I spent about a week and a half visiting a friend in Bratislava, Slovakia and visiting a few breweries and local bars. I got the feeling that the craft beer scene is just getting started. While there are a few bars with craft taps, there are a handful of actual breweries you can visit directly. I encountered numerous consistency issues where beers that my friend recommended highly turned out tasting bland or worse. Some locals tell me that Poland is far ahead in that area and other friends regularly visit Sweden for the craft beer scene. Still, I had some great beers from a few local spots we visited and one local IPA from a newly opened DUB brewing that was close to the American style because the brewery is run by an American.
Our first visit was Mestiansky Pivovar, a brewery and restaurant that has a sign on the front saying it has been around since the 1700s though my friend tells me the exact spot has only been open for five years. They serve delicious food and it is the only place my friend regularly eats outside the home. They have two lagers, a cloudy pale lager and a smoky dark lager. Both are delicious though I prefer the pale one. This particular batch was quite fruity and had a nice medium body. The spare ribs there are served in a massive portion and are some of the best ribs I’ve had in my life. Out of the whole trip, the lager here was one of the most outstanding.
A bit later we visited DUB Brewing. It was in soft opening phase at the time of our visit but has since had its grand opening. The brewery is run by an American from Colorado who previously ran a successful brewery called Bonfire Brewing in Eagle Colorado. His ipa reminds me of home, delicious and balanced with a hearty malt backbone that holds up the pine, resin and grapefruit hops. Now that they have had their grand opening, you can visit and order pints directly. You can also find their IPA on tap around town in certain craft bars.
Beer Time in Nitra
On my one weekend there we drove out to Nitra, a common attraction for tourists and visited a bar called Beer Time where beers flow so freely that four kegs were finished during the hours we sat drinking. The beers on tap were mostly from Czech Republic though I did get to experience a satisfying Slovak ipa called 15 years in hell. Beers were mostly under 2 euro 50, the price I would normally spend on a can at home. A sour option was more, almost four euros but still a steal. Our night of revelry complete with appetizers and later sandwiches was only 60 euros and would have been even less if the sour hadn’t been tapped.
While I started with ipa my friend ordered round after round of a Rauch beer. I’m told that the typical American way of pronouncing Rauch generally means something you smoke like a cigarette whereas if you say it with the proper German accent it means something lightly smoked. Before the grill was fired up my friends enjoyed some meats. One had some head cheese and another some pate while I enjoyed a local delicacy of camambert cheese aged in oil with red pepper and served with fermented long green peppers. Eaten on toast it was fantastic.
Though I’ve been eating vegetarian at home, few options exist to continue that diet here in Slovakia where meat is consumed in portions only dwarfed by the Germans. Meat and cheese are commonly served along with bread and pickles. I don’t mind a little cheat from my diet because we eat many meals at his home where he generally eats vegetarian as well.
Richtar Jakub is a pub but also brews some of their own house beers. Their lager was described to me by my friend as the best lager in Bratislava. Though the batch on tap when we visited was a little off, I did really enjoy their session lager, the Anna, because it was quite clean and delicious. They are also a great place to visit if you want to taste some of the other local beers on tap.
My other favorite place to visit during my trip was Supavar, a brewery that has a solid lineup of various styles of beer. Their IPA is a bit more malty than my preference but it was also very clean. This is the one consistent brewery in town. I ended up coming back a few times to have more of their delicious smoked porter. While it originally shocked me with the high amount of smoke, after a few sips I was able to enjoy the chocolate and roast notes that balanced it out. This is the closest thing to an imperial stout that you will be able to find from the local breweries.
Despite the issues I had with a few of the local breweries keeping things up to the level they had reached before, I enjoyed the chance to experience more quality lagers. Stupavar and Mestiansky Pivovar are both places I would soon return to if I was back in the area. If you really can’t get enough of your local style of beers I suggest bringing some with you in your checked luggage. I shared a number of San Diego beers with my friends while I was out there.