Monday, February 13, 2012

Czeska Batsza -- The Czech Tower

I have go catch my plane back to LA, so just some pictures now. I ended up closing down the place and didn't visit the other two left on my list, but it was worth it. The best beer in Warsaw is found in a pub serving Czech beer -- go figure.

Last Day in Warsaw

The day started off slow. There is a whole online community of people who do crazy things when there a cheap airfare somewhere -- like visit Warsaw in February. It turns out another person from LA had come to Warsaw on the same deal I got, for the same weekend. So we met for a coffee.

Then I caught a tram up to a big, new shopping center that has a Bierhalle brewpub. 

They had the same beers on tap as the one near the old town. I hadn't hade the weizenbier, so I gave it a try. In general I am not a fan of brewpub wheat beers but this one was pretty good. It was very ester-y in the nose (i.e. banana) but not too much in the taste -- which is good because I really dislike wheat beers tat taste like banana juice (but some people do so you find a lot of them).

For comparison purposes, I though I'd try the Pils again. I think it was much better here than the other Bierhalle, but maybe it was just my taste pubs were fresher.

They had their brew system in the window and it was pretty unique -- the mash tun and boil kettle had glass sides. I would love to see it in action.

The other places I wanted to visit didn't open until 4pm so I had a bit of time. The first one had now real address as far as I could tell. I was told it was built into a large bridge over the Vistula. The was a tram stop at the bridge, so I went out that way. I wanted to find the place before it got too dark.

Big mistake. For a mile or so before the river the bridge is basically an elevated roadway. The trams stop was literally on the bridge, just at the river.  So my choices were to take the stairs down to ground level (a long way day -- over 100 ft, I'd guess) or walk back along the bridge. There actually was a sign for a pub pointing down towards the river, but it was a completely different name. I didn't want to walk down on those stairs and then back up for no reason.

So I started back towards town. Every so often there was a little town structure that sometimes had stairs leading to ground level. Put no signs of any pub. When I finally reach civilization (walking against a cold wind!)  there was a larger tower and this one clearly had a pub with a (obviously now closed) garden.  It wasn't the right pub, but it was open and it was warm.

So I went in and had a Zywiec and warmed up a bit. Then I used a couple of my 20 words of Polish on the bartender -- "Execuse me, do you know where ... is." She pointed back the way I came, and then pointed down a few times, which I took to mean down at ground level.

So I went down the stairs -- a long way.  The bottom could have been a scene from Mad Max. I could see the headlines "Tourist Killed while walking thru wrong part of town..." but as I followed the bridge, things improved and pretty soon there were building under the bridge with shops and restaurants and such. But no pub. Eventually I stumbled across a pub sign that I knew was for the pub I was looking for. It seemed to say it was around the corner, so I went in that direction but nothing. I came back to the sign and released it was in front of some stairs that led up into the bridge structure.

The pub was actually inside the bridge, just beneath the roadway. Why there was even a place there that you could turn into a pub, I have no idea. The bridge was rebuilt so after WWII so maybe we should ask the ghost of the Soviets.

Any, I went up the stairs and into Czeska Batsza -- the "Czech Tower" -- a put that sells only beer from small Czech breweries.

Friday, February 10, 2012

More Walking around Warsaw Drinking Beer

I though I'd start off with a great view of the Palace of Culture and Science -- from the 23rd floor of my hotel.

I decided I had to do at least a little touristy stuff, so I walked up to the Castle Square. The "Castle" wasn't much of a castle, more of a palace. The area was completely destroyed during WWII so this is all reconstruction.

Castle Square

The Old Royal Castle

The Old Castle Wall
I'm sure when the weather is nice it is a much more active place, with the cafes having tables and people walking around. Not so much when it is 10 deg F.

Just off the square (but with an address on the square) is a pub/restaurant that was recommended, Cafe Krolewski.

They had two Polish beers, Krolewiskie and Zywiec. I had the former at Pub Nora and hadn't yet tried the Zywiec. So I did.

Zywiec is owned by Heineken and is one of the largest breweries in Poland, so I was not expecting much but was pleasantly surprised. There was a little bit of hop character -- not a lot but it was there. I guess maybe my standards have been lowered this trip, but it was a pleasant beer. So I had another and ordered a bowl of sour rye soup -- served in a bread bowl.

I walked towards Old Town Square and came across Celibar, another recommended place.

A sign out front even advertises their beer selection.

They had two draft beers, Zyweic and Brackie -- I orded the Brackie but alas, they were out. So I asked for the bottle list and ordered a Porter. The once I got wasn't actually the one I ordered, but it was good so I didn't complain. And it's not as if I could have told the difference anyway.

The Porter Warminski (from Browar Kormoran) was very nice. Rich and strong (9%) and lots of chocolate and black malts.

Some of the bottles available at Celibar...

The first porter was so nice that I decided to try another. This one from Browar Witnica, was called Black Boss.

Whoa! Slightly weaker in alcohol than the first at 8.5% it was much bigger in flavor. In addition to the dark malts a bunch of dark fruit flavors you don't often find in bottom fermented beer. This is my favorite so far.

While I was there, a bunch of Finns arrived and we soon became best friends.

After a liter of 9% beer, I needed a walk and some cold air to revive me, so I left my Finnish friends behind.

I loved this sign -- no doubts on what they sell. (Alkohol/Alkohole means spirits here)

I soon got to Old Town Square. Not too much going on but I bet it is nice on a warm day. Not nearly as impressive as Old Town Square in Prague, though)

Old Town Square

Old Town Square

They had a picture of it in September 1945 when Eisenhower visited. The walls of buildings were standing but that was it, no roofs, no floors, just rubble.

I wandered back to Castle Square to another recommend pub. But since my friend had visited, it was no longer the fake English Pub but an upscale restaurant. I went in anyway.


They had Lech Pils, which while after the Porters came across a bit thin, was pleasant and a nice bitterness. I also ordered some sparking water, as with the cold weather I wasn't carrying my usual bottle of water. Being an upscale place, they brought me a small bottle of Perrier -- which cost more than the beer.

I promised you a picture of the outside of Browarmia, so I walked back that way. Passed some more old churches, so in honor of my Father (who would never pass up an old church) I took some pictures.

Here is the outside of Browarmia, Worth the wait, isn't it?

I ended up passing Bierhalle again, and it seemed wrong to walk by two brewpubs with having a beer, so to fulfill my duty I went in and had their Pils. A Pils it was not (too sweet) , but it was a tasty beer.

By now I was back by Sketch and I remembered they also had the Brackie that I couldn't have at Celibar, plus they had Porters.

I really liked the Brackie --it had a small spicy note that was very pleasant. It went down way too fast.

With the Brackie I had tried all their draft Polish beers, so I turned to the bottle list. A Grand Imperial Porter caught my eye. From Browar Amber in Kolbudy, it kept up the string of very nice, dark, rich Baltic Porters.

I needed some food to go with all these strong beers, so I ordered something that ended up being stuffed Chicken Breast with Chanterelle mushrooms (and Green Pea Puree). It was very good. Don't know if it was based on something traditionally Polish, but I liked anyway.

I was thinking of one more Porter, but by then it was 5:30pm on a Friday and the place was suddenly packed with people in business attire and drinking things made with lots of ice and colors not found in nature, so I went back to the hotel. I good thing, I think -- one more Porter would have been one too many.

Walking around Warsaw Drinking Beer

First off -- many of the Polish words here are technically mis-spelled: I haven't figured out how to get all of the diacritical marks yet.

It was a balmy 12°F when I arrived at my hotel, across the street from this...

Palace of Culture and Science

The View from My Window
 After changing to some warmer clothes, I went out in search of beer. The first place on my list had closed -- or else it was cleverly hidden so tourists like me wouldn't find it. Second place on my list was called Sketch.

 They had four Polish beers on tap, three Belgians and Guinness. Picked one of the Polish ones pretty much at random.
Czarnkow Noteckie (unpasturized)
It was well made and tasty, but not particularly exciting. But it did hit the spot.

The had a quite extensive menu, but I wasn't too hungry so I had some soup.

Sour Barley Soup with sausage. Yum.

Needed another beer so I picked one of the other taps...

Ciechan Wyborny
A little bland for my taste, but well made and no real flaws. The bottle list was quite long and as there were a number of Porters on it, I will be back.

Bottle Selection at Sketch
 Heading in the direction of the Old Town I soon came across one of the brewpubs in Warsaw, Bierhalle

Bierhalle Brewpub
The inside decore was Fake Bavarian -- picture the kitschiest German restaurant you've been to and you've got the idea. They have three beers on draft, Pils, Wiezen and Marcowe, which I latter learn was "March" so I guess you'd call this a Märzen.

Bierhalle Marcowe (Märzen)
 It was very malty and quiet nice.

As I headed towards Old Town I came across the Holy Cross Church. What's a travel blog without pictures of old churches?

Holy Cross Church
Down an alley I found Pub Nora. A friend who had been to Warsaw years ago highly recommended it, but recent reviews on some websites were not as promising.

Pub Nora
 The pub is next to the University and would have been at home in any college town I've lived in. It clearly (or maybe unclearly) was a smoking establishment. Only three beers on draft, which is down from the 14 they had when my friend was there. Picked the one I hadn't heard of.

Krolewskie Piwo Jasne (Pale Beer)

Cool Sign
 Just like the others I'd had, well made and drinkable but missing some "oomph."

They had Zywiec Porter in bottles, so I ordered one. To give you the idea of the place, I had an empty glass in front of me, so the bartender just brought me the opened bottle. You've got glass, right?

Zywiec Porter. Best beer so far.
 Now this was an amazing beer. Rich and dark and at 9.5% there was enough oomph. I wanted to have another, but that would have lead to another and I still had places to visit.

Walking up the same street, I came to Browarmia, another brewpub. It was dark by the time I got there so I didn't take a picture of the outside.

They had a pils, weizen, stout and a seasonal. I started with the Pils.

Browarmia Pils
It was very soft, which you don't often find in brewpub beers.  I think it was the best of the pale beers I'd had today. It was time for some food so I ordered some grilled Kiełbasa. It was very good.

Grilled Kielbasa with fries
 My waitress spoke some English so I asked about the seasonal. She pointed to where it was on the menu so I said yes. She told me it had ginger in it and boy did it.

Browarmia Karmazynow -- Red ale with ginger
 On the English translation on the menu it said "Crimson Ale" and that they used CaraRed to get the color. The ginger was nice, strong but now overpowering.

I though I should try the stout. I was sort of hoping for a disguised Baltic Porter but it was a dry stout, like you'd find at any American brewpub. It was quite nice -- lots of nice burnt character.

Browarmia Stout
By this time jet lag was kicking in so it was back to the hotel. Hopefully tomorrow I'll make it up to the Old Town for tourist pictures.