Beer in Budapest

Budapest surprised us in so many ways. The sights were more awesome than we expected, the people were more friendly than we anticipated, the sweets exceeded my wildest dreams, and Beer in Budapest did not disappoint! Budapest was markedly the end of the “wine phase” of our European adventure. From this point out, things definitely shifted over to a Beer focus. Kevin was ecstatic. In his words, “About freaking time!”

Budapest is every beer-lover’s playground. The Craft Beer scene is absolutely going nuts there right now! You almost can’t walk anywhere without stumbling past a craft beer bar or bottle shop, which is dangerous for my liver, but wonderful in a city where you have to pay $1 to use public restrooms. I’d rather pay for a $2 beer!

I’m not sure I’d even call Budapest’s craft beer scene young anymore – there are far too many breweries for that now. But even though it has matured and really become a fun part of the city, the beer is still incredibly inexpensive! In this post, I’ll take you in a photo tour of a few of our favorite bars and bottle shops in Budapest.

The bars below are ordered in the same way you should consume your beers and wines: the best first, and the less exciting stuff later. Cheers!

Élesztő Bar

By far our favorite spot in Budapest for beer is Élesztő Bar. Élesztő is the Hungarian word for yeast, so they get points with me for being clever. Élesztő is technically a ruin pub, which means it was opened up in a building that may otherwise have been left abandoned or demolished. That means one thing: ambiance. Élesztő is enormous, with a giant, awesome outdoor area and even more indoor space.

Peering into the Élesztő courtyard. This is such a fun place to sit and enjoy a beer when it's nice outside.

Peering into the Élesztő courtyard. This is such a fun place to sit and enjoy a beer when it’s nice outside.

The only bad thing about Élesztő is its location. It’s a bit of a hike from the tourist core of Budapest, but is totally worth the walk or the cost of taking a tram. Anything in Budapest seems to take an hour to walk to anyway, and I’m promising you great beer at the end of the walk. Clearly, you must go.

Inside the Élesztő, where all the magic happens. (I'm talking about the magic of pouring beers.)

Inside the Élesztő, where all the magic happens. (I’m talking about the magic of pouring beers.)

There are TWENTY ONE BEER TAPS at Élesztő. That’s right. TWENTY ONE. We had our work cut out for us. Luckly, you can get small sizes of every beer, and most beers are priced so that you’re not saving money by ordering the large size. I liked that, because I didn’t feel like we were wasting money to try more of a variety of beers.

Look at that beer list!!

Look at that beer list!!

We focused on beers that were from Hungarian Breweries, but you can find beers here from all over Europe.

Left: Propaganda Pilsner. Right: Pineapple Noir Saison.

Left: Propaganda Pilsner. Right: Pineapple Noir Saison.

Left: Sorostyen Red Lager (Yum). Right: Mosaic in Black Porter.

Left: Sorostyen Red Lager (Yum). Right: Mosaic in Black Porter.

The Facts:

Csak a Jó Sör (Only Good Beer)

The first thing you should learn when arriving in Budapest is that the Hungarian word for Beer is Sör. Once you know that, you can handle anything. Our favorite stop to buy bottled beer in all of Budapest was an awesome little bottle shop called Csak a Jó Sör, which translates to Only Good Beer.

We tried a couple of the beers they had on tap and weren’t very impressed. You actually get a lot more bang for your “Forint” (Hungarian currency) when you buy bottles, so we recommend focusing on those.

Beers on tap at Csak a Jó Sör. Kevin had the Citron IPA and I ordered the Coffee Porter. I'm STILL experiencing a coffee buzz from how much coffee they put in this puppy. TOO MUCH COFFEE.

Beers on tap at Csak a Jó Sör. Kevin had the Citron IPA and I ordered the Coffee Porter. I’m STILL experiencing a coffee buzz from how much coffee they put in this puppy. TOO MUCH COFFEE.

Kevin took the opportunity to try as many Belgian beers as he could while we were in Budapest. Most bottles were $3 or less, which is WAY more reasonable than anything you’d pay for Belgian beer in the States.

A few of the Belgian beers Kevin enjoyed from Csak a Jó Sör:

Yum.

The Facts:

Schimpla Kert Ruin Pub

For ambiance alone, this puppy is ranked #3 with us. Élesztő was our first ruin pub, but Schimpla is decidedly more ruin-like. I’m pretty sure that most of their furniture has been scavenged from the side of the road or from junk yards, but it actually lends the space a really fun vibe and looks pretty cool! Schimpla is located in the Jewish Quarter of Budapest, so it’s really easy to reach for most tourists. We definitely categorize this as a not-to-be-missed stop on your beer tour of the city.

We weren’t super excited about the drinks we ordered, but that’s ok. You’re there for the experience.

Kevin's dark beer, my cider, and a shot of Unicum, Hungary's most famous (and most disgusting) liquor.

Kevin’s dark beer, my cider, and a shot of Unicum, Hungary’s most famous (and most disgusting) liquor.

Unicum has been described to be "like Jagermeister, but with a distinctly stronger flavor". Everyone says you have to try it, so we clearly did.

Unicum has been described to be “like Jagermeister, but with a distinctly stronger flavor”. Excellent… Everyone says you have to try it, so we clearly did…

And here's what Kevin thought of it.

…and here’s what Kevin thought of it.

The best part of Schimpla is their awesome outdoor area. You can even sit in a car-turned-dining-table!

The outdoor area of Schipmla, with the old converted car.

The outdoor area of Schipmla, with the old converted car.

Schimpla even serves food, if you're there when the kitchen is open.

Schimpla even serves food, if you’re there when the kitchen is open.

The Facts:

Hopfanatic

Hopfanatic Pub in Budapest

Hopfanatic Pub in Budapest

If you’re craving an IPA, head to Hopfanatic, as that’s just about all they brew. They have 10 beers on tap, most of which are IPAs or Pale Ales. They also had a Porter on tap.

Beers on tap at Hopfanatic.

Beers on tap at Hopfanatic.

The bartenders aren’t very friendly or knowledgable at Hopfanatic, but that’s not why you go. You go to Hopfanatic because of their awesome urinals:

Why don't we have urinals like these in the States? It's almost cool enough to put in my house. Almost.

Why don’t we have urinals like these in the States? It’s almost cool enough to put in my house. Almost.

The Facts:

Léhűtő, a bar for the Hipsters

Every city has a gathering place for hipsters. There’s Brooklyn in NYC, Capitol Hill in Seattle, and the Pearl District in Portland. I’m not trying to call anyone out here – I love skinny jeans and mustaches as much as the next person, and usually these neighborhoods are among my favorites. I just think it’s amazing how an entire area can feel like it falls into this category. In Budapest, the hipster neighborhood is the Jewish Quarter, and the epicenter seems to be Léhűtő.

Léhűtő, a fun little bar in the Jewish Quarter of Budapest.

Léhűtő, a fun little bar in the Jewish Quarter of Budapest.

Their beers are a bit pricier than what we found elsewhere, but they’ve got a huge selection and the bartender was nice enough to help us pick our poison. Added bonus? This bar is easy to find and close to the tourist core of Budapest.

The Facts:

Unconventional Drinking

One of the greatest things about Europe is that you can drink almost anywhere! There are no fenced off beer gardens here, no one is waiting to give you a citation for holding a beer on the street, and it’s borderline acceptable to BYOB on a train ride. If I’m being honest, I think a more casual attitude towards drinking by a culture as a whole makes kids less likely to sneak alcohol and overdo things. Drinking is not something that is forbidden; it’s something you do socially and responsibly with friends. It’s ok for kids to see that!

Let me set my soapbox aside and show you some of Budapest’s finest unconventional drinking spots.

Drinking at a VW Beer Van!

Budapest's VW Beer Van.

Budapest’s VW Beer Van.

If you ever find yourself at a festival in Budapest, look for the cute little blue Kézmüves Sör VW van selling pints of beer!

Kevin ordering up a pint.

Kevin ordering up a pint.

Nothing beats drinking a delicious dark wheat beer next to an old-ass castle.

Nothing beats drinking a delicious dark wheat beer next to an old-ass castle.

We stumbled onto the beer van by sheer dumb luck, and you should certainly stop for a drink if you happen to find it. If you speak Hungarian (or arm yourself with Google Translate and some patience) you might be able to figure out where they are from the Kézmüves Sör Website. Good luck.

Drinking in City Park

One of our favorite places to sit and enjoy a beer was in City Park, which is essentially Budapest’s answer to NYC’s Central Park. We were staying in an apartment only a few blocks away, and took every chance we got to soak up some sun while enjoying a German hefeweisen.

If you find yourself in City Park, wander around, you’ll find a bar eventually. There’s even one in an old repurposed railroad car in the NE corner of the park!

Drinking while Biking

Especially huge in Budapest is “Beers on Wheels”, the drink-while-you-pedal bars rolling all over the city. You bike to power the cart, and a bartender will keep your beer topped up. I’m not sure who mans the steering wheel.

Drink while you get your exercise in Budapest.

Drink while you get your exercise in Budapest.

The downside? It doesn’t seem like you can book just a couple spots in one of these moving bars. You need to be traveling with a group and have to book out the whole thing.

Drinking on Trains

Remember when I said it’s borderline acceptable to drink on a train? I’m not sure it’s 100% legal, but locals won’t bat an eye. The best way to make a several-hour train ride from Budapest to Vienna fly by is to BYOB. Trust us, you won’t regret it.

Enjoying some cider with my lunch on the train to Vienna.

Enjoying some cider with my lunch on the train to Vienna.

We Want to Hear From You!

Where in the world did you have your most memorable beer/wine/cocktail? Mine will forever be Oktoberfest in Munich in 2012, but we just got home from Prague which was also awesome. (Posts on Prague to come soon!)

Leave us a comment to let us know!

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