One Friday night last year we went, as we often did, to the pub round the corner from our flat. On our return I remembered we needed to pay that month’s water bill and asked Poppy to send her half. She got distracted and started looking at flights instead. Long story short, she ended up buying me a two-night trip to Bratislava (5* hotel included) for the following week while she had a work conference. I never did get that money for the water bill…
I really enjoyed that visit to Bratislava and was looking forward to going again. It’s a lively and varied city, from the bustling historic Old Town to the futuristic UFO bridge. As well as doing the customary free walking tour and art galleries, I had also spent time exploring the city’s beer offerings. It turned out there was a burgeoning craft scene, with plenty of small bars offering mainly local breweries. I was excited to show Poppy some of the places I’d found last time around and hoped she would enjoy Bratislava as much as I had.
One of my favourite bars from last year was Žil Verne, so that’s where we decided to start our afternoon. However, when we arrived there was a note on the door saying they were opening a little later that day. Luckily, just across the alleyway is another bar, Be Unorthodox. Actually this was Žil Verne’s old location, but nowadays it’s a new bar of its own with edgy murals on the walls and an unrelenting heavy metal soundtrack. The bar is one of the more expensive in town, with prices regularly reaching €4 or more.
As well as being the brewery tap for Unorthodox, it’s also one of the few places in Bratislava with a focus on foreign beers. Last year there had been a To Øl takeover on; this time around it was Mikkeller and Wild Beer on offer. Poppy opted for the latter’s B*wildered, a 7.5% cherry chocolate stout, which was an excellent beer, rich and smooth with a good balance of sour cherry and bittersweet chocolate. I also went for a cherry beer, Unorthodox Butcher of Blaviken (7% Belgian cherry ale). Unfortunately, this one wasn’t quite as good; a little stingy on the fruit and surprisingly thin given the high ABV.
Five o’clock came around and Žil Verne did eventually open, so we headed back across the alley. The layout was exactly how I remembered it: a scattering of tables and chairs as you walk in, with the bar hidden away around the corner. The pub is of course named after French novelist Jules Verne, and the walls are adorned with icons from his most famous books; a hot-air balloon from Around the World in 80 Days, and a giant squid from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. The beer list hadn’t changed much either, still featuring brews from all the best Slovak and Czech craft breweries. That said, the prices had definitely increased a bit! We both chose beers from Hellstork, and I particularly enjoyed Poppy’s tart, refreshing Miami Weisse raspberry sour (3%).
Next up was another bar in the Old Town, the Stupavar brewpub. Despite its central location, you’re probably more likely to find locals drinking here than tourists. This means the prices are very reasonable, with all the beers costing around €2. Their beers are solid if not spectacular, but it’s the kind of place you can order a beer safe in the knowledge it will be well-kept and well-served. I had the Stout (4.8%) which was a typical example of the style – dark, bitter and slightly dry. Poppy meanwhile sampled the Jantar (also 4.8%), an Oktoberfest-style beer with plenty of caramel malt.
The highlight of my 2018 visit had been a bottle shop just around the corner from my hotel. 100 Pív offers, as the name suggests, an ever-changing range of around 100 different bottles and cans from breweries all around the world. This was one place I really didn’t want to miss, so we made the 15-minute walk across town to get there. Its cosmopolitan selection does mean that it’s not the cheapest place in Bratislava, but for the quality of the beer it’s not bad value at all.
We found room in the day’s budget for a real treat, a bottle of Omnipollo/J. Wakefield Brush (12%), a rich, boozy imperial stout with vanilla, hazelnut, chillis and more. As well as the bottles, the bar also features a small tap list with up to six beers. Poppy opted for one of these, a Micro NEIPA (3%) from Croatia’s Garden Brewery. Despite the much lower ABV (and price tag) this one was just as enjoyable, with plenty of hoppy, citrusy notes.
By now we only had two more places to visit, so we finished up and set off walking again. This time our destination was Hostinec Richtar Jakub, a little way outside the city centre near the cemetery. I have to admit at this point that I didn’t actually drink there last year, although I did try. Last time when I arrived the door was locked and all the lights were off. Luckily this time it was a little livelier – in fact, you could hear the pub from down the street.
Head down the little staircase and you find yourself in a proper old-school pub with solid wood tables and beer mats everywhere. Unlike the other craft-oriented places in town, this one was definitely off the beaten tourist trail – I think we were the only non-locals in there. We browsed the beer board and made our choices; Poppy had one of the pub’s home-brewed beers, the Magis-terka lager, while I went for Tropical Rocket (7%), a fruity IPA from Czech brewery Pivovar Matuška. I’ll definitely be adding this one to the re-re-visit list if I’m ever in Bratislava again!
Last up was Kollarko, ideally located just around the corner from our hostel. My overriding memory of this place wasn’t the beer, but the delicious peanut-flavoured Wotsits you get with every order. I was worried they might have been a one-off, but I was delighted to find they were still being given out this time around. Even better, Poppy hates peanuts so I got them to myself! Anyway, enough about the snacks – the beer was what we were really here for.
By this time on a busy Thursday evening the beer list had taken a few casualties, with several of the taps off. However, there were a couple of tasty-looking IPAs so I opted for one of these. JAMA Old Skull (4.9%) was a classic hoppy amber IPA, a nice way to end the night. All in all, Bratislava the second time round was just as good as I’d remembered. Round 3 next year?
I’m in Bratislava for the day, where should I visit? After two visits to the city, I can safely say that my favourite pub is 100 Pív. With a huge range of bottled beers, and a small but expertly curated tap list, what more can you ask for?
Brewery to look out for? To be honest, the best beers we had in Bratislava were the international ones. Wild Beer’s stout was excellent, and the Garden Brewery Micro NEIPA was very enjoyable too. In terms of Slovak beers, the Hellstork beers we had in Žil Verne were probably the most impressive. Both the raspberry sour and the session IPA were well-balanced, particularly given their relatively low ABVs.