No clear winner emerged in the Slovak microbrew showdown between the Bratislava and East quartets, I reminisced as we rolled into Budapest, the capital of a wine-and-spirits country. The only beers I recalled drinking when I had lived there thirteen years ago while attending Central European University were weak lagers like Dreher and Arany Ászok. But I also had a vague recollection from the Buda Castle Beer Festival Lindsay and I had attended in 2008 that there is an alternative beer scene brewing in the country. A quick search led us to Léhűtő Kézműves Söröző, a ‘craft beer bar’ serving Budapest microbews (and others) in the 5th district with an unassuming facade.
Happy hour is different in Hungary, so at 4:30 p.m. the pub had just opened and was awaiting the nightly resurrection. To our dismay, gone was the amazing Távoly Galaxis IPA we’d had the evening before when we visited with my parents who were in town for the day. As she arranged chairs and wiped the counter for the third time, the bartender informed us the one 50-liter keg they’d had of the brew was gone that same day. Which, she said, is normal.
Out of the 6 Hungarian microbrews on tap Lindsay ordered the Rizmajer Cortez millet beer, which was semi-dark and, though initially refreshing, came with an aftertaste of flat cola. Because I didn’t care to get the Stari Ír Vörös Irish Red on account of its all-too-classic sweet fruitiness, I tried the Kárpi Pils and wasn’t disappointed with its a nice dry bite with the pleasant finish of a solid, hoppy lager.
Across Holló Street, the Legenda Sörfőzde cart served a squareful of picnic tables with hickory smoked hamburgers and grilled sandwiches, none of which we tried, and six microbrews on tap. One small Blackjack IPA was dark as a stout. Lindsay, who introduced me to IPA’s some 8 or 9 years ago, called it a treat—I found it so brutal as to quench my craving for IPA’s for a good while. Lindsay’s East India Company India Pale Ale was a British style IPA that was more flowery and fruity but ultimately reminded me of bread.
On another day we set out to visit the city’s other craft beer temple, the Pivo Söröző beer pub specializing in Czech beers. No Budapest microbrews for us, though: They were closed on account of serving brews at a nearby street party where we got lost in the swell of the crowd and never found their taps. And so Léhűtő remains the taste of home.
If you go
- Location: Holló utca 12-14, a few minutes’ walk from the Deák Ferenc Tér metro station. The food/beer cart is across the street, you can’t miss it unless they pack up for winter.
- Prices: vary by brew and size. Expect to spend about $2.75-$4.00 per half-liter.
- Hours: opens at 4 p.m. every day, closes at midnight on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Sundays, at 2:00 a.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and at 6 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays (explains the dead happy hour)
- Let me know what you think of their fruit beers. I chickened out because a dreadful memory of cold cherry soup had stuck with me over the years.