Poland: the land of milk and lager

An overwhelming majority of beer drinkers in Poland choose Polish beer.

An average EU citizen consumes 76 litres of beer per year, of which 7.8 litres is downed in Poland. Poland is a leading producer of beer – its exports have been steadily increasing over the years.

Poland takes the honourable third place when it comes to EU production of the “golden drink”. It comes third after Germany (16 per cent of total EU production) and the UK (14 per cent). The number of breweries is also increasing with as many as 60 new breweries opening in Poland in 2017 - their total number is now 210.

“This increase is a result of the growing popularity of beer, consumer trends and the fact that beer is ‘in’. Consumers are becoming aware of various beer styles, they want to taste new things and the increasing prosperity means that people are prepared to pay more for better quality”, says Bartłomiej Morzycki, Director General of the “Browary Polskie” Association of Beer Industry Employers.

An average Pole consumes nearly 100 litres of beer a year. An overwhelming majority of beer drinkers in Poland choose Polish beer, with beer imports of only 2 per cent. Three-fourths of Poles choose light lager beers (based on “bottom fermenting”) - in that respect they are no different from consumers in other countries, according to research conducted by Nielsen.

Another type of beer popular among Poles is ale, i.e. based on “top fermentation” process which occurs in a temperature of 15 – 25 degrees Celsius. There are more and more Poles who are willing to taste new exotic flavours: aldehyde, grass, almond or various radler beers. “A note-worthy trend is the steady decrease of alcohol content in beer and decreasing number of strong beers in favour of low-alcohol or non-alcoholic beers”, says Bartłomiej Morzycki.

A symbol for the change is IPA, i.e. India Pale Ale. It refers to the most unusual of beers that vary in colour and alcohol content and are strongly hopped with English, Australian and, most of all, American hops.

The beer boom goes beyond new breweries and extends to specialised pubs that offer several or more beer taps. These are called multi-taps and offer different beers every day – this way, consumers can taste several dozen types of draught beer in a month in one place. Multi-taps can be found e.g. in Kraków, Łódź, Wrocław, Gdańsk, Warsaw and Poznań.

The high quality of Polish beer is a result of long brewing traditions. With its climate and abundance of spring water Poland has always been a good place to grow cereal crops and hops. The production boomed in the Middle Ages - this is when monks took up beer brewing. As early as in the 14th century there were breweries in Kalisz, Pułtusk and Gdańsk. The oldest brewery in Poland is the Lwówek brewery which dates back to 1209.

Legend has is that Pope Clement VIII, while on a visit to Poland as Ippolito Aldobrandini, fell in love with the beer brewed in Warka. After he was back in Rome and fell ill, he talked deliriously: “sancta piva di Polonia... sancta biera di Warka...” and the priests by his side started to pray to that unknown “Saint Piva”, or, “Saint Beer”.

After 1989, many of the Polish breweries were taken over by global corporations. With the development of technology and modernisation of breweries, the popularity of beer started to grow again.

The last decade saw a revival of traditions and a return to old recipes.