious that the barmaid probably wasn't used to scoopers wandering in and rummaging through the fridge for hours looking for huge scoops, grabbed the most exotic-looking bottle (it had Cyrillic script on it!) before ordering my accompanying half-litre of Zlatopramen.
Back at our table I examined the bottle with feverish glee; what bizarre Russian beer would it hold, I wondered, using my very basic knowledge of Cyrillic to try and work out what was inside. It was only when I noticed through the gloom that some English text was on the back label that the alarm bells began to ring; surely no small brewery would put English on their labels? My alarm quickly turned to full-scale panic as I realised that I'd done what I try my utmost to avoid wherever we go: I'd only gone and bought an AmBev beer!
I stared with barely disguised loathing at the bottle and it's prominent InBev branding around the top which, owing to the even dimmer lighting at the bar, I hadn't seen at the time of selection. Ah well, I thought, seeing as we've already given them the money for it we may as well scoop it in and so, pouring the Sun-Inbev Chernigivski (Чернігівin) Bile into the supplied glass, I took a large gulp of the suspiciously cloudy fluid whilst reading the back label to try and ascertain any other gen about it. Despite the writing being in 2-point font and the almost total lack of any light whatsoever I managed to work out that the beer contained wheat (or similar, hence the bile – white – monicker) and was unfiltered; this was all well and good in principle but the taste was what mattered and this wasn't good with a very artificial lemon twang and bizarre tongue-tingling sherbert character to the plain dry malt and grainy finish... this was one weird beer and I wasn't quite sure what flavour profile they were trying to achieve except maybe washing-up liquid?
Thankfully the Zlatopramen (despite having themselves recently fallen victim to the insidious tentacles of global enterprise) was flavoursome enough to wash away any lingering traces of chemically-produced citrus flavour from the Sun-InBev fluid and so, not wishing to go through the same charade with another bottle, we called it a night and clinked our way the short distance back to the hotel to polish off remains of our bottle stash.
This comprised the bottles from the little alkohole shop, Koreb Baltic strong (7%) and Miodowe (9%), plus Ciechanów porter (9%). Eschewing normal procedure we began with the Baltic strong as, I reasoned, Polish Mocne (strong) beers generally taste like industrial alcohol mixed with other less desirous substances and smell as if you could use them to strip years of neglect from any exposed ironwork in the immediate area. For once I was proved wrong as, on first taste, it was obvious that Koreb could brew decent beer and this was no industrial cleaning product masquerading as strong lager; some maltiness on the tongue was followed by a dry and grainy character without the harsh burn of alcohol I'd expected; so it wasn't the most interesting beer ever but it was 500% better than I thought it would be!
Buoyed by this unexpected quality we cracked open the second Koreb beer, the Miodowe (honey) and found, despite it’s alarming strength, yet another well-made brew with a thick consistency and a strong, malty yet mellow taste with a surprisingly subtle honey hint which grew into a lusciously sweet crescendo; very nice indeed! The final beer of the evening, and of the trip we assumed, was the Ciechanów porter we'd acquired from the health food shop on our first evening and I had fairly high hopes for this one... oh, how I gnashed my teeth as it transpired to be a simple dry, caramelly albeit fairly bitter beer with an uncomplicated dry, slightly alcoholic toffee/caramel finish!
As we supped our beers we watched what passed for entertainment on TV and, for the first time in many trips, managed to find a music channel although most of it's content seemed to be “uuuurh, uuuurh, in da' house” shite. One amusing track, however, did appear and we were speechless as some rap tosser gibbered away in German whilst repeating the phrase “ding ding, ching ching”! You'll only understand this if you're an ex-crank (or even a current crank, although cranks these days talk funny) but it seemed to us as if “Bushido” - for so was his name – had realised that in order to ride a tram you needed to get some validity! Well, it amused us for a few minutes...
Saturday 20th September 2008.
The Lake Railway and cathedral...
After checking out of the Soviet concrete eyesore we trailed across town to the 600mm narrow-gauge railway alongside the Maltanka lake to see what was occurring there. We knew the first train out at 10:00 was the kettle so flagged that and instead presented ourselves for the 10:30 diesel service which was hauled by a tiny and very bizarre looking contraption of which the driver seemed inordinately proud, gibbering away in Polish and beckoning me to inspect it at close quarters! Sadly, it didn't produce anything like the level of noise I'd hoped of it and so we took it to the zoo and back to Rondo Srodka for a tram up to the cathedral for our sole touristy wander of the trip, but not before we'd seen the biggest group of bikers ever pass the tramstop with what must have been thousands of them of all types, from proper grizzled beardy ones to buzzy scooter kids, storming along without a pause for around five minutes!
After a quick assessment of the cathedral we decided that it looked much like any other large church and so we avoided the hordes of brain-dead “coach tourists” to make good or escape pausing only to wonder just what the point is of plodding along in an unthinking horde behind an incessantly gibbering bloke with speakers strapped to his back? (There was almost an amusing moment when, as the moronic crowd descended into an underpass, the speakers threatened to be scraped off by the low ceiling but sadly the bloke realised just in time and lowered them...)
Back to more interesting things.
Bored with touristy offerings we returned to what we know best: tram scooping! With Poznań blessed by the most interesting fleet of trams in Poland we scooped as much of the system as we could despite suffering a setback when we bailed out for a run on line 3 to find it only runs on weekdays! After a solid couple of hours route scooping, seeing a circus complete with camels and other random critters along the way, we broke for a snack at a Bar Mleczny (Milk Bar) we'd seen earlier on Šwięty Marcin. For those that don't know, Milk bars are a hangover from the Soviet times and are basically subsidised canteens for workers to fill up on solid, stodgy food but these days are used more by students and those on low incomes as the majority are still funded by the cities and correspondingly the cheapest eats you’ll find in most places.
A visit to a Bar Mleczny isn't for those who are afraid of languages as they are generally staffed by grumpy, elderly women who speak no English and the entire menu is in Polish so, to get the best from them, you need to know a smattering of the local lingo! Why bother, you may say? Well, first of all they're amazingly cheap, secondly the food is authentically Polish, and thirdly they're about as “real” an experience as you can get without being invited to someone's house... so, just learn please, thank you and a few words such as pierogi (a kind of stodgy ravioli with various fillings) and you're in for a right treat! We had Ruskie (Russian, with cottage cheese and potato) and Mięsem (meat) pierogi with a gulasz soup and the whole thing came to around 10 złoty, an absolute bargain, and that was us sorted for the rest of the day!
We visited a café on our way back to the main square in the hope of finding a decent espresso but, as is usual in Poland and Czech, were handed a cupful of strangely flavoured brown liquid which bore little resemblance to coffee never mind espresso! Back at Stary Rynek we noticed that some kind of music event was in progress with a stage set up in the square and various stalls serving beer and snack food to the assembled masses. We hung around watching the music until we decided that it wasn't going to burst into anything remotely Psychobilly or Gothic before checking out the beer stalls without any hope of finding decent beer – after all, when was the last time you saw good beer at any kind of festival?
A final scoop, and what a scoop!
I was amazed to find that the beer stand wasn't full of corporatist chemi-junk such as Tyskie or Lech but was in fact bursting at the seams with brews from one of the best micros in Poland, Amber from near Gdańsk! There were four beers on tap and an equivalent in bottles all for the eminently reasonable price of 4 złoty so I joined the queue to acquire a swift half as there was a scoop on tap – albeit only a weak pils – but it was then I noticed that one of the bottles didn't look very familiar and, upon closer investigation, it revealed itself to be Amber's Grand Imperial Baltic Porter: result!
I bore this huge scoop complete with plastic drinking vessel back to our table where we savoured the superb brew; black in colour, it had an aroma of sweetish caramel malt which continued into the taste with help from dry grain, bitterness, dark fruit, alcohol, 70% cocoa chocolate and finished with a mellow, chocolatey and fairly bitter taste complete with a final complex blast of maltiness... what a top beer, and how unexpected was that? I took another quick look at the Amber stall but decided against their other scoop although I did see a bowl full of hops so liberated one as we wandered across to the nearest tramstop, inhaling liberally of the sticky bract's pungent, resinous aroma! Before you ask I'm not sure what variety it was although I suspect it was either Saaz or Marynka...
That's about it for our Poznań trip; we did a few more trams (including more of the hellfire ex-Amsterdam Schindlers which are now sadly extinct in their natural environment) before taking a bus back to the airport where we found our flight full of beige-wearing normals and elderly council tenants with enormous suitcases containing who knows what manner of irrelevance. The flight was on-time and we were back in East Midlands half an hour early with the usual Riotscare fanfare... well, that was that, another 16 scoops for the list, although there was one in particular that I was really pleased to have found; it's always the ones you don't expect that give the most pleasure!
Poznań is an interesting city with a deliciously ornate Stary Rynek (main square) and plenty of interest to normals as well as beer cranks so you needn't feel bad about bringing your normal Ada (or Bert) here as you can leave them gawping at the sites whilst you scoop or, alternately, drag them around the various scooping hotspots safe in the knowledge that all are perfectly un-crappy and won't make your significant other feel like you're in some freaky beer cult which visits shite, dodgy bars in search of strange beers.
There's one brewpub in town and it's a bloody good 'un too, with three beers at a time of high quality and, if you so desire, you can even stay there although the accommodation looked as if it was fairly overpriced for what you get. Apart from that there's not a lot else although it's worth a look-in to the bizarre Proletaryat bar to admire the paintings of some of the great thinkers of our time although I'm not totally convinced that the two house beers are genuine and suspect they're simply rebadges. I'd also recommend U Honzika although, unlike me, read the bottles first to ensure you don't oil the Capitalist machine by paying for multinational beer by mistake!
As for bottle shops, the Piotr I Paweł supermarket in the basement of the impressively large redbrick Stary Browar shopping centre (and yes, it's a converted brewery) has a surprisingly good list of brews including many rare Belgian bottles such as Strubbe! The healthfood shop along the corridor also had a couple of winners on our visit so that's worth a look too, as is the alkohole shop close to U Honzika for the rare Koreb beers and I'd also check out Koneser as it may have opened/reopened since our visit although don't blame me if it's a fruitless trip...
So, would I recommend the city to the scooper? Yes, although as is normal in Poland don't expect a huge haul of winners (unless you count multinational brewers in which case you should get loads of those with Lech situated in the city's outskirts) and it helps if you like trams, too, as the system is large and is operated with the most interesting fleet of trams in Poland including ex-German Düwags, ex-Amsterdam Schindlers, Czech Tatra T3's plus the more usual Konstal 105N's and a smattering of plastic junk. Being Poland it's still cheap to eat, drink and stay (despite the current weakness of the pound) and the public transport – operated by MPK – is reliable, cheap and safe.
As to the title? Well, apparently most of the "Enigma code" crackers at Bletchley park in World War 2 were Polish and from the city, although we don't often hear things like this in the media which conveniently glosses over the Poles' contribution to the cracking of the German code, preferring to grab all the credit for ourselves.
Getting there and getting around there.
Ryanair fly to Poznań from East Midlands, Liverpool and Stansted and, if you get the right deals, you can get a return for £40 or even less. A couple of tips for Ryanair are that the charges for visa cards, checked-in luggage and suchlike can inflate the cost of a trip to many times the quoted fare so, if possible, travel with hand-luggage only (which has the additional benefit of allowing you to check-in on-line too) and pay with an Electron card (difficult to get but well worth it if you book many flights with cheap airlines as they're generally not charged for) which will save you £10 per person per return flight. In addition to Ryanair, you could go with Wizzair from Doncaster/Sheffield instead which is handy if you live up that way, but as always with Wizz you may need to book on weekdays to get a decent fare.
As for reaching Poznań by rail, considering where it is and the generally low speeds of Polish trains you'll need a fair chunk of a day to reach the city from Warsaw, although it's a mere 3 or 4 hours from Łódź and Katowice giving a few other options for arrival airports.
Poznań's Ławica airport is around 5 miles out of the centre to the west and is connected to the centre by regular buses on route 59 and express L. Be aware that the 59 terminates close to the rail station at a stop called Bałtyk and pick up around the corner, although the express bus L does go to the main train station although I'm not sure if the day ticket is valid on this service. There's an information stand in arrivals which will sell you day tickets for the city's excellent public transport (valid on the 59 bus into town) for the reasonable price of 13.20 PLN. Transport is run by MPK and, as I've said throughout this piece, the tram system is the most interesting in Poland and well worth a spin if you’re that way inclined.
I’d never claim to be an expert on food and restaurants but I know what I want when I visit a city and that’s cheap, traditional food in a real an atmosphere as possible. To this end, I can recommend the following...
Chłopskie Jadło (Peasant Food), Stary Rynek 77.
Despite the address being on the Stary Rynek, it's somewhat of a misnomer. Polish addresses are by the building, not door in the building, so despite this place being in a building which does indeed front onto the Stary Rynek the entrance is along Francziskánska!
A kind of kitsch mock-up of a peasant's house (part of a large national chain) which serves a wide range of Polish staple meals such as Bigos and suchlike. It's all very formulaic and un-real but, despite this, the food isn't bad at all and it's pretty cheap and one of the best options in the city centre.
Pod Kuchcikiem Bar Mleczny (Milk bar), Šwięty Marcin 75.
It's the only milk bar on this stretch of the street and easy to find.
A Milk bar is a Polish institution where the locals fill up on cheap traditional food in a no-frills atmosphere, it's a similar thing to a British "greasy spoon" although with better food! They are a throwback to the Soviet times and cities apparently still subsidise their Milk bars for the benefit of the people. This one was pretty good on our visit to Poznan and is a good place to come for cheap and cheerful Polish food; Pierogi are around 4 to 5 PLN and rather good they were too. Everything in Polish, no English spoken, so be brave and get stuck in...
Beer and pub gen.
Feel free to use my Google map here to see where the following places are.
Brovaria, Stary Rynek 73. From 11:00 daily.
Find the main square, the Stary Rynek, and the brewpub is on the SW corner of it - you can't miss it especially at night.
Brewpub and hotel on Poznañ's impressive main square. Three beers are on sale, generally the excellent Jasne (pale) plus two specials. These are advertised on posters both outside and in so you know what's available. On our visit the others were a delicious Miodowe (honey) and very well-made Pszeniczne (wheat) which, unsurprisingly, wasn't to my taste! There are three drinking areas; a cellar bar, ground floor bar and upstairs "beer hall" where the Salmbräu brew plant is located.
Proletaryat, Ul Wrocławska 9 (just S of stary rynek). Open 16:00 onwards.
On the southside of the Stary Rynek Wrocławska heads south towards the Kościół Farny. A hundred metres down the road, on the left, you'll see this small bar with it's huge bust of Comrade Vladimir Illich Lenin in the window.
Long bar with a slightly tacky Soviet theme yet still comfy and relatively full of locals. Paintings of Lenin hang everywhere and it's notable that there are none (or none I saw) of a certain Josef Stalin. The attraction here is not, unless you're a Red, the portraits but the two "house" beers from the local Czarnków brewery, although whether they are different from the brewery's ordinary beers isn't clear and distinctly suspect.
U Honzika, ul. Stanisława Taczaka 21. Weekdays from 10:00, Sat from 16:00.
On a nondescript road just north of the Stary Browar centre. The pub is in a cellar on the right-hand side.
Brogan’s Irish Pub, ul. Szewska 20a.
Just off the NE corner of the Stary Rynek.
Has draught Zywiec porter - if you can put up with the fake "Oirishness".
Behemot Cafe i Kawiernia, Kramarska 16.
Small coffee bar and cafe just to the north of the Stary Rynek.
Coffee bar/cafe selling the rare but revolting Fortuna beers which taste like cola ! Useful for the desperate... well, I went there... Don't order nachos unless you want a small dish of dorito-like crisps with spicy tomato sauce!
There's also a bar called Browar Pub, ul. Półwiejska 42, Stary Browar centre on floor -1, in the “malting section”. It sounds like there may be some old brewing kit there although the beer range is probably just multinational crap and it's evenings only. We didn't visit, so if it is in fact a brewpub then let me know, please... although I'd put oodles of money on it not being one.
Piotr i Paweł supermarket, ul. Półwiejska 42, Stary Browar centre.
Stary Browar centre, Atrium level -1. Map.
This supermarket is situated on level -1 of the centre and has a surprisingly decent range of beers, although the Polish selection is distinctly poor. Nevertheless, a few local scoops from Poland and lots of other random stuff from the UK, Germany, Belgium and the like; well worth a look for the best range in town (unless Koneser is actually open!).
Organic Farma Zdrowia, ul. Półwiejska 42, Stary Browar centre.
A small wholefood shop with only a couple of beers, but both were huge and the Konstancia Dawne especially is very rare. I can't guarantee any scoops, but it's on the same floor as Piotr i Paweł just along the corridor so you may as well have a look.
Alkohole shop, corner of Stanisława Taczaka and Franciszka Ratajczaka.
Close to U Honzika, on the corner of the main road.
Notable amongst the mass of similar shops in selling the rare (and quite nice) Koreb beers in bottle amongst other more usual stuff. Closes around 21:00.
Koneser, 86 Jana Henryka Dąbrowskiego.
Opposite Polna tramstop.
This was originally a beer shop close to Stary Browar, now vanished, although we saw a bar with the same name (badged as a "Galeria Piwa") here - although it wasn't open on our visit. The window had a beer display, there was some kind of bar inside, but also plugs and cans of paint on the tables... any suggestions? It looked like it was either being made ready for opening or had closed for good! Reports please...
Beers of the weekend.
Easy enough this time with the excellent beers from Brovaria being the obvious picks although we were lucky enough to score Amber’s luscious Baltic Porter too!
Bar of the weekend.
Although it’s tempting to go for the atmospheric and potentially scoop-filled U Honzika I think that, on the basis that there should be three good-quality scoops available at all times, the city’s only brewpub, Brovaria, just shades it. You can also stay there if you so wish and the food looked decent too so it’s an all-round banker of a move.
© Gazza 14/02/09 V1.0
|Brovaria, Poznan||Brovaria's Salmbrau plant, Poznan||Huge Konstal 102n in Poznan||The old brewery now shopping centre Stary Browar, Poznan||Gazza, Lenin and the Proletaryat bar in Poznan|