Beer and rugby, we know, as rugby enthusiasts, go together whether you are a player, spectator or teetotaller. The only sport in the world where you see the fans from both sides standing side by side with a pint, often, in each hand. No animosity, just the pure Spirit of Rugby on display. This goes for the players too who battle it out on the field then shake hands and share a pint or five in the club bar afterwards. Even the teetotallers are able to beer up with the latest choices of 0% alcohol beer available. This particular option, 0% beer, has made rugby even more inclusive as rugby enthusiasts down the pints but responsibly whilst enjoying the social aspects that rugby holds dear, gone are the days of a Britvic orange & lemonade because you are the nominated driver or whatever.
Krakow Craft BeerSo, how does Krakow fit into this equation as indicated by the title? Well, Krakow has a long tradition of beer making. This prosperous medieval city was once Europe’s silk trade capitol and brewing beer in the city and surrounding area from those days until modern times is a thriving business with the big international brands and lots of local family run breweries. In fact, Poland has a healthy beer brewing industry in general, every region in Poland has its specialities and Krakow does not disappoint beer drinkers extraordinaire. Krakow has superlative craft beer choices with over 20 popular pubs such as C.K. Browar, T.E.A. Time, Stara Zajezdnia and Browar Lubicz making a name for themselves with draught craft beers on sale, the list and varieties is long. One pub, Non-Iron in the Old Town offers craft beer and all the rugby matches live as the proprietor is a Juvenia Krakow RFC ex-player & Veteran.
- Stara Zajezdnia Microbrewery and restaurant
PorterThe world famous brand Guinness is always associated with stout but being so well known its brand name has replaced the word stout in much the same way the Hoover trade name means vacuum cleaner. However, in Krakow there are some very good stout craft beers available, many microbreweries use the title Porter for the black or stout beer. This is because it was a favoured drink of London dock-side porters and when visiting merchants were introduced to it they took it back to their countries and Poland in particular loved it so much that brewers started to produce it and honoured the London porters by naming it after them. So, Porter means stout in Krakow and has been brewed here since the 18th century when it was first introduced.
IPA & APAIPA or India Pale Ale is a huge favourite and trend in Krakow, mainstream and microbreweries all offer a version of this fruity-like tasting beer with above average alcohol content. APA is American Pale Ale, this type was adopted in the 90s when the Soviet bloc disbanded and microbrewing was gathering pace in the USA so Polish brewers imported their small business brewing equipment to commence an affordable commercial craft beer industry.
This leads us onto the rugby element in Krakow, the local team RzKS Juvenia Krakow play in Poland’s top flight league the Ekstraliga. During the season not only do they serve up great rugby but also great beer from local breweries. On match days with you can sink a few while watching the game then mingle with the players of the home and away teams after the match for the Spirit of Rugby socialising which rugby promotes, upholds and no other sport can quite adhere too. Juvenia Sports facility was founded in 1906 but competitive rugby had to wait until the 80s before it came to the forefront of sporting activities in Krakow. The club has a full spectrum of levels from tiny tots to seniors and quite a few national team players with the most recent convocation of 3 Juvenia seniors for a match against Hungary in preparation for Poland’s Rugby Europe Trophy Division campaign. If Poland can gain promotion to the Rugby Europe Championship level they could participate in the RWC qualifiers. Women’s rugby in Poland concentrates more on 7s rather than 15s. However, Juvenia are building for the future and at the moment field the youngest senior team in the Ekstraliga. There are two organised international tournaments staged at Juvenia every year, the Krakow 7s U.19s which for obvious reasons beer is not a priority in any specific way and the Krakow Rugby Festival known as the KRF followed by the current year. This transcends the Spirit of rugby with hundreds of international rugby players playing rugby 10s while competing with the special feature of unlimited beer and cider for the duration of the tournament which begins every 3rd weekend of June annually from 8pm on the Friday until midnight of the Sunday. That’s 3 nights and 2 days of free flowing beer at the off field activities and on field rugby matches. It was reported that 800 litres were consumed in 2019 which is equivalent to over 1,500 pints imbibed. Then there is the cider to consider along with Poland’s national beverage of vodka. The vodka, beer bongs and gherkins were essential requirements in a KRF drinking game involving stretchers, it was so popular that teams asked to do a rerun. You can also organise a friendly match with Juvenia or The Dragons, the club’s nickname, all age groups available including the Vet’s team.
In reality, you can visit enchanting Krakow as a tourist without the beer or rugby but you will soon discover the benefits, assortment and quality craft beers on sale in almost every pub, a delightful extra or surprise. You may visit Krakow on a non-rugby sport group tour and surprise, surprise make the same discovery as an unsuspecting tourist but to the rugby enthusiast, player or spectator they all know rugby, beer and Krakow will be one of the most memorable and explosive experiences to be part of and honour the Spirit of Rugby that Krakow is proud to uphold.