Beer and other matters of distinction

If I needed affirmation that I’d picked the best district in which to live in Budapest (something I’ve long since known), I got it recently when Vogue described Budapest’s District VIII as ‘delightfully shabby’ and named it ‘Budapest’s new must-visit spot’. Duh. Where have ye been, people? I’ve been banging on about this for years!

My little corner of the neighbourhood has been undergoing huge change, change that I document reasonably frequently. It needs to be done. Stuff opens up here almost overnight. I go away for a couple of weeks or so and come back to find yet another little gem on my doorstep.

sor5Right next door to what has to be my favourite wine bar/shop in the city, Vino és Wonka (which translates as ‘wine and chocolate’ – what’s not to like?) is the new Serfőző. This Czech beer pub also stocks beer from Hungary and Germany, both on draught and by the bottle. While its wine choice is limited (it favours wine from the cannot-go-wrong region of Szekszárd) and more of a nod to the non-beer drinkers who might be dragged inside that for serious wine drinkers, I had no complaints. It’s small, cosy, and serves up a variety of good beer to those lucky enough to get a seat.

sor2An offshoot of the successful Serfőző brand, which is perhaps better known for its involvement in Budapest’s regular summer craft beer festival (also in District VIII), partner László Kóczián didn’t waste much time moving in. He first spotted the vacant premises during a beer festival they organised in Corvin Sétány back in May and by 8 December, the doors were open and the beer was flowing.
sor4Kóczián is no stranger to running a pub. His mother ran a small pub down on Csepel Island and he more or less grew up in the trade. A graduate in Event Management, this 30-year-old typifies the talent and initiative that underlies the Hungarian start-up culture. He saw a gap in the market – this particular part of District VIII needed a pub that sold decent beer – and he went for it. He joined forces with a beer importer who gets the beer to Hungary and then he, Kóczián, sells it on. A match made in brew-heaven. I was nearly tempted by a green kiwi beer but resisted. Given the recent anti-Uber demonstrations in the city, I had to smile at the display of Taxis beers.

sor1Not content though with having a foothold in the beer business in the form of a licensed premises, Kóczián and his crew are going one better – a winter, indoor beer festival. Who says festivals have to be outside? No need to wait for summer to indulge as Serfőző has teamed up with the Gellert Hotel to host the city’s first Winter Beer Festival on the weekend of 19-21 February. The three-day event will focus on English beers on Friday, German beers on Saturday, and Czech beers on Sunday.

sor3I can’t say that beer floats my oats, but even I was just a tad impressed by the line-up. The festival will feature Hungarian breweries Bigfoot, Franzberger, and Sümegi alongside the Bavarian Maisel Brewery and the Czech Nymburk Brewery home of the famous (as in even I’ve heard of it) Postřižinské [it gets its name from Bohumil Hrabal’s book Postřižiny (translated as Cutting It Short) and immortalised in film in Jiří Menzel’s famous comedy of the same name]. They reckon they’ll have more than a 100 all told. The festival will also have music, food, and an exhibition of beer collectors’ curiosities. Whatever tickles your taste buds.

Check their Facebook event for details.  Tickets are available from the usual outlets and from the pub on Corvin Sétány – as if you needed an excuse to drop by.

First published in the Budapest Times 12 February 2016