Donnerstag, 1. Juni 2017

Krakow BeerWeek 03 Part 1: Krakow BeerWeek 2017 vs Belgium

Krakow BeerWeek 03
Part 1: 
Krakow BeerWeek 2017 vs Belgium


Life is playing funny games with me. Being Polish I have spent 16 years in Germany. Got interested in Beer and later disappointed with inability of most Germans that beer is not always Pils. Later, I have moved to Belgium, the land with strong established beer culture. Land that discovered the upper fermentation. And again, I am disappointed, not because Belgian beer is bad. But, like Germans, Belgians are so closed in their beer culture that the vast majority of them have missed the fact of the beer revolution. Is it bad?
Well yes and no. No because you have right to stick to your tradition. Yes, because you cannot claim to make best beer in the world and stay closed to new trends.
Still, my adventures with beer festivals have started in Belgium. During the last 2 years, I have visited more than a dozen Belgian beer festivals and learned and experienced a lot.

Polish Craft

Whereas Belgium represents the roots of beer brewing, Poland clearly represents the future of the craft beer. Don’t believe me?

Well, when I was leaving Poland beer was limited to a lager and a few porters (in general). 
Nowadays, the number of small breweries is closing to 200. Polish brew every beer style in the world – lower fermentation, upper fermentation, Belgian yeast American hops. Polish really have them all. 1500 new beers last year.
Of course, the sheer number does not make the quality. True. Look at the RateBeer awards. 2015 Poland is almost not existing. 2016 with 19 medals in total we are fourth in the world (Belgium is 3rd with 22 medals) *.

Yes, I am impressed. And no, the ones who knows me will understand that I am not trying to make an advert for my country. I an utterly, genuinely impressed.
Concerning all that I was looking forward to comparing Belgian and Polish beer festival.

Disclaimer – it is an uneven fight. I have visited quite many Belgian beer festivals and went through some bad commercial events and great gatherings of brewers. It is not easy to cope with my expectations.

Entry fee

Very hard to compare. Looking for an average of Beer Festivals in Belgium I have been – it is clearly more expensive here. However, in Belgium entry price includes tasting glass and tokens to try the beer. Depending on the offer, tokens you get with the entry can potentially cover all the beers you want to try in the festival.
Entry fee to the Krakow Beer Week is rather moderate – 9 euro for 3 days. But it is the sheer entry. You want a glass? Buy it. Want a beer – need to pay for it. Price for beer is OK, being below (average €2) for 0.3l beer from the tap. Contrary to Belgium, every brewery will provide plastic cups, therefore, it is not necessary to buy a festival glass to enjoy the beer.

Still, after a careful consideration, I prefer Belgian system – buy tokens at the entry. Give one to two tokens to a brewer. Get a beer.
No problems with change, no carrying huge amount of cash in the pocket. Cleaner and better. On top – I cannot imagine a situation where I go to a festival and do not want to get a festival glass.

Beer Tasting

There are three aspects here – beer variety, accessibility, and beer size.

Variety – well this is clear. Krakow have beaten (almost) every single Belgian beer festival I have seen. Probably several of them added will not give a sheer number and a variety I have found in Krakow. According to an official app of the festival – Krakow have hosted almost 40 breweries, and many of them have brought more than 5 beers. Moreover, more than 10 beers were presented for the first time ever.
This level is too high for most of Belgian festivals. Possibly similar is the Belgian Beer Weekend in Brussels (but that one is a tourist event not a real beer festival).
Point for Krakow.


Accessibility – this again have two aspects – how long do I need to wait for a beer and how easy is to find a beer. 

Map is a given, both in Belgium and in Krakow. Point for Belgium – some festivals will provide a book with description of all beers (no comments about the quality of the book, it is still a plus). 
But books are not very handy to carry with you – Krakow have provided and access to information about all beers through the Polish Craft App. Easy, fast and everybody has a smartphone. Unless you need to pay for a roaming. Still app is great, I believe that only Leuven Innovation Festival has an app, rest of the Belgium not yet (Bruges had a webpage).

Waiting time for a beer in Krakow was shorter than everything I know from Belgium. Even during the rush hours, I haven’t waited for more than 5 min to get any beer. My experience from Bruges or Antwerp is that the waiting time can be outrageous and will spoil the experience. Another point is the accessibility of the brewer to a discussion. This varies a lot in Belgium. Some events have it, some events not. Krakow had it and I have never had a case where they were too busy to chat.
Point for Krakow

Beer size

This is something what I don’t understand. Why would somebody sane offer only 0.3 and 0.5 l size of a beer in the festival. Having (probably) over 200 beers and not offering 0.15 ml tasting size is a major crime and a stupidity. Maybe Polish can drink more, maybe people are not used to come to TRY a beer and only come to get wasted. I don’t give a damn. Just offer a reasonable size of a beer on top and everybody would be happy. Especially people who really want to try a lot of beer styles.
As mentioned before – maybe Polish have stronger heads. Still I had to make some serious cuts in my beer list to not to get to the hotel crawling (or to get to the hotel at all). On top – craft beer has a potential to build a new beer culture in Poland. You are not reaching a level of beer culture by getting people wasted.
Disappointing and a clear point for Belgium.

Disclaimer – in rare cases (Pinta), breweries offered sampler size.

Enough comparisons. The bottom line is – Krakow Beer week is an awesome festival. Still size of a glass is for me a factor that negatively differentiates it from what I consider a beer culture. Change that and you will be unbeatable.


Festival Facts

What: Krakow BeerWeek
Where: Krakow, Poland
When: May 25-27, 2017
Accessibility: Krakow is accessible by plane from majority of European countries. Cheap airlines like Ryanair fly there.

Costs of the stay: cheap to moderate, especially when you are coming from the old EU. Especially food has a great price/quality value.

To be continued in Part 2

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