A Foreigner’s Guide to the Best Slovakian Beer

Slovakian beer culture is not world-famous, as it should be, but it is awesome. Give it a shot! Or, you know, a sip (sorry, had to).

Cheesy jokes aside, today’s guide to Slovakian beer will teach you what’s the best and tastiest beer you can sample here, but it will also tell you a thing or two about the history and beer culture in Slovakia.

I did an article about Slovakian girls. I did one about the best cities to find them. But, as awesome as this country’s women may be, there’s more to that. So if you’re looking for inspiration on what to order during your next bar-hopping adventure, read on!

First things first…

Slovakian Beer Vs Czech Beer

Slovakian beer guide

Slovakia was not separate from the Czech Republic until 1990. Needless to say, their history and culture are intertwined. This is valid for beer culture as well.

So why is Czech beer so much more famous? 

Firstly, because they invented Pilsner, that beloved pale lager. Secondly, I think it has to do with Prague. Bratislava is cool and all but Prague receives infinitely more visitors (but you know I find Prague overrated, right?)

More tourists means more attention to local products, including the awesome beer.

Slovakian beer, however, is no worse than Czech beer. It could even be better! After all, there are no borders for tasty alcoholic beverages. Jot that down as a life lesson!

A Brief, but Exciting History of Slovakian Beer

Slavs love their beer, they always had. But while other Slavic tribes were slowly moving on to wine during the Middle Ages, Slovak beer production only kept growing.

Matthias Corvinus is a Hungarian king who loved it so much that it was all he served on his wedding. And during other people’s weddings in his court, too.

Imagine toasting to the bride and groom with beer instead of champagne! Although, to be fair, champagne did not exist back then.

Either way, the Banská Bystrica region, Tampliers themselves established a brewery or so says the legend. This is a mining region and they found a lot of success there. Miners would call beer liquid bread and drink it all throughout the day.

Beer was a surprisingly good choice for hydration and some extra calories. Back in those days, clean drinking water was not at all common.

Even if you were drinking from a crystal-clear mountain spring, there was no telling if it wasn’t contaminated with bacteria and viruses. People who favored beer didn’t have the same problem.

Slovakian Beer Today

tasty Slovak beer

When the communist regimen began, all private property was nationalized. That included breweries. There were initially 12 of them, which the comrades merged into three national companies.

But just because people were now living a happy, carefree socialist life, doesn’t mean they stopped drinking.

Not only did they not stop, but demand was constantly increasing. The regimen was forced to establish new breweries and increase the capacity of the existing ones.

When the regimen fell in 1989, there were plenty of industrial breweries and not a lot of investors (some of these breweries had huge debts).

Eventually, things did get better for Slovakian beer. Today, there are 18 industrial breweries, as well as plenty of microbreweries producing high quality beer.

The large breweries are internationally owned – either by Heineken or SABMiller.

They maintain a very high standard, but you’d be surprised to find how much better craft beer can be.

Spoken like a true hipster, I know, but these smaller breweries can afford to focus on a specific type of beer and get it exactly right.

Huge companies have to produce in massive quantities and their beer is inevitably more generic.

Major Breweries in Slovakia

There are four of these:

  • Hurbanovo
  • Šariš
  • Steiger
  • Erb

Hurbanovo was founded in 1967 and put beer on the market for the first time in 1969.

They are absolute newcomers in a place where some breweries have centuries of tradition.

However, Hurbanovo quickly made a name for itself and today it produces most Slovakian beer.

It did not all go smoothly, though. When they merged with Heineken, they grew to be one of the largest malting operations on the continent.

But Heineken started buying other breweries and moving all production to Hurbanovo.

They even started making the beloved Martiner (which had been produced in the town of Martin since 1893) in Hurbanovo and people were outraged. In protest, they stopped buying all Heineken-produced beer.

Hurbanovo-produced brands include:

  • Zlatý Bažant (probably the most popular and best known Slovakian beer)
  • Kelt
  • Corgoň
  • Martiner
  • Gemer

These are not fancy beers and older men will low-key mock you for buying them. If you ask me, they are still pretty tasty, so no stigma. Just don’t let your craft beer loving Slovak friends see you order them.

Slovakian Beer: Notable Microbreweries

Microbrewery in Slovakia

If you see a craft beer at a bar in Slovakia, order it! Even if you do not see it explicitly mentioned in the next couple of paragraphs.

There are now tons of microbreweries around Slovakia and I wouldn’t want you to miss out on something I forgot to mention it. The rule of thumb is: if the locals are drinking it, bottoms up!

Zámocký Pivovar is a must when in Bratislava. It’s just a couple of minutes away from the city’s gothic-Rennaisance castle, yet sadly overlooked by most tourists.

With simple dark-wood interior, dominated by a huge brass beer tank, Zámocký Pivovar is the place to get the night started.

Starosloviensky Pivovar is a fancier spot, where you can sample both amazing Slovakian beer and traditional Slovakian goat’s cheese.

The entire venue looks very ‘tradition meets luxury’ and they are incredibly proud of all their products. Order Pressburg, their own brew, which is rich in flavor and compliments the cheeses perfectly.

Try Egidius Brewery for your all of your aprés-ski alcohol needs. Right in the centre of Poprad, it’s a brewery within a bar and they serve a surprising variety of both local and foreign beers.

As usual, my tip is to go with their own, locally-brewed beer, if only to avoid dirty looks from the waiters (which are inevitable if you order Guinness).

Although Egidius do serve food, I’d say try the restaurant next door and then pop into this bar for drinks.

Best Beer in Slovakia: My Top Picks

light cold beer in a glass

Yes, I have to admit that I’m a bit ashamed to say that I tried so many that I can create a list of the best 8 beers in Slovakia but I have the excuse that I was doing it for a good cause: writing this article.

Either way, here are the top 8 beer brands to try when you visit Slovakia. Or just stick to one – your choice, they’re all good!

Note: I am only listing brands that you can find anywhere in Slovakia (and maybe other countries too). Craft beer is great, as I said above, but you can’t always get to a specific bar to quench your thirst.

1. Zlatý Bažant

It’s almost cliche to see this popular beer brand on top of any lists, but here it is. The truth is that it’s a perfectly balanced beer – one that will be appreciated by both those who prefer a stronger, bitter beer, but also those who don’t.

Yes, it sounds surprisingly, but trust me when I say it’s good and definitely a crowd pleaser.

2. Martiner

While many say that it’s not as good as the original (remember – this is a “remake” by Heineken) I absolutely love it. Plus, the 12% written on the bottle makes many believe that it has that much alcohol, so it gives you extra bragging rights, although fake.

3. Golden Pheasant

Another extremely popular Slovak beer brand, probably thanks to its sweeter flavor. Another crowd pleaser.

4. Steiger

Very good beer that you can find everywhere in Slovakia. Bitter and with a caramel-like flavor, it’s slowly but steadily climbing up my top list.

5. Topvar

I like both the Premium and the Pilsner variants. They are both balanced beers that are easy to drink and tasty.

6. Zlaty bazant tmavy

This is a great choice for those who prefer a dark, caramelized and sweeter beer. It has a strong aroma and strong taste.

7. Saris Red

A red lager beer with a nice, malty taste.

8. Urpiner

Last but not least, we have this stronger, more bitter beer to try in Slovakia. It has a full, bitter taste that will surely have you asking for more.

Final words

Now you know not only 8 amazing beer brands to try next time when you’re in Slovakia, but also a bit about the Slovakian beer culture to impress your drinking buddies next time you meet.

But don’t forget – drink responsably!

What are your favorite aspects of Slovakian beer culture and, of course – your favorite Slovak beer? Let us all know by sharing your thoughts below.

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