By 2010, Hungarian beer was almost a thing of the past, while 90 per cent of Hungarian beer-drinkers did not even know what they were missing. We – beer-bloggers, journalists, craft-brewers – were determined to turn around the disreputable image of beer in Hungary, with the ultimate selfish goal of making good, real beer widely available. So we organised Fõzdefeszt – the first Hungarian Craft Beer Festival – in May.
What beer drinkers want
After the spectacular success of that first festival, the hidden popular interest in Hungarian craft beer became evident. Something like a beer revolution is under way: in one season half a dozen quality beer festivals sprung up, new breweries were founded and more than 20 new brews were born to meet the demands outlined from our spring festival.
The most important change was that the majority of Hungarian brewers understood the new dynamics: they must stop trying to meet the low prices of big breweries and they must start to brew special beers that can only be brewed by them, while observing and challenging traditional beer culture at the same time.
Just as in May, we are placing great emphasis on the introduction of new brews at the October festival. Since it’s autumn, most of the new brews belong to the darker and stronger style of beers. Bors Brewery brings us the first Hungarian ‘Belgian’ Beer, christened Friar Tuck, a 7.5 per cent amber ale. Stari reintroduces its old Irish Red, a legend among veteran beer connoisseurs. Köleses Brewers (Millet-Beer) march on discovering exotic grains in their new Buckwheat Lager. A new lighter, everyday version of this summer’s beer hit, Keserõ Méz (Bitter Honey) is coming to town.
Bauer Brewery presents its outrageously black and sweet 9 per cent double-bock, Drakula, and a 8 per cent fruity winter beer brewed with caramel and cherry. Three of the exhibiting breweries did a special high-gravity festival-pils exclusively for Fõzdefeszt.
North of Budapest, in Csobánka, a new type of brewery opened just a few weeks ago – Csobánka Craft Brewery only brews ales, or ‘traditional beers’ in the style of the local home-brewed ale tradition. They use special yeast and exclusive quality ingredients. Their greatest hit is said to be Fekete Bárány, (Black Sheep), a high-gravity pitch-black stout with smoky chocolate flavours. And of course, May’s festival-winning beer, Grabanc, the first Hungarian India Pale Ale (IPA), with its heavy hop-armament (Cascade-Chinook) will be back with its second – even better – batch.
We also aim to show what’s going on in Central Europe, so we invited Pivo Dum from Prague – with its coffee-beer and nettle-beer – and Kocour from Varnsdorf, the most revolutionary of Czech breweries – their famous Samurai IPA will be featured. Hofstettner from Austria will also present its bio-, honey-, and dry-hopped beers – he is the brewer who is brewing the beers of the would-be seventh Trappist Brewery of the world – in Engelszell Monastery!
We aim to write some beer history by bringing Central Europe’s most precious and special and expensive beer to Mikszáth Square – Kaltenecker’s B27 – It is an extremely heavy dark beer with 11 per cent alcohol aged in Tokaji wine oak barrels, brewed with spruce tips with needles, juniper and coriander, from Slovakia’s most innovative brewery, who also bring their rauchweizen, porter and wheat beer.
Two freshly founded organisations will be on hand: the Society for Hungarian Beer-Gastronomy and the Association of Home Brewers, who are presenting the wonders of home-brewing on the spot and offering the hot and sweet, unalcoholic wort.
In the Szabó Ervin Library there will be a temporary exhibition about the history of Hungarian Brewing and Vörösmarty Cinema will play movies in association with beer. There will be street music and performances including funny vehicles like the Beer Bike, Dixie Rikshaw, Fõzde Bus and rikshaw cabs.
Hungarian Craft Beer Festival
6-9 October: Thursday, Friday, Saturday from noon to midnight. Sunday noon-18.00
The entrance to the festival is free. Payment for beers in forints only. Beer is served in plastic cups, but you are welcome to bring along your own mug.
www.fozdefeszt.hu (in English)
– Journalist Dániel Bart is the organiser of the Hungarian Craft Beer Festival and the creative force behind the beer blog – www.folyekonykenyer.blog.hu