Polish Options in Ontario
In Ontario currently a small group of Polish brands is available, ones you see often in international centres.
There is Zywiec, Tyskie, Lech, Żubr, Lomza, Okocim. And Lezajsk, Lomza, Tatra, and Warka. All are pale lagers in the international style, but hues and tastes can vary within. Most are around 5% abv, one or two stronger, Okocim has one.
Occasionally a porter appears, but not often enough. All these brands are products of large, so-called macro breweries although Lomza is part of the Polish-owned group Van Pur, more a strong regional, I would say.
Looking at some labels recently I chose Tyskie, for two reasons. First, it had the most distant expiry date that day in that LCBO outlet. Second, malt, hops, hop extract, and water are the listed ingredients – no malt adjuncts such as maize, or sugar.
I hadn’t recalled Tyskie was all-malt, not the Gronie anyway which is the flagship internationally. Looking into it, the brand stopped using glucose some time ago, at least in some export markets.
The bottle I bought reads 5% abv, vs. 5.2% on the brewery website.
The taste was excellent, fresh, tangy, bitter enough, lightly malty, a touch sweeter than most in the group mentioned. Most are too dry for my palate anyway, so this is a plus.
Some Background on Tyskie
Tyskie is made in Tychy, a town in Silesia that was German for a long time. The brewery, set up by aristocrats again long ago, had a fillip in the 1860s when placed on an industrial footing to brew lager.
By 1900 it was selling over 100,000 hL per annum, in the top league of Polish breweries then. Some of the medium-size brewers hadn’t reached half that even by the 1930s, such as Pupko in Lida.
Of course, there were tumultuous changes in Poland during that 30+ years, especially the advent of WW I and the struggle to recover in the 1920s
Tyskie today is part of a three-brewery Polish group, Kompania Piwowarska which together represents about one-third of Polish beer sales. Kompania is owned by Asahi of Japan. It was owned formerly by SABMiller, before its merger with Anheuser Busch In Bev.
The Kompania site has a good timeline with informative photos.
Some Brewing Details
The website for the brewery states Tyskie Gronie has 20 IBUs, quite respectable, and 5.2% alcohol as noted above. Possibly the domestic Gronie still uses sugar, which might account for the higher abv.
The bottle states Lubelski and Marynka hops feature, both Polish varieties. The Polish Hops site has good detail on each. The first, from the classic Lublin yards, is a Noble variety connected to famed Saaz of Bohemia.
Marynka has some New World elements viz. the Brewer’s Gold in the heritage, but is not dominant in Tyskie Gronie.
Other Tyskie Beers
The brewery website showcases three other brands: a wheat malt beer, made by bottom-fermentation; a decoction pilsener following methods from the 1920s; and a darkish lager of lower alcohol, “a hit” of the 1970s, meaning I think the recipe dates from then.
There is a craft/specialty line as well under the Ksiazece banner. The porter looks first rate.
One doesn’t always want a rich malty or hoppy beer. At least I don’t, and Tyskie is a well-brewed alternative. Its move to all-malt is salutary, Heineken did the same thing about 25 years ago.
This can only improve quality provided brewers don’t push the fermentation too far. Tyskie gets it right.