The timing of this trip to Budapest wasn't planned for this event but I guess that either I have a good luck or some angel has been quietly planning my path without my knowledge...
This twice-a-year event features almost exclusively Hungarian craft beers, a growing phenomenon in this country too, it seems, even though Hungary is not particularly known for its beers (compared, say, to the Czech republic).
Almost 100 beers from 38 Hungarian breweries were waiting to be sampled there, and the public attended in large numbers. when I heard about this Főzdefeszt Craft Beer Festival upon my arrival it was obvious I couldn't but go, especially that this was a typical summer weather in Budapest : hot with clear skies. Unlike in France, the weather is very stable in continental Europe, the forecast for example was giving the same comforting certitude of hot sunny days in the region for the following week.
The temperatures were even a bit too hot for enjoying a beer in the sun (the real temperatures were something like 38°C-40°C), and I decided to go there at the end of the afternoon, using the direct tram line 49 from Deak ter. The event was set on a closed street along the Danube in front of the historic building of the Technical University, also very close to the Hotel Gellert.
This was the first time this beer event took place along the Danube, it was taking place previously on the Pest side far from the river but the success of the festival made it necessary to find a larger setting. The festival debuted in may 2011 and the public reacted so positively that it was bi-annual from the start. The event also jumpstarted new artisan breweries and other copycat beer events. The artisan-beer revolution of Hungary started then.
Compared to the other beer festival I know, the one in Portland (where tokens were used instead of a card), I only regret that here they hadn't a "sample" size for the beers like in Portland, this would have allowed you to drink/taste more beers. The smallest pour size was usually 30 cl, which is way too much if you wanted to taste all these artisanal beers. On the other hand most of these 30-cl pours were very affordable as they cost often 350 HUF only (350 Forints make 1,14 € or 1,54 USD) and if you came with someone you could share the glass with your party, or you could just leave your unfinished glass on a table.
There was a small deposit for the card, which was refunded when you brought it back.
I don't know if you noticed, but while you go routinely alone for a wine tasting, that's different for a beer festival, all these people were in groups or couples, this was really as much about having a good time as about discovering new artisan beers, and by the way I'm happy that more and more wine-tasting events follow this path, even if it's for now mostly happening in the artisan/natural-wine sector only (would it mean that conventional-wine events lack something in this regard ?...).
The first beer shack I stopped at was the one of Kapucinus Sörfőzde (Sörfőzde means brewery) which is located in Magyarhertelend (southern Hungary). This brewery was opened in 1994 by someone named Késmárky Attilá (first name always put at ther end in Hungary) and the brewery works along the German Reinheits-Gebot rules, making what we can call natural beers made without any additives. These beers are unpasteurized and must be consumed in a 30-day limit.
Kapucinus Barna Sör. Dark unfiltered beer, the 30-dl glass was priced 350 Forints. The beer had an interesting bitterness and was not too strong. Liked it. And I love the designs of the labels, which somehow convey the connection between the monks beer-making tradition and a wild, contemporary rebellness
Interesting page with videos and pictures on this festival.
The next brewery I sampled was Hopfanatic Sörfözde, you guess it, the name helped me make my choice, these brewers have a marketing nose for their company name... The brewery is managed by Kiss Tamás, and the beer names have all the ingredients to make you order one : Alulu, Angry Beast, Bamato, Bitterfly, Campanie Cervisia, Celeste, Fekete Erdő, Gentleman, Importer, NO LIMIT, NOHOPLIMIT, Popcorn, splash, Trance, White Hops, X-mas Madness. The labels are kind od weird but not easy to grasp, visually, I would say. You can see several of them lined on the picture on left.
The beer I chose was named "White Hops - Hoppy Wheat Beer", it cost 490 Forints for 30 cl at the stand (this is the bottle at the far left). Tasting notes : a bit acidulous, otherwise a very pleasant unfiltered Weiss Bier. There was maybe an inbalance in this beer that made it not so easy to finish the glass, too much fancy aromas in there I think.
It's good to remind here that the Reinheits-Gebot, an old German natural-beer rule prohibiting the use of additives was lifted by force in 1988 following a ruling by the European Union regulation bodies which obviously wanted the industrial beers of the rest of Europe to take root unimpeded throughout the German market. In spite of this shameful European ruling, the Germans remained largely loyal to the breweries keeping brewing along these principles, and artisan beers elsewhere even took the old German tradition as a model, somehow proving how wrong the European regulatory body was on this issue.
I chose to have a glass of Foti Zwickl, it was priced 300 Forints for 20 cl at the Foti stand. Looks like a hefe-weiss beer. Interesting texture in the mouth, not bad at all. A bit too rich maybe after a second sip, with something like sugar and alcohol, this feel could be because it was so hot still in the evening and you really look for the refreshing stuff then.
You can find the Foti beers at Bak Hütte, a beer pub in Budapest (Budapest XIII Robert Karoly krt. 51/B). I happen to have found a flyer of this pub and the artisan beers there have weird names like Razzia, Chicago, Ale Capone IPA, Alcatraz Barna, Six Fingers, Bazooka, Snakebite, Napalm, Pyromania, Trooper Iron Maiden and so on...
Maybe also the price per glass (if cheap when considered from abroad) was too expensive for local drunkards who can get booze for almost nothing in the convenient stores.
The next beer I got was a Szent Andras [type year/month/day of birth to enter the website] Fekete Korso. For your information, I learnt that csapolt sörök means draft beer and üveges sör means beer in bottles (in case you prefer to get draft in a Budapest bar). This Szent Andras beer cost 475 Forints for 30 cl.
This is actually the first beer I can say I really like tonight. A dark, light beer with a liveness feel. Liquorice aromas. I even finished my glass this time.
These pedal-powered minibuses are also found elsewhere, like in the Wisconsin capital Madison (also a major beer city), where a company named Capital Pedaler has tourists tour the city using the power of their legs. The company was founded by two former policewomen who obtained a change of the law in order to bring beer aboard.
The last beer I bought was a Serförras Vilagos 360, a pils if I'm correct. Very light beer and not much taste. After another sip actually (and I'm not usually a fan of Pils beer) this suits me well at this moment, it is 10:30 pm, a light beeze flows up from the Danube and the heat of this summer day is beginning to fade away.
Consider attending the next Fözdefeszt which is next september (check their website for more details). Going to Budapest is very easy from Paris, and the 2-hour flight with Ryanair costs only about 60 € round trip if you plan a couple of months ahead, the down thing being that if you want to bring back bottles with you, you'll have to pay extra for the cargo bag... Imagine, 60 € is less than what you'd pay with the SNCF (when they're not on strike) for a round trip to the Loire...
Below are a few pictures of Hungarian craft-beer labels that I shot earlier in the day (it was then too hot for me to stay there even with a glass of beer in hand). As you can see with the circular wear on some of these bottles, some are reusable bottles and there's certainly a deposit.