Harpoon Beer Culture Trip 2013 - Poland... Part 2!
By: Adam - Creative Director Published:
For those not in the know, Harpoon takes a “beer culture” trip to Europe each year featuring its utmost respected, hard-working, loyal, and flat-out indispensable employees, who happen to be celebrating their 5th anniversary, (and for some their 8, 12, and 17th…) on the job. This year, a group of Harpoon employees traveled to Poland to learn more about Polish beer culture. Harpoon's Creative Director - Adam Bailey, tells us what they are up to over there! This is part 2 of their Polish adventure!
Tuesday, 4/23 — Auschwitz, Tychy, and Cieszyn
An unforgettable day.
We traveled to Auschwitz and took a guided tour of the camp. A memorable experience and one that is hard to describe. They have done an amazing job of preserving and showcasing what a horrible and dark period of time in human history that was.
We visited Tyskie Brewery in Tychy, Poland this afternoon. We were running late from a slow lunch so we got the abbreviated tour. Tyskie has a new brewery museum with some interesting AV features and some nice historical artifacts and a well-preserved brewhouse with copper kettles and beautiful tile work. Tyskie is one of the biggest brewers in Poland, they brew around 4 billion hectoliters of beer a year at their brewery.
We then traveled onto Cieszyn, a small town on the border of the Czech Republic, where we went to dinner at the Cieszyn Brewery also known as the Bracki Castle Brewery. After some confusion as to how to get in, a Harpooner climbed a fence, we had the warmest welcome of the trip.
We tasted beers in their beautiful beer hall, a former largering cellar with original brick vaulted ceiling.They had a two-piece band playing for us and brought out some great traditional Polish cuisine, the highlight of which was a a Rye Soup made from fermented rye flour with sausages, eggs, meat and vegetables served in bowl made of bread.
We then played some "Beer Competitions" games of skill, strength, and of drinking ability that involved an 18 lb cast iron stein. We didn't break any of the local's records but we tried. Our hosts, Aga, Ava, and their head brewer, were friendly and fun, they really created an experience that was memorable and will be hard, if not impossible, to beat.
We tried three beers at the Bracki Castle Brewery:
Bracki—A good European Pilsner
Zywiec Porter—An excellent Baltic Porter
Rauch Bock—Each year they have a completion among local home brewers. This was last years winning recipe
After our Brewery visit we took a walk down the street in search of Czech Pilsner, chatted with the locals, and talked Bruins hockey.
Wednesday, 4/24 — Cieszyn, Zywiec, Kraków
We started off the day going back to Bracki Castle Brewery for a full tour. Our hosts took us throughout the brewery, even deep underground into their largering cellars, where they have done some archeological digs. The brewery was a "fortress" brewery and could hold townspeople if they were ever under attack. There were secret passageways underground out of the brewery.
Other tour highlights included seeing their brewhouse in operation, sampling some hot wort, viewing open fermentation in action, and comparing a ninety-day porter to a one hundred twenty day porter. They also fed us a delicious lunch of sausages and sauerkraut.
We then piled back in the bus to see Bracki's sister brewery, Zywiec in Zywiec. Zywiec is a major Polish beer brand and one that we had been enjoying since we arrived.
They gave a great and thorough tour, with lots of interactive displays, and “sets.” They really poured some money into it. They also gave us a good overview of the brewery today, with their giant brewhouse and massive bottling and canning lines. An impressive facility overall.
We then arrived in Kraków and split off into separate groups for dinner with my group heading into the old Jewish section in search of Polish craft beer. Our first stop was Omerta, which has two bars, one dedicated to Polish craft beer, with the delicious Pacific by Artezan on tap, and the other bar dedicated to craft beers from all over Europe. At the second bar we tried Zona Cesarini an IPA from Italy that was fantastic. It felt good to get some beers with bold hop use after so many pilsners.
At both pubs, Omerta and a second pub we visited Strefa — Beer Zone, we introduced ourselves and each bartender knew who we were from Facebook posts! We will see more Kraków tomorrow.
Thursday, 4/25 — Kraków
Kraków on our own.
The large group split up into smaller groups and explored this beautiful city, by far the most beautiful on the trip, on our own. Kraków is a great city for wandering, learning, and drinking. The ancient Wawel Castle and Cathedral, the historic capital of Poland, which overlooks the river, is a must see. So is Kraków's Main Market Square, one of the largest in Europe, and of course the beer gardens that surround the square.
For the Art Deco fans, St. Francis’ Basilica is a must see, and was also Pope John Paul II’s home church when he was the archbishop of Kraków.
We wrapped up the day, and the trip, with a big group meal at a traditional Polish restaurant. Large family style plates served by waiters in period costume, in more or less a log cabin.
A great time, a great trip, with great friends. Na zdrowie!