Ten years ago, almost all of Krakow’s pubs served one of four beers. These four were practically indistinguishable, and awful, which meant it hardly mattered what you got. Good craft beers were about at common as hen’s teeth. Today, a craft beer revolution is in full swing in Poland, and Krakow is the best place to experience its fruits. No city has as many atmospheric pubs, and many of them have clambered enthusiastically on the craft beer bandwagon – the result is a unique mix of Poland’s best watering holes and its best alchemy with the hop.
#1 Omerta Pub
The original, and still the best, this is where it all began. You’d be forgiven for not realising that Omerta marks true north for Krakow’s beer lovers, tucked away behind the most popular bar area in Kazimierz. For reasons that will probably never be explained, the owner went with an Italian Mafioso theme that has nothing to do with what the place does – serving the best Polish craft beers in a relaxed, friendly setting. Now double the size it was when first opened, Omerta has two bars – one dedicated to Polish beers and the second to craft beers from elsewhere in Europe, and further abroad. The bar staff are extremely knowledgeable and helpful, and the atmosphere is classic, down-at-heel Kazimierz Bohemia.
ul. Kupa 3
#2 House of Beer
Named by a marketing genius, House of Beer does exactly what it says on the tin. Boasting probably the biggest range of bottled craft beers in town, plus two bars with a row of ever-changing brews on tap, House of Beer has something for literally everyone. The staff all have Phds in beer appreciation, and know their way around the wall of imported bottles as well as the subtleties of whatever is on tap. Situated in the heart of the Old Town, the pub’s four large rooms (two in the cellar) fill up fast on weekends with a genial mix of tourists and locals. Rapid expansion – the cellar was brought into the fold fairly recently – means a slightly odd mix of decor, with a decent stab at Middle European antiquity upstairs and a chilled, cocktail bar vibe downstairs.
ul. Św. Tomasza 35
#3 Viva La Pinta
A new phenomenon in Krakow – a craft beer pub tied to a single brewery. The brewery in question is Browar Pinta, arguably the best and most successful of the new beer makers that have both ridden and driven the craft beer wave in Poland. Pinta’s success is based on a very broad and constantly developing range of truly fabulous beers, coupled with an irreverent sense of humour – their products include such worthies as Hop Attack (Atak Chmielu), Call Me Simon, and Ce n’est pas IPA. The bar features between eight and ten of Pinta’s divine creations on tap, with more available in bottled form. Situated in a hidden courtyard just off ul. Floriańska, Viva La Pinta has become the first good reason to visit Krakow’s prime tourist street in a decade.
ul. Floriańska 13
#4 Strefa Piwa
Probably the most hardcore of Krakow’s craft beer pubs. It’s the kind of place where you shouldn’t be surprised if someone attempts to engage you in conversation about specific gravity or has firm views on Belgian hop varieties. The range is, as you can imagine, extensive and the staff pore over brewing textbooks deep into the night. Having said all that, it’s a cosy and friendly place where you can happily work your way through some Czech, Polish, American and Belgian stunners without anyone looking down their nose at you.
ul. Józefa 6
#5 Tap House Pracownia Piwa i Przyjaciele
The Tap House is one of a new breed of Krakow craft beer temples having opened in Summer 2014, along with Multi Qlti Tap Bar and Viva La Pinta. Like Viva, it’s primarily an outlet for one brewery – Pracownia Piwa (Beer Workshop) – but also sells brews from other companies. Pracownia Piwa is also a very young brewery, only truly getting going this summer. The Tap House’s stand-out feature is that all of its beers are on tap – twenty of them. The place is still a little raw, not yet having established the loyal clientele needed to hang out and knock the rough edges off. The interior is very sparse and equipped with what looks like enlarged school room furniture. Some long evenings of assiduous study will be required to establish the Tap Room’s potential.
ul. Św. Jana 30
#6 Multi Qlti Tap Bar
Terrible name, great bar. Like its close cousin, Tap House, the concept is a stripped down saloon with a long row of beer taps (twenty, plus bottled brews) attached to a constantly rotating selection of barrels filled with Poland’s best suds. MQTB, as it’s known to the cognoscenti, has the feel of hipster temple – lots a young, multimedia professionals sipping new discoveries through elaborate facial hair and lounging on 1970s-style furniture. The output of Poland’s trendiest new breweries feature heavily in the rotation, but there is also a sprinkling of beers from further afield. It’s interesting to note that MQTB has set up shop on ul. Szewska, known as Krakow’s trashiest party street. Perhaps, like Viva La Pinta on ul. Floriańska, this is a sign of civilisation returning to the city centre.
ul. Szewska 21
#7 T.E.A Time
This slightly confusingly named pub (T.E.A stands for Traditional English Ales) features Krakow’s newest microbrewery. They serve four-to-six of their own brews, which rotate regularly but always feature a bitter, a porter, an IPA and a wheat beer. Run by an Englishman, who is also one of Krakow’s most venerated beer Yodas, T.E.A Time uniquely serves its beers in pint or half pint measures (a few percent larger than the typical half-litre served in Poland). The pub is definitely off the beaten bar track, but actually very easy to get to from all sides of the city. It feels like a classic British pub, with its street corner location and large windows, but the interior is more stripped back and uncluttered than the typical UK boozer.
ul. Dietla 1
#8 CK Browar
CK Browar is actually Krakow’s oldest microbrewery, and one of only three in the city. It managed to preempt the widespread popularity of craft beer by several years, which means it is often unfairly overlooked among the noisy clamour of newcomers. The range is fairly small, which makes sense in a place where they actually make the beer in the back room, but does have the advantage that you can choose to have any beer delivered to your table in an impressive five-litre tube that you can tap a beer off as and when you desire. CK Browar is better known as a restaurant. Its large cellar halls are the perfect place to feast on traditional meaty dishes and get some genuine Central-European-style quaffing done.
ul. Podwale 6-7
#9 Stara Zajezdnia
The third of Krakow’s microbreweries, Stara Zajezdnia earns a place on this list for that reason alone, but it’s also a venue worth visiting. The place is vast, occupying what was once a tram terminal and various outbuildings. The central hall is so big, there’s a danger of developing agoraphobia unless you happen to bring at least a hundred friends with you. It also features the longest bar in Krakow (possibly the entire country) where you can order from the small but perfectly formed selection of light and dark beers made on the premises. On a sunny day, the courtyard is a great place to while away an afternoon. The smaller buildings are more cosy, but still large enough to house a substantial party.
ul. Św. Wawrzyńca 12
#10 Beer Gallery
Three pubs for the price of one, with two branches in the Old Town (Beer Gallery Dominikańska and Beer Gallery Luxury) and one in Kazimierz (Beer Gallery Kazimierz). This diversification of venues allows for a degree of specialisation. Beer Gallery Luxury, on ul. Tomasza is devoted to Belgian beers (they claim 150 varieties, with eight on tap). Beer Gallery Dominikańska also has a fine range, but suffers from a less-than-lively atmosphere, and Beer Gallery Kazimierz is a slightly weird mix of trashy disco and nerdy beer bar. Now rather overshadowed by more recent and more refined variants of the craft beer pub, the three Beer Galleries remain perfectly acceptable places to sample great beers that don’t take themselves too seriously.
ul.Tomasza 30, ul. Dominikańska 3, ul. Warszauera 10