Friday : A Walk in the Park and Warsaw Beer Festival

A typical Ibis Budget breakfast, which are cheap and cheerful. I was also quite tired, not least because it’s an hour behind in Warsaw, I had got up at 04:30 to get the bus to Heathrow and also I didn’t get into the hotel room until midnight. I write that not for any sympathy, but because it meant I went for what I consider a very late breakfast at 08:00. It was busy, but there were a few tables free, so I plonked my little arrangement of drinks down and then realised the tray didn’t hold the two plates that I required. I mean, it’s not the Sofitel, but it’s only about £4 for breakfast.

The staff here were also quite efficient at clearing away trays and plates, although ideally customers do it themselves. This leads me to the dilemma of always leaving enough things on the table to show the staff I haven’t finished whilst I go off to hunt for more orange juice or whatever. Leave too little and then there’s the chance that they’ll clean the whole lot away. This travel thing really isn’t as easy as some people think….

I had booked the Ibis Budget when I was in Warsaw at the end of last year, as something to look forwards to when I thought travel was going to be restricted. I misunderstood which football ground the beer festival took place at, so I accidentally booked a hotel that was only about a five minute walk from the football stadium. This was a handy piece of luck rather than any particular good judgement.

It was evident that I was getting close to the football ground, the fans were keen to show they won the Polish Championship in the 2020-2021 season by drawing on a wall.

The beer festival didn’t open until 12:00 and so I walked to Łazienki Park, the largest open space in the city. I still felt quite jaded so perhaps wasn’t entirely productive in the morning, although I managed to get through my daily Wordle, Worldle (not a spelling mistake) and Quordle challenges at least. Sitting in a park on a Friday morning reading did feel like an excessive and overly indulgent luxury, but it did help make me feel ready for the beer festival as I didn’t want to be tired for that.

If I was going to have a statue of me to remember me in future centuries, I’d like my friend Liam to sort something like this out for me. I can’t ride a horse, but I won’t let that be a limitation to my plans. This isn’t me though, it’s John III Sobieski, the former King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania.

It’s certainly a well maintained park and there were plenty of places to walk. Much of this time I spent on the phone to Richard trying to work out how to resolve some little blog problems I was having in trying to move to a larger server. Fortunately, after lots of faffing, everything works at it should now.

A statue commemorating Piotr Wysocki (1797-1875) who was one of the men who started the November Uprising against Russia in 1830. He was sentenced to death by the Russians but they ‘kindly’ let him live in Siberia for twenty years instead, which doesn’t sound ideal. The statue was placed here in 1930 to mark the hundredth anniversary of the uprising.

The south facade of the Pałac Na Wyspie (Palace on the Isle).

A rather lovely little sundial, although I’m happy using my phone to see the time.

Looking over the lake, this area was busier than the other quieter parts of the park, there were numerous families milling around and about to look around some of the historic buildings.

All really rather lovely. This is a museum today, although I didn’t have time to visit as I had a beer festival to get to. The Germans flattened Warsaw before they left in 1945 and they drilled holes to dynamite this palace, but they ran out of time and the building was saved. Although it remained standing, it was badly damaged, and major restorations were needed following the end of the Second World War. I did hope that these things wouldn’t happen again in Europe, but yet here we are with Ukraine.

A statue of Kazimierz Deyna, who played for Legia Warsaw between 1966 and 1978. He went to play for San Diego in 1981, but he was killed in a car crash in the American city in 1989 at the age of 41.

I walked around the entire stadium looking for the way in, ignoring what appeared to be the VIP entrance as, well, I’m not a VIP. As I understand now, that entrance was only VIP for the football and was the only way in for beer festival visitors. I was relieved that my ticket was actually the right one, as the ordering process was entirely in Polish (and the secure system they were using meant that Google couldn’t automatically translate it) and I’m not that confident at my linguistic ability. The ticket wasn’t very expensive, just a couple of pounds, but it was ticket only entry and if I had got the wrong one it wouldn’t be clear how to fix that situation. But, on this occasion at least, I had clearly shown signs of ordering competence and I was in.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but there are tens of different stands operated by different breweries from across Poland. Although the beers are listed at each stand, they’re also all listed on Untappd and there were 1,000 different beers to choose from. I was confident that there was sufficient choice for my needs.

Going at lunchtime had the advantage that there was nearly no-one else there, so there was plenty of seating available and no queue to get drinks at any of the stands. There are two main floors like this, and at least one smaller room, although there’s a chance that I didn’t find everything that there was to see. Signage was good though, with indicators showing which breweries were on each floor, I thought some effort had been made in this regard.

The Putin Ch** beer was brewed to support Ukraine, with I understand financial donations made, and it is rated very highly on Untappd for that reason. I noticed a few like this and Untappd actually has a list of beers where drinkers can show their support for the people of Ukraine.

All of the stands were clearly labelled, so it wasn’t hard to find the ones that I was looking for.

And Funky Fluid was one that I definitely wanted to visit, so I charged up there quickly in case they ran out of beer. They were having some dispense problems, but I got the beer that I was hoping for and rued slightly on the reality that there were several more that I wanted just on Funky Fluid’s list. That’s something of a permanent issue I have with Funky Fluid, but a positive one, it’s that they make hundreds of beers and some short batch stuff, so there’s always something new to discover. I went for the Pastry Chef Peanut Butter Cup imperial stout here and it was absolutely delightful. Full bodied and with a texture of velvet, not to mention the taste of peanut butter, this is my sort of drink. Some people might think peanut butter isn’t a suitable flavour for a beer, but then again everyone is entitled to their wrong opinions.

I think I then started to message most of my friends about just how lovely this beer festival was, likely annoying some more than others. I can imagine how surprised and delighted with my correspondence about the quality of the products.

It was a bright and sunny day, indeed a bit too sunny for my liking, but that made it more pleasant to meander around the food trucks that had parked up outside.

I went for the burger van, after much deliberation and thought. The prices were a little high for Warsaw, but very reasonable compared to what this would cost at a British beer festival. Most styles of food were here, from pierogi to Mexican, from pizza to hot dogs.

There we go, very ‘pyszne’ as the Polish would say, I went for the Bulleit Burger. The burger was meaty and leaked some grease (my friend James would have been impressed) but was juicy and suitably decadent for my needs (I had a lot of decadent things at the beer festival). It’s not entirely clear from the photo, but I liked the little separate container at the top of the chip cone where ketchup (or mayo, they don’t judge) could be placed. You don’t get luxury like this at Great Yarmouth market where you have to pay extra for ketchup and they just dump it on top with no attempt to keep it separate. It’s little innovations like this which please and excite me.

The prices weren’t cheap, but they were very acceptable given the quality of the beer. Roughly divide the Zloty prices by five and then take off a little bit to get the pound equivalent.

Some of the breweries I hadn’t heard of, but they had some interesting flavours going on with their beers.

I hadn’t realised that it was possible to sit outside in the stands, I found this whole arrangement very relaxing. I’ve started to read Hitch 22, the autobiography of the formidable Christopher Hitchens and I got through another few chapters sitting here. I have already mentioned that it wasn’t the most productive of days, or at least, not unless you include learning about beers.

All very peaceful, unlike I imagine what it’s like when football is on. I’m not really that engaged with football, but I like the ambience of the whole thing from a neutral point of view, I’d perhaps not entirely hate watching a match here.

And a final stadium photo, with 31,000 seats available. For those who want to know my beer of the festival, it was the Risfactor Vanilla and Coconut from Browar PINTA, an incredible imperial stout with chocolate, coconut, vanilla, toffee, more chocolate, coffee, more coconut and a rich and subtle aftertaste which hid that this was a 10% ABV. Completely delightful. I’ve had several beers from this brewery, but this is the best that I’ve had from them. I was also delighted with the Schooner or Later from Browar Stu Mostow and I liked how they made efforts to ensure that I had the right beer on Untappd as they said that it was easy to get confused with that one. The staff member came to the customer side of the bar to assist me, all very kind as I like Untappd to be accurate. I have to really, otherwise my friend Nathan will be cross. I should also mention the Imperial I’m Not Pastry BLUE from Browar Lubrow as well, but the complete list of what I had is at https://untappd.com/user/julwhite.

And one last drink from Maltgarden (well nearly, I had a quick additional one on the way out, a Milk Stout from Dobry Browar). Note I’ve switched to an actual glass, which was slightly annoying as the final stand that I went to didn’t have plastic ones. Now, I understand the environmental issues, but it’s not ideal using the same glass multiple times when trying small quantities of beer without going to wash them out every time. Anyway, I had to buy that glass, which cost me 80p I think, although I hadn’t actually realised until then that you could even buy a glass. I took it back to the hotel to figure out what to do with it. I digress though, I had saved Maltgarden until the end of my visit to the beer festival as they’re a simply great brewery. I opted for the Gate No 5/2021 and it was pure decadence, there was chocolate, bourbon, vanilla, coconut and all the delightful, but yet complex, flavours I’d expect from a pastry stout. I know that my friend Steve refers to these drinks as sump oil, but there’s no cloying here, beautifully smooth and with what I’m now calling a warm mouthfeel.

At this stage the festival was getting very busy and I decided that six hours at the event was more than enough. At least they were never going to run out of seating though, which is an ongoing problem at Norwich Beer Festival. I’d merrily recommend this beer festival, it’s inexpensive and there’s no shortage of nationally important breweries here. I think it’s held twice per year and the welcome from every stand to my poor ordering in Polish was always polite, with the brewers keen to talk about their beers. The surroundings had an air of decadence to them, it was spacious and everything felt ordered and safe. I’m not sure that I’d come to both festivals each year, but certainly I think I’ll be returning to one a year. Knowing me though I’ll accidentally come to both, as I need little excuse to return to Warsaw.

At that point I thought I’d better go back to the hotel room to try and least get some productive work done, but with fond memories of the day.