Here at Where Is Your Toothbrush? we maintain that home can be anywhere. Part of the process of homecreating is doing what you love. Among the many things I love about Portland, Oregon, is the microbrew culture. How delightful then to find that my home country, Slovakia, now boasts a number of excellent microbreweries! I spent more than two weeks in Bratislava in July and August and had the pleasure of sampling Slovak microbrews in these four minipivovary.
Bratislavský Meštiansky Pivovar (Bratislava Burgher Brewery)
I ended up coming to the Meštiansky Pivovar three times. As I sat on the large patio on a hot, muggy Sunday, the 12°* Bratislava Lager quenched my thirst with a bite that reminded me that I was in Central Europe (the only other beer the brewery offers from its own production is the dark Bubák, which translates roughly as Bugaboo). The ‘green’, yeasty brew I got served in the stylish black-and-white interior four days later almost ruined my appetite. The snafu must have been a bad keg, because on Lindsay’s first night at the Studia Academica Slovaca Slovak language school the third pint delivered the liquid-gold pleasure I recalled from the first visit.
The extensive food menu offers a broad selection of brew pub fare with a strong Slovak bent (meat, dough). Of the two things I sampled, I can recommend the homemade sausage with horseradish (€3.50/$4.65). The prompt service can lag a bit when the place fills up but servers compensate with a matter-of-fact, I’m-doing-what-I-can attitude.
If you go
- Location: Dunajská 21, a few minutes walk east from the downtown Tesco department store. The second location is at Drevená Street, also downtown. Come on a slow summer day (Sunday, Monday) or early (before people leaving work arrive) to find an outside table. Or reserve.
- Prices: 0.3, 0.5, and 1 liter (1 l = roughly 2 pints) 12° Bratislava Lager – €1.20 ($1.60)/€1.90 ($2.55)/€3.80 ($5.10). The 0.4 l dark lager is €1.70 ($2.30).
- Hours: vary, 11:00 am–10:00 pm is a safe bet on any day.
Minipivovar Richtár Jakub (Minibrewery Reeve Jakub)
The “first minibrewery in Bratislava”, Richtár Jakub hides behind an unmarked door (cynical Slovaks would add, “As all politicians do.”) on a quiet street near a historic cemetery. The small main room leads to an even smaller patio, where, shoulder to shoulder with fellow beer lovers at long tables, you can sample a variety of Slovak microbrews as well as some Czech ones. I enjoyed the 10° Anna and the 12° Jakub—both tasty (there’s something odd about ordering beers as if they were human). Both also had an unusual aftertaste only a brewer who loves strong beer can create; the same was true of Lindsay’s 14.5° Špeciál, a hardy, ale-like brew. It makes this microbrewery’s production stand out.
Considering its size, the place filled up quickly on a Wednesday night. That it was also understaffed slowed service to a crawl; on the bright side, it encouraged slower appreciation of the unusual beers. Next time I go, I will also try some of the “beer spirits” and beer mixed drinks, such as the Silver Eye (Jakub + borovička).
If you go
- Location: Moskovská 16, a few minutes walk from downtown in an unmarked building. Beware: a big police station sits half a block away.
- Prices: 0,4 l 10° Anna – €1,75 ($2.35); 0.3 l/0.5 l 12° Jakub – €1.20 ($1.60)/€1.90 ($2.55). Large, rotating selection of additional brews at comparable prices.
- Hours: 4:00 pm–10:00 pm, closed Sunday
Zámocký Pivovar (Castle Brewery)
On a Tuesday afternoon, I had the spatious, cool main room of the Zámocký Pivovar all to myself; the only other patron was a man in a blue tee gaping at the Nitra vs. Ružomberok match of the Slovak football league, but he turned out to be kitchen staff. Given it was extremely hot outside, I went for the lighter 10° lager (the 12° was unavailable for the afternoon anyway). Likely for the same reason it wasn’t as cold as I’m used to in Slovakia. But the temperature difference brought out the hint of noble hops these ‘tens’ often lack; the citrus-y middle makes it a perfect, refreshing summer brew. And the pub’s location, at the bottom of one of the streets leading up to the Bratislava Castle, makes the brewery a great start or conclusion of any tour.
The food menu is decent, leaning toward the usual Slovak restaurant fare. If I were to judge by the marinated camembert-style Hermelín cheese, I’d recommend eating someplace else. The service was impeccable, though I’d test it again on a busy night.
If you go
- Location: Zámocká 13, below the castle.
- Prices: 0.3 l/0.5 l 10° light lager – €1.20 ($1.60)/€1.70 ($2.30); 0.3l/0.5l 12° light lager, 11° semi-dark lager (summer special), and 13° dark lager – €1.30 ($1.75)/€1.80 ($2.40).
- Hours: 11:00 am–11:00 pm Monday to Thursday, 11:00 am–1:00 am Friday and Saturday, closed Sunday
Patrónsky Pivovar (Bullet Factory Brewery)
Patrónsky Pivovar borrows its name from its location: Patrónka is a transportation hub on the road to Brno and Prague where a bullet factory used to stand until the 1937. As an air-conditioned reprieve from the summer heat wave and the busy road, walkable from downtown in 45 minutes, it feels like a place for the area families and working people to hang out. Patrónka prides itself in unfiltered and unpasteurized natural beer, similar to many other Slovak microbrews, the hallmark of the country’s microbreweries. Cloudy and refreshing, the 11.5° Patrón (Bullet) has a yeasty tang with a only a slight hoppy bite. The brewery also serves a dark 11° lager; the rotating special was unfortunately tapped out for the month. The menu in the form of a Patrón Newspaper (in Slovak only) shows the owners love beer and brewing it as well as the history of their location.
The menu, again, unmistakably says ‘Slovak pub’. The highlight: Patrónka offers hands-down the best marinated Hermelín cheese I’ve had on the trip so far.
If you go
- Location: Brnianska 57, off the highway to Brno and Prague
- Prices: 0.3 l/0.5 l 11.5° light and 11° dark lager – €1.10 ($1.50)/€1.70 ($2.30)
- Hours: 11:00 am–11:00 pm Monday to Thursday, 11:00 am–1:00 am Friday and Saturday, 11:00 am–10:00 pm Sunday
Only after leaving Bratislava did I discover the Starosloviensky Pivovar (Old Slavic Brewery). I’ll have to go next time I visit, in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, check out The Guardian newspaper’s article on microbreweries in Bratislava, Slovakia.
* In Central Europe, the degrees Plato measurement is used in brewing to indicate the strength of beer by sucrose content. Ten-degree beers have ABV in the 4% range, 12° in the 5% range.
- Check out this follow up post about four microbreweries in Eastern Slovakia.