Many people go to Budapest for many different things. It is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe and is cited as the most liveable city in Central and Eastern Europe. It is also ranked as the second best city in the world by Conde Nast Traveler whoever they are. Michelle and I however were there for the beer, two in fact. We also had a particular interest in the ruin pubs of Budapest that lived up to our expectations and the famous Spas that we never even bothered going to in the end!
We had booked our accommodation through Airbnb and our host picked us up from the airport which was a nice little bonus. Where we were was a grand townhouse of apartments which reminded me of many classical capital cities in Europe especially Paris.
I had already done some research as I am a massive geek so we didn’t hang around long in the apartment even if it was very impressive.
Our first stop in this very bohemian and culturally on point city was a little bar called Neked csak Deszso
It was pretty cool but didnt have much we we’re after. We drank their own brew which was pretty tasty and very cheap. We had already seen a Dreher Bak in the off licence but there was no sign of the Keseru Mez, so we decided to push on to the infamous Szimpla Kert, Budapest’s first ruin pub.
And what a pub it was…
I have never to any bar or pub that what so exhilarating and exciting. It was massive and buzzing. I’ve seen so many that has the same kind of vibe from The Sunrooms back in the day when Mark Hey had it, to The Railway now, that sort of cultural, cool, indie look, but I’ve never seen done it on a scale like this. Kert means market, and this three storey giant apartment block had a massive courtyard with so much going on. There is films projected on the wall, a band playing in the corner, a smoking area complete with shish pipes and even an old Trabant car to sit in whilst enjoying your drinks, as seen in my photos.
Upstairs was loads of old apartments that are now individual bars, or kitchens, or just places to chill out. There doesn’t seem to be a square inch that hasn’t got graffiti or a sculpture or a photo or some kind of art adorning it. It really is an experience, and I would emplore any one who loves bars to go and visit it.
Again we were there for beer though, so when we saw Keseru Mez on the menu our excitement levels were raised, only to be dashed when told they were completely out of stock. We were getting closer.
Hunger was coming and luckily immediately next door was a super cool food market called Karavan.
It was excellent, we had this sausage in a pastry cone thing. Gawd knows what it was, but it was delish and crazy messy. Again where we were just oozed cool, so young, so hip, so happening, we were starting to fall in love with Budapest.
Onwards on to the next pub, with a walk through this lively city with surprises round every corner.
Lehuto bar is on the corner near the Elektrotechnikal Muzeum (!). It is unashamedly craft, very heavy on the Brewdog.
It was nice, and Michelle had a lovely Coconut Coffee Porter that she thoroughly enjoyed.
One thing caught my eye on the blackboard behind us
They had Four Pure cans for 1390 Forints which works out at about £3.95. In England in a craft beer bar you can not get one for that cheap. We sell them at my bar for £4.65, thats an increase of around 20%. What’s annoying is that the Four Pure Brewery is in Bermondsey, 2.6 miles away from my pub, whilst where we were, selling the exact same product is 1009 miles away.
This isn’t due to the business owners wanting to line their products, they operate on very fine margins in this industry, instead its the amount of tax we, the English, pay on beer. So much so its 20% cheaper to buy English beer in Budapest than England.
For every pint of beer sold in Spain (I couldn’t find the figures for Hungary) approx 4p goes on alcohol tax, whilst in England its a staggering 50p!
This makes it so difficult to keep the prices down. As many of you know I would love to open my own craft beer bar, but its so risky taking this kind of punt as taxes are just so high. More and more people are staying home, as having a few drinks with friends is becoming increasingly a luxury due to this very reason.
I’d love to start a campaign, but it ain’t gonna happen, so I’ll just go along with it, like the rest of us sheep. They’re gonna get their money off us somehow.
On that happy note we went back to our apartment and went to bed.
The next day we went sightseeing and again Budapest is a beautiful city.
Not that my photos do it any justice but thats the Danube, with some beautiful historic buildings over looking it.
We seemed to walk forever before finding one of the most striking bars I have ever been to.
It’s called Jonas Craft Beer Bar, sitting on the Danube, it is I presume named after Moby-Dick, as it is housed in a huge whale looking building, but I could be completely wrong. We had a few drinks and it was nice surroundings, but there was nothing I needed or was inspired by beer wise.
I was starting to worry a little. Just like Moby-Dick is modeled on the notoriously hard to catch actual albino whale Mocha Dick, we had had no more sightings of the legendary Keseru Mez beer, and we were leaving the next day.
It was getting late and we were getting hungry so we headed to Raday Street which is known as Restaurant Street in Budapest.
We wanted a couple more drinks before we went for a meal as we thought we might go back to the apartment after the meal so we went to a bar called Puder Barszinhaz.
It was cool, in a ruin style and I had a couple of interesting beers, lots of that sort of throwaway furniture and old bikes.
No Keseru and I was starting to get toothache.
We drank up and strolled over to Voros Postakocsi (Red Stage-coach) Restaurant. There we had a couple of results. They had Dreher Bak so we could try it somewhere nice and Michelle had the best meal she has ever eaten in her life!
Bak means bock in Hungarian and the 7.4% ABV lives up to the style. The Dreher part of the name comes from Anton Dreher who was an Austrian brewer, a very important figure in the development of pale lager, so much so he invented Vienna Beer which was ironic as thats where we were going the next day.
Dreher Bak itself was dark but quite thin. We didn’t find it very drinkable, in fact we tried to drink three times over the course of our trip and left it three times.
The food on the other hand, we didn’t leave a single morsel. Michelle had been desperate to try goulash since we arrived and we had noticed that it is traditionally served as a soup, so we ordered 2 for starters and a couple of steaks.
Sorry for the unflattering photo, but my God it was delicious. Melt in your mouth meat, so much flavour packed in the oily sauce, it was fantastic. The steaks were forgettable, in fact I have forgot them but the goulash was the best thing Michelle had ever eaten!!!
So that was Hungary, we had a goulash, visited a ruin pub, had a beer of my list and had a thoroughly good time.
I was sad as I only wanted two beers and I couldn’t find one of those. I had a little Google to have a look at the now, mystery legend that was Keseru Mez.
Hold on a minute, I think I recognise that label! I think I’ve seen that beer! I think it was in Lehuto!
We rushed back, me delirious with pain from toothache, Michelle delirious with oil from goulash and low and behold…
What a great way to end a couple of days, we were really happy to find it, and it felt for the first time that we sought out a difficult to find beer. We’ve travelled to breweries before to get rare beers, but we have always known where we were going, this felt like the first time we tracked one down.
Keseru Mez which means bitter honey is one of the forerunner of Hungary’s craft beer revolution. It is a hoppy lager quite like anything else, it has a really cool bottle and is a lovely drop.
But most of all we found it, and we found Budapest enchanting and exhilarating, well worth a visit.
Next stop Vienna.