One of the best ways to experience a city’s culture is through their food and local beer. Moving from Charleston, SC to Hungary in 2016, we’ve loved tasting the amazingly unique beers developing in Budapest.
The Hungarian craft beer scene has been growing; this May, Budapest will host the country’s very first international craft beer festival from the 21st-27th. Beer Week in Budapest (BPBW) will feature unlimited tastings from 40 local and international breweries on Friday and Saturday. While the beer is important, the emphasis of BPBW is to provide attendees with a complete experience while in Hungary’s capital city: the festival will also include after-parties with lineups of over 20 (!!) local bands, meet the brewer events, as well as tap takeovers across the city.
Like many great things, the idea of the festival was born in a beer bar under the influence of new wave brewing, international festivals, inspiring brewers and of course a decent amount of good beer. The goal was simple and straightforward from the beginning: although during the past couple of years the wind of craft has touched the Hungarian beer scene and great breweries has been risen from the ground, it is clear that we have to leap that next step to connect our culture into the international circles of craft beer. That is why we are here -and so are you.
Developed by three “beer enthusiasts” with experience in all aspects of brewing, I spoke with Marton Sefcsik, one of the organizers who works in online marketing as well as the editor in chief of local beer blog, Fenekig.com, about the history of craft beer in Hungary, the goals of BPBW, and how he sees the movement growing in the future.
When did you start to see the Hungarian craft beer movement start to develop?
I’ve always appreciated import beers rather than drinking shitty local lagers owned by multinational corporations. Of course, most of the imported beers were owned by big companies. So it’s 2009-2010 and we’re already regulars at pubs that serve Czech beers, but we start to get our hands on some even more interesting and complex local and export beers. In 2011 the first craft beer fest happened in Budapest (Főzdefeszt), a small, but fun event with only local beers and a few up and coming brewers together with some more traditional countryside breweries. I remember being blown away by ipas, I really developed a nice taste for that. Then thanks to an awesome bottleshop called Csakajósör (Onlygoodbeer) the world of real beers opened. By then, BrewDog has been an absolute favorite! The rest is history…
What was the inspiration behind BPBW and what do you hope visitors experience while at the sessions?
MBCC, Brewskival, Tallinn Craft Beer Weekend, etc… We wanted to bring the very same vibe to the city we know and love the most. We hope that Budapest won’t only be the backing image for awesome times, but that with this festival we’ll be able to join the circulation of the leading craft beer scenes.
We want to show you the best our beloved city can offer.
A great deal of work was put into including local bands and cultural experiences into BPBW. Why was it important to include these different aspects of Budapest into the Week?
This city is much more than the home of spas, ruin pubs and spicy cuisine. We want people to witness the real Budapest through BPBW Beer Week in Budapest, that’s why our event is inside the city, just a few minutes away from the party district, near one of the main tourist attractions of the city called Heroes Square.
Your website states that the goal of BPBW is “connecting Budapest and the Hungarian craft scene into the international streamline of good beer.” How do think BPBW will accomplish that goal?
Visitors from across the globe will come over for the international headliners, no wonder, but we’re sure everyone will find their local favorites as well! We also encourage brewers from abroad to make bonds and check out the local breweries to do collab brews. Many breweries have their own bars or good connections to their local scenes so there’s no better opportunity like this to schedule future tap takeovers!
What is unique about Budapest breweries and what sets them apart from other cities and their craft beer?
The scene is strong and better developed compared to the surrounding countries. Trends have an impact on everyone, but I believe here we’re not copying them blindly. We start to know what is quality beer and we’re not afraid to go the extra mile. Budapest is a vibrant and colorful city with rich culture and history, so it’s hard to make statements that fit everybody though, but this is definitely a strength that each of us see the World a bit different, so there’s no typical Budapest craft beer or brewery.
“We’d like to think that the Hungarian craft beer has grown up and we would like the international spotlight to shine on it, to make sure people are not only visiting Beer Week in Budapest because the previously mentioned festivals are being almost immediately sold out, but also for the beauty of our beloved the city and also its vivid beer scene.”
How do you see the Hungarian craft beer movement evolving in the future?
What is truly exciting, that there’s no week without the premiere of a new beer or the opening of a new crafty place. The scene is booming! There were times when the demand was higher than the supply; this has changed in the last 1-2 years, so these days we’re moving towards quality. It’s not enough if you’re beers are okay anymore. To stay on the scene, you need to impress your customers month by month with new and wild brews, but also, you should keep your core range on the same high quality. Not everyone will survive, but people are working hard on this every day, so in the end the customers always win.
In your opinion, what is the absolute “must-try” beer and venue for those visiting Budapest?
Visit Főzdepark hosting 4 craft breweries on the same spot in the outskirts of Budapest, take a tour, taste some beers from the tank (you cannot go wrong with Horizont, HopTop, Mad Scientist and MONYO – they are the must tries for sure), then head over to Csakajósör bottle shop, the true source of the craft beer revolution in Hungary. If the weather is good, catch the last rays of the sun over the Danube and treat yourself right with a beer on the riverbank at Jónás Craft Beer House (maybe you’ll do a burger as well). You can make a stop at Élesztő on your way back to the party district as they used to be the flagship of Hungarian craft beer bars, but in a few minutes you can reach the brewpub called Neked Csak Dezső with another wide range of local and international brews as well (and you can have bistro meals as well), but if you’re hungry for some burgers, drop in to Kandalló as they always have some awesome beers on tap as well. It’s getting late, but you can still lose yourself at bars like Hops Beer Bar or Hopaholic, providing not only a cool vibe, but a crazy selection of international brands as well. Catch the night bus, but first, grab a pizza and your last slips of beer at KUZIN Bar. What a night! You’d like to do it over and over again…
Extra special thank you to Marton Sefcsik for the interview and all of the people working to make BPBW a success. Buy your ticket now!