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 UK and Germany?! If that doesn’t say it all about the nation’s love for Polish beer, I don’t know what does!
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.
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.
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!
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!