One Man's Quest to Bring Craft Beer to Budapest
On a crisp evening in March, we stumbled upon Hopaholic, a craft beer bar in District 7. While sitting down at the bar, we ordered two IPAs by Brew Your Mind. As we took our first sips, the man next to us leaned over asked what we thought.
We told him the truth. They were incredible.
Without so much as cracking a smile he replied saying, "That's good." Turns out this was his bar, and the beer was a collaboration he did with the guys of Brew Your Mind. He turned back around and resumed chatting with his friends, and we finished enjoying our drinks. Before we left he introduced himself as Gergely Kővári, and we set up a time to meet at his bottle shop down the road to hear the full story.
At 9:30 p.m. the following evening we headed to Csak a Jo Sor to chat with Gergely as he closed for the evening. When Csak a Jo Sor opened seven years ago, it was the first craft beer shop in Hungary. Today, it continues to be the focal point of the beer community, and is a meeting point for brewers looking to create and collaborate. Just like Gergely’s other establishment, Hopaholic, beer bottles lined the walls of the shop. We soon learned they were only a fraction of his collection of 2,000+ unique bottles—each drank by him, each attached to a different memory. Over the next hour, we heard about some of these memories, the story behind his two establishments, and about beer culture in Hungary.
On the beer scene in Hungary
While Germans and Czechs have storied beer traditions, Gergeley tells us that Hungarian beer making originated more out of necessity than craftsmanship. He says, “There is no specific Hungarian type of beer. In the ancient past Hungarian people were nomads so it was simply much easier than to make beer than wine.”
Hungary is now much more known for wine than beer, and before Gergeley came on the scene there weren’t many choices for a brew. He asserts, ”Five years ago there was nothing. You could drink a lager, or maybe a hefeweizen.” Gergeley saw the lack of consumer choice, and turned his passion for beer into a business that is liberating taste buds and inspiring brewers across the country.
How It All Started
When asked about how Csak a Jo Sor started, Gergeley says, “I started small to see what would happen. The customers just started to come in and it grew naturally. It was the right place at the right time. I just saw that there was no business like this and that we needed it. If not me, someone else would have done it.”
After seeing the success of the bottle shop, Gergeley opened the craft beer bar Hopaholic. “It was the first craft beer bar in Hungary”, he proudly says. Hopaholic has grown since those early days, and now you can choose from a rotating list of carefully selected 10 Hungarian draughts and over 200 varieties of bottles. Just a quick Google search for “craft beer in Budapest” quickly demonstrates how much this place means to beer lovers in the city.
To Gergeley, these places aren’t just business ventures. They are his life’s passion. He says, “I don't go out a lot outside of these shops. But, I am inspired at my places. I get a lot of ideas here because people come in and ask me about beers and brewing. I live my whole life here.”
Even though Gergeley has made a significant impact on the Budapest beer scene, the overall Hungarian beer market is dominated by the major brands. He says, “Craft beer only accounts for 2-3% of beer in Hungary, and most of it is here in Budapest.”
Despite these challenges, he’s determined to keep providing consumer choice and variety. He says, “The craft beer scene will keep growing but we need to find more customers. We have to grow its popularity.” Judging by his passion and two fine establishments, we certainly wouldn’t bet against him. On your next trip to Budapest, try some of his beers and we know you’ll feel the same.
When in Budapest, check out his two establishments, Hopaholic and Csak a Jo Sor. We especially recommend anything by Brew Your Mind, but try a few and decide for yourself!