What if I said as a craft beer lover from the US, the home of artisan breweries, that I found my favorite craft beer brand in Budapest of all places?
Ruin bars in Budapest are great and all but the last few weeks I just couldn’t get the “Hungarian craft beer revolution” out of my head. This relatively recent phenomenon gave birth to their exceptional brew culture and put Hungary on the beer map of the world. The origins of Hungarian artisan beer brewing is a truly unique and amusing story that starts with the end of Communism in the country.
After some research and a long night of insightful (and hazy eyed) conversations in a pub, I managed to dig up the fascinating true story of this unique Hungarian liquor and make sense of the love Hungarian people have for their amazing brews.
History of the Hungarian Craft Beer
In 1990, following the fall of the Communist regime after 60 years Hungary needed to reform lot of its previous laws and implement a new system called democracy. During these first years of change lawmakers made a few accidental loopholes in the taxing system. With one of them having to do with beers. As it turns out, the brewing and selling of unfiltered beers was forgotten being taxed and combined with the dire beer shortage at the time caused a sudden boom of microbreweries around the country.
The First Golden Age of Hungarian Beers
Some of the most famous and prestigious current Hungarian craft beer breweries were born during this time, in the early 90s, two decades before the birth of the local craft beer scene. After 3 years of liberty, hundreds of founded breweries and millions of gallons of brewed (and drank) beer, the precious loophole was closed. Large beer factories started dominating the Hungarian beer scene.
The low price and high volume these companies cranked out annihilated the small, local competition. More than 90% of the small breweries were forced to shut down and the rest operated mostly within small communities.
The Hungarian Beer Scene Today
The reign of the large beer factories and mass produced subpar liquid in Hungary lasted all the way until 2012, when, instead of the promised end of the world, a wonderful new era of Hungarian artisan breweries came. In January 2012 the home brewing of beer and pálinka became legal and tax-free up to 1000 liters (264 gallons). And with this change the Hungarian craft beer revolution managed to spread its wings and conquer the pubs, restaurants and shops of Hungary, then slowly, the world as well.
Currently, Breweries such as Szentandrássy, Fóti or Yeast Side who were among the pioneers of the early 1990s are leading the charge together with dynamic young companies like Monyó or Fehér Nyúl Brewery in reforming a stale beer scene into a colorful and diverse revolution. From IPAs and APAs to stouts, weisbiers and porters, it would be difficult to find a beer type not available at one of the 50+ Hungarian microbreweries.
Hungarian Beer Inventors
Alongside international batches, original local beer creations are also available, powered by the innovative Hungarian spirit. And that’s precisely how my personal favorite beer was born in 2012 as the revolution’s pioneer, called “Keserű Méz” from Fóti Brewery, a so-called “hoplager”, an original local invention and a sneaky little brew.
Joining the roaring trend lately are the much-dreaded large factories who lately also started producing their very own (and actually quite impressive) IPA and APA batches. Budapest’s craft beer scene seems to be unstoppable with new breweries being launched at an amazing speed and new craft beer bars opening citywide almost weekly.
The big question still remains however: Where to sample these divine and revolutionary brews in Budapest?
Well, if you take my advice, these are the bars you need to hit up for the very best Hungary’s beer revolution has to offer:
The famous Scottish brewery, one of the most popular ones in the old continents have opened its first official bar in the heart of Budapest last year, with massive success already . With 12 BrewDog signatures and a careful selection of local craft on 25 taps, this place is a must for any brewmaniac.
Address: 1061 Budapest, 1-3 Anker köz
Neked csak Dezső
One of the most legendary local bars, this place has outgrown its previous venue and moved to a much larger and fancier home next to Blaha Lujza Square. Offering the same quality of local craft beers that made them famous topped with a divine kitchen. Irresistible!
Address: 1088 Budapest, 29 Rákóczi Street
The first craft beer bar of Budapest, Élesztő is the heart and soul of the local craft beer revolution. A baffling array of the latest and best Hungarian beers on 27 taps, Europe’s only Cask Ale Bar, a Homebrew school a butcher’s kitchen and the country’s first beerhotel guarantees that a beer lover’s every secret desires are fulfilled.
Address: 1094 Budapest, 22 Tűzoltó Street
Horizont Taproom by Léhűtő
With its convenient location next to the bustling Gozsdu Passage in the heart of the party district, this little brew bar is a regular haunt of mine on nights out in Budapest. They offer top-tier beers from the prestigious Horizont brewery among others and freshly made Spanish and American-style street food.
Address: 1076 Budapest, 12-14 Holló Street
As you can see, the craft beer scene of Budapest is truly something worth experiencing whether you are a brewfanatic like yours truly or just the curious type, you won’t be disappointed after a night of experimenting with these hop-filled specialties! Okay, maybe the day after…