Slovakia

The Slovakian Pub Scene – Click Here To Read More

It would be tempting, partly through my own laziness, to think the guide to Slovakian drinking could be done simply by copy-pasting the information from the Czech guide, but there are some immutable differences between the two that are worth exploring.

First of all, Slovakia has the euro, so while it still is a place for incredibly cheap drinking, the economic effects naturally increase the prices by a touch from what they would otherwise have been. In the right places though, you can still find a very good desitky (light) lager for around 1 euro. Hardly the stuff of nightmares.

Another difference is simply the lay of the land and the infrastructure. Slovakia is nowhere near as densely populated as Czech Republic, and the shape of the country itself, largely spread West to East covers a surprising amount of terrain. By the time you reach Kosice you’re snaking close to the Ukranian border and the sub-Carpathians. It’s impossible not to concede that there will be cultural consequences of that.

Most people will find themselves in Bratislava, being within a day trip of Vienna and on one of the fastest train lines in central Europe. The city is not so different from many Czech places, just with a smidgen more of an Austrian vibe to some of the streets. The beer scene reflects that a little bit, with fewer traditional Pivnice style places and more modern and alternative bars. There are some decent hospodas around that offer a classic slice of Czechslovak drinking, and although Slovakia’s primary beers aren’t a patch on Czech ones, there are a couple of reasonable central breweries to explore.

Out in the rest of the country, beer has to compete with schnapps and slivovitz in the mountainous regions, and wine in the south and east.

The craft beer revolution doesn’t suit Czechia much as they already had very high standards, while their obsession with the price of a pint is only matched in England and Germany. However, I think there is room in Slovakia for this, firstly because the self-contained brewery tap concept would work well considering how much of an arseache distribution is in such a rural country, secondly because certain areas are lagging behind in their offerings, when you consider their neighbours, including Poland are enjoying a better quality and better variety of beer.

Lastly, while in the countryside make sure to visit a mountain lodge or inn, akin to Slovenias gostilnas, as these places with their chunky wooden seats, roaring fires and home cooking are famous for good value, good portions and a homely ‘Traveller’s Rest’ feel.

BRATISLAVA

SILVER AWARD

Hostinec Richtar Jakub
Moskovská 16, 811 08 Staré Mesto, Slovakia

Quality and/or choice of drinks –10/10
Style and Decor – 8/10
Character, Atmosphere and/or Local Life – 10/10
Amenities, Events & Community – 7/10
Value for Money – 9/10
The Pub-Going Factor – 9/10

BRONZE AWARD

Bernard pri Lyceu
Konventná 634/19 81103 Bratislava, 811 03 Staré Mesto, Slovakia
  • Quality and/or choice of drinks – 9/10
  • Style and Decor – 6/10
  • Character, Atmosphere and/or Local Life – 8/10
  • Amenities, Events & Community – 6/10
  • Value for Money – 10/10
  • The Pub-Going Factor –  8/10

The appeal of pure, unfettered going out to the pub, without extra bullshit or pretensions is something that grows on you the longer you spend time in Czechia or Slovakia, both countries that are strong on substance over style. Backing this philosophy up is their retinue of absolutely excellent world class beer kept to strict and exacting standards that is so singularly enjoyable you can find yourself in many scuzzy and otherwise unappealing dive bars still with something worth clinging onto (literally) . Not only that, but the sheer simplicity of the arrangement. A warm homely room with comfortable seating and good beer for a chat and a good time among your peers. Whatever gimmicks bars with throw at you, a million beers on tap, a sheet urinal with slices of orange in it, or drinks priced according to the stock exchange, it all eventually comes down to a room, a drink, and a good time. If you haven’t got that, you may as well be running a hardware store for all I care.

This Bernard Pivo insignia pub typifies working class drinking, set with only a car park between it and the dual carriageway out of town. It’s easy to reach if you’re near Bratislava old town, 15 minutes walk, so close you can still hear the trams exiting the tunnel under the castle (well worth a closer look in the dusky hours). The discount supermarket and sex shop next door certainly hammers home the gritty location, yet in spite of its grim view of the motorway and dubious neighbours the pub offers a surprisingly pleasant terrace area outside with covered bench seating that compliments the pub itself quite well.

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Don’t expect a warm welcome at the door, for this place is not about such fripperies. Czechoslovakian (in this sense I believe the defunct term still is applicable) service is almost routinely noted for being gruff and workmanlike at best and openly hostile at worst. The real welcome hug, if you were searching for one, is written on the blackboard stand by the pub, boasting nearly the full Bernard range, from the simple 10 degrees light lager or  ‘desitka‘, at barely a euro for a glass right up to the stronger special beers. Walk inside and find a very simple cosy room decorated like it hasn’t seen the fall of the Berlin wall, with a dinky bar area in the corner. There is a TV adjacent and some ice hockey memorabilia dotted around the place.

Don’t expect anything fancy – though I hardly telegraphed that it would be, did I? – it’s a classic local drinking hole with a vaguely nostalgic sporty theme. The staff won’t speak English (unless really, really pressed to) but neither do they utter any objection when you order a beer – they know why you are here and behind the stoic expressions they are pleased to serve, in that solemn Slavic way. The other patrons inside barely even turn around to acknowledge you, clouded in their haze of cigarette smoke and drunkenness, something which might give you peace of mind if you find the prospect of entering pajzls like this place intimidating.

There isn’t really space at the bar to have a beer na stojaka so if you’re going for a good time not a long time, your arse will need to make contact with some furniture. Not to worry, expect plenty of seats inside to go at. Hey, why not surprise them by choosing in Slovakian – desitka, jedenackta or dvanackta (3.8%, 4.5% or 5.0% Bernard lager) prosim – you might cause a flicker of an eyelid, which would be something of a successful extraction from a Slovakian tapster in my experience. Or they’ll just be annoyed you spoke Czech to them.

The terrace is a bit more communal, so even if you aren’t involved in any socialising directly and have arrived on your own there is a friendly feel to sit amongst the hubbub, and comes recommended over sitting indoors if the weather is fair. If you’re there in January dive inside the Dive! The pub crowd is an odd split between young couples and students who sit outside and typically grizzled old boozehounds who wander in and out between cigs and beer, but this crankily functional dynamic works in its favour and I quite like places like this that throw different groups of people together. That’s what a true pub should do.

The Bernard is excellent, disappearing down the hatch with alarming ease. Quite often you’ll arrive with the noble intention of staying for one, then ten minutes later, having found yourself dispatching a whole large beer, well and truly snared into staying for another, partly because you don’t want to move on so soon, partly because the beer is so fucking good. On both occasions I found myself dispatching several in short order, the price and quality proving irresistible. If you google the pub most of the photographs are simply pictures of glasses filled to varying levels, testifying to how well they keep their beer in this pub that anyone thinks someone would want to look at that.

While there are many humdrum aspects to Bernard pri Lyceu you could probably find in dozens of other hospodas in the city, I couldn’t think of a better example of a comfortable, strongly-supported working class venue, and the beer and value just tops it off.

When compared to the central brewery and pub Mestiansky Pivovar with its glass, chrome and corporate feel, Bernard pri Lyceu provides a stark contrast but equally, a welcome reminder of the more homely and simple values of pub going. I would include it on any night out in Bratislava. If you don’t believe me, check out what other people are saying.

Mestiansky Pivovar
Drevená 575/8, 811 06 Bratislava, Slovakia

Quality and/or choice of drinks –9/10
Style and Decor – 6/10
Character, Atmosphere and/or Local Life – 6/10
Amenities, Events & Community – 7/10
Value for Money – 7/10
The Pub-Going Factor – 8/10

Omama
Sasinkova 2640/19, 811 08 Staré Mesto, Slovakia

Quality and/or choice of drinks –8/10
Style and Decor – 9/10
Character, Atmosphere and/or Local Life – 8/10
Amenities, Events & Community – 7/10
Value for Money – 9/10
The Pub-Going Factor – 8/10