My summer holidays this year were in three parts, and sandwiched between trips to the Great British Beer Festival and Edinburgh was a stag weekend in Budapest. Rather than the usual stag traditions of throwing the cheapest beer possible down our necks before stapling the groom-to-be to the nearest national monument we went more for the ‘drink interesting things before thinking about stapling the groom-to-be to the nearest national monument but then give up on that as too much effort’ approach. Part of my drinking mission was to try and find as many different beers as I could, which wasn’t as easy as I’d hoped due to there basically being only three different Hungarian beers on offer. Luckily the import market, mainly due to the breweries all being owned by international companies, is alive and well giving me a bunch more for my list.
Hungary has four main brewing companies: Dreher (owned by SABMiller), Borsod (InBev), Heineken Hungária (Heineken) and Pécs (Ottakringer). We managed to find beers from the first three, which was annoying as Ottakringer was my beer of choice when I used to live in Austria. Anyways, on to the beers:
Dreher Classic – The most common beer we found, mainly on Draught and occasionally in bottles. It was a good fall back beer if there wasn’t anything more interesting – a crisp lager with some actual flavour, a malty middle and sweet aftertaste that got more cloying the worse kept the pipes were.
Dreher Bak – One I only managed to get to on the last day – the Dreher dark beer, bottled. Burned toffee on the nose with a prickle of booze. Dry tasting finish (which my notes have ‘flinty?’ written beside) and a nice fruity malt body. Probably my favourite of the Hungarian beers and one that didn’t have the hollow middle that I’ve often found in dark continental beers.
Soproni – Brewed by Heineken, this was one that we first tried at pretty much the only bar we found open at 3am. Everyone else commented on how easily it slipped down, but it stuck in my throat a bit. It was musty with an unpleasant sweetness, which I initially put down to the dodgy bar that I first tried it in. However, I tried it again at another bar to be greeted with the same nasty taste.
Borsodi draught – Quite similar to Dreher but with a bit more of a grainy taste to it. ‘Crisp start, flabby behind’ my slightly wobbly notes read.
Borsodi bottled – I tried this one while sitting on a boat on the Danube, wearing sunglasses and talking crap. This may have had an effect on my appreciation of the beer, which I not only liked but wrote a lot about. From the notes: ‘A nice hoppy beer backed up with a rather flat body. Sweet start fading quickly to nothing. Improves in the glass with more flavour appearing – malt and a nice bitter hope turning soapy on the finish’. It was cold and the day was hot – what was needed.
Krusoviče Cerné – A dark imported Czech beer from an old brewery that is now part of the Radeberger group. I grabbed a bottle of this to accompany a plate of pork stew. A dry dark lager, quite light in the middle but with a burned treacle toffee finish.
Radeberger – The beer I chased the Krusovice with. A dry and grainy lager with a lingering sweetness.
Sailor Pils – We stopped one evening in the Sailor Inn, a riverside belgian beer bar with an awning that sprayed a fine watery mist over the drinkers, something that was rather nice in the ~35ºC heat. I think the Sailor branded beers were just rebadged Floris beers, but that’s merely based on a rogue beermat and the fact that they also had Delirium Tremens on tap. The pils was a solid belgian pils – light, refreshing and surprisingly malty.
Sailor Apple – Grabbed by someone trying to be adventurous this was the first active beer Fail of the trip. It was overpoweringly flavoured with apple syrup and smelled like an apple strudel. Cloying and sickly.
Sailor Dark – A sweet dark beer with a burnt caramel finish.
Liefman’s Fruit – We’re still not entirely sure if this was actually a beer. Ordered by the brave soul who also went for the Sailor Apple, this was like drinking strawberry and cherry cordial and the barman poured it over ice. Not beery at all, but quite pleasant if you like fruit cordial.
Delirium Tremens – One that I saved for my last drink at the Sailor Inn, not wanting to fall asleep too early due to its 9%. Rich and malty with an oily mouthfeel, and very good at hiding its 9%. One that I rather like but could lead to destruction way too easily.
Corsendonk Pater Noster – A few doors away from the Sailor Inn we found another Belgian bar that we saved for another day. They were unfortunately out of the Corsendonk Agnus Dei so I went for the dark Pater Noster instead. It had a big fruity nose and was a rich flavoursome beer. A sour start led to burned malt with a lightish body and lots of fruit, almost reminding me of some British strong milds.
Bellevue Kriek Low Alcohol – The potential curve ball beer, ordered to try and beat a lingering reminder of the previous night’s drinking. A good cherry nose led to a rather nice sour kriek. It didn’t have much on the finish and did go a bit musty in the middle, but was definitely beery. Maybe the best low alcohol beer I’ve tried.