Polish beer is as loved a drink in Poland as vodka, if not even more. Let's learn where to find it, how to order it, and which to try! This may come as a surprise, but did you know that Poland is Europe's 3rd largest beer producer, and it's in the top 10 worldwide, coming after the UK and Germany?! If that doesn't say it all about the nation's love for Polish beer, I don't know what does!
How do you say beer in Polish?
The answer is piwo (pronounced pee-vo)! Knowing this Polish word for beer will come in handy for you, when you find yourself in the country, craving good Polish beer to accompany your lunch or dinner or snack! And have no regrets here - after all, beer is filled with vitamins and health benefits if drank wisely.
There are even Polish beer tours that you can hop on as a tourist or as a local, taking you to the most important landmarks for beer lovers. In Poland, beer is often drunk along with your main meals and it tends to be the favorite drink among the younger population. In the present times, it's more in fashion to drink craft beer than any other beverage. If you want to try strong Polish beer, ask for mocne piwo.
Lots of Polish beer brands are actually on the stronger side, containing high-alcohol. During winter times, Polish hot beer (mulled beer or piwo grzane or Grzaniec) is served flavored with honey, cinnamon and cloves. And during summer days don’t be surprised to see people drinking fruit-juice beer with a straw.
The History of Polish Beer
Known since ancient Egyptian times, beer was one of the first alcoholic drinks made by men. Next to honey (yes, fermented honey!), it was the oldest alcoholic drink known to the Slavs. Beer was drunk during celebrations and important events, as well as with meetings, sometimes even with vodka on the side (as some tend to drink the two today, too!)
The Polish word comes from the pre-Slavic word meaning simply - a drink (or, to be more banal - something drinkable).Numerous Slavic languages share the same word, so if you’re feeling like a Polish beer - just shout out piwo!
Kvass, the oldest type of beer, was prepared by soaking bread in boiled water with the addition of herbs. Then, in the Middle Ages, beer started being made from various cereals (but wheat mostly). It got so domesticated in the Polish culture and cuisine, that cooking fresh Polish sausage in beer and making beer soups even became common.
Taverns became the places to enjoy quality brewed beer and rulers began regulating brewing activities (like taxes and the conditions for becoming a master-brewer). The competition grew and every brewer wanted to be known for making the best Polish beer.
The love for Polish beer then had its ups and downs, depending on the times. At the end of the 19th Century, beer bottling went from cork to caps and this helped preserve the beer for longer. During World War I and World War II, brewing of Polish beer was kept low-key.
In the times of communism that came afterwards, all breweries were nationalized. Polish beer quality changed as ingredients were scarce and conditions in which beer was made were inappropriate.
In 1990, after the introduction of the free market, breweries were privatized again and helped by foreign investments. Polish beer industry was free to bloom and create numerous Polish beer brands and focus on craft beers as well.
Top Polish Beer Brands
There are numerous Polish beer styles on the market. Polish lager beer, Polish honey beer, Polish dark beer. You will find all of these in Poland as well as abroad.
Polish non alcoholic beer is also available and represents an ever-growing market, as beer is so irreplaceable in numerous situations. To help you get more acquainted with Polish beer brands, here is a Polish beer list!
Żywiec- The Polish beer Zywiec is probably the most popular Polish beer in the country and beyond its borders. The brewery itself dates back to 1856 and now consists of five breweries, while Heineken Group has control over its major operations. Polish beer that is produced by the company belongs to pale lagers and dark porters. Its products are also still made by traditional methods of natural ingredients and mountain spring water. Żywiec Polish beer is one of the Polish beers sold in America.
Okocim - The Polish beer Okocimbelongs to Carlsberg and offers different brand SKUs. It has a long tradition coming from the Bavarian brewers. It is a very much loved beer, considered a part of the Polish beer tradition.
Tyskie- Tyskie is another brand of popular beers of the country and comes from one of the oldest breweries in Europe (almost 400 years old), from a place called Tychy. It comes in a distinctive white packaging and can be easily found abroad. In 2004, the Tyskie Brewing Museum was founded.
Warka - Warka Polish beer also belongs to one of Poland's oldest breweries and is located in the historic center of Poland of the same name. As the brand story claims the beer was once exclusive for the Polish court in the region, the marketing behind the beer focuses on traditionality and expertise - after all, the brand takes back to the 15th Century brewing tradition in the region.
Dębowe - is mostly known for being a kind of strong Polish beer. It is made by Kompania Piwowarska. It has a rich aroma (hints of toffee, caramel and fruits) and a high alcohol content.
Lech - Lech comes as one of the top best-selling beers in Poland and offers variations of Polish Polish non alcoholic beer as well as beer with light alcohol content.
Perła- Once known as Browary Lubelskie, Perła Polish Beer comes from the 19th Century and beer made in the abandoned ruins of a monastery. The company today represents the largest independent brewery in Poland.\
Polish Beer in USA
Polish beers in USA is not difficult to find, especially in this day and age of online shopping.
Brands such as Żywiec, Lech, Dębowe and all the other mentioned can be easily bought in online shops, or found in local Polish stores. You can even treat yourself to some genuine Polish beer glasses, Polish beer mug or even better - a Polish beer stein to follow up your experience at home, and then - why not, try cooking Polish sausage in beer to complete the meal! And , proszę! (Two beers please, in Polish)
Here is a video with instructions on how to order beer in the Polish language!