Four companies control approximately 90% of the Polish beer market. Three of them are international giants – Carlsberg, Heineken, and Asahi – while the fourth, Van Pur, is a Polish group. Medium and regional breweries make up less than 10% of the market, with the remaining 1% belonging to the smallest breweries, often craft breweries or those associated with restaurants.
A Look at the Major Breweries
Kompania Piwowarska dominates the Polish beer market, selling one-third of all beer in the country. It is owned by the Asahi brewing company. The Japanese company acquired the largest beer producer in Poland in 2017 from the SABMiller concern, following the merger between SABMiller and AB InBev. The European Commission approved the merger on the condition that SABMiller would sell its breweries in Central and Eastern Europe, including Kompania Piwowarska.
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The company produces popular Polish beer brands like Tyskie, Dębowe, Żubr, Książęce, Wojak, Gingers, Pilsner Urquell, Grolsch, Kozel, Lech, and Redd’s.
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Carlsberg Polska is part of the Danish Carlsberg Group and is responsible for producing beers such as Okocim, Carlsberg, Bosman, Grimbergen, Kasztelan, Harnaś, Piast, Somersby, Karmi, and Książ.
Grupa Żywiec belongs to the Heineken Group, a Dutch brewery that produces beers in Poland such as Żywiec, Brackie, EB, Specjal, Leżajsk, Tatra, Namysłów, Heineken, Królewskie, Strong, Warka, Desperados, Dziki Sad, and Desperados.
The Polish Powerhouse: Van Pur
Despite its „Dutch” name, Van Pur is an entirely Polish company that has been producing beer since 1993. From 2000 to 2003, it was owned by the Austrian concern Brau Union, but in 2003, the original owners bought it back, making Van Pur an independent Polish brewing company once more. Van Pur SA produces beers such as Łomża, Brok, Kanclerz, Korona, and Karpackie.
The Other 10 Percent are Smaller Breweries
The Association of Regional Polish Breweries – „Polskie Piwo” – unites around a dozen other beer breweries, including those that own restaurant breweries. Beers produced by these breweries include Koźlak, Amber, Miłosław, Fortuna, Komes, Kormoran, Raciborskie, Porter, Spiż, Jubilee, and Zodiak.
Both the Association of Regional Polish Breweries and the „Polskie Piwa” are organizations focused on representing the interests of their members in dealings with the state administration. This is particularly important considering the Polish beer market’s significant financial resources and higher maintenance costs compared to the rest of the alcohol industry, both in terms of production and transportation.
In addition to these breweries, over 200 unaffiliated breweries operate in Poland, accounting for approximately 5% of the entire market.
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Poles’ Preferred Beers
Although I believe vodka is the most recognizable Polish alcohol, beer enjoys equal popularity in the country, with its consumption steadily increasing. In recent years, weaker alcohols have become trendy, such as various types of non-alcoholic or flavored drinks.
The number of craft breweries, restaurant breweries, and craft beers is also on the rise. While they have been gaining ground at the expense of purely industrial companies in recent years, the latter still undoubtedly dominate the market.
List of Breweries in Poland
Here is the list that covers most just the beginning of the list of breweries I have compiled. The full list covers over 120 breweries, and is available in pdf version here.
|Year of Foundation
|Brewery Bieszczadzka Wytwórnia Piwa Ursa Maior
|Bierhalle Brewery (Manufaktura – Lodz)
|Bierhalle Brewery (Bydgoszcz)
The Rise of Craft Breweries in Poland
As consumers increasingly choose craft beers, the number of craft breweries in Poland has skyrocketed. Just a few years ago, these breweries could be counted on one hand, but now they are popping up at an astonishing rate of one per week.
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Wielkopolska, in particular, has a centuries-old tradition of local breweries. Dating back to the 16th century, beer from this region has gained a reputation that extends beyond the country’s borders. This tradition continues today, with numerous enthusiasts turning their hobby into a profession. It’s hard to pinpoint the exact number of craft breweries in Wielkopolska, as their count keeps growing. However, the quality matches the quantity, and Wielkopolska’s craft beers continue to win over the hearts and palates of beer lovers not only from Poland.
A thriving community has formed around craft beer in Poland, encompassing both industry representatives and beer enthusiasts. Beer festivals and fairs are organized not only in Warsaw but also in cities like Wroclaw, Krakow, and Katowice.
What Makes a Craft Brewery?
When you hear the term „brewery,” you might picture a large building. However, a craft brewery is actually a company that produces craft beer using its own or rented infrastructure. According to the Polish Association of Craft Breweries, a craft brewery is defined by:
- Quality ingredients – Craft breweries use the highest-quality products in beer production, such as hops, malt, and water. Any innovative additives must be of natural origin.
- Skilled brewers – Behind each bottle, there must be a living person known by name, whose experience guarantees the quality of the beer.
- Innovation – Craft breweries create beers based on original recipes, and they strive to develop and enrich traditional styles.
- Capital independence – A craft brewery cannot be financially related to a company producing alcohol on a mass scale.
Craft brewing stands in opposition to mass production, impersonality, repetition, and commercialism. It prioritizes people, both as producers and consumers of the product. The strict criteria defining Polish craft breweries ensure a final product full of aroma and taste, delivering a unique experience with each sip.
Small Regional Breweries in Poland
The beer revolution in Poland, which began in 2011, led to a sharp increase in demand for craft beers. Existing small local breweries in Poland shifted from producing generic pilsners to experimenting with top-fermented beers. Over time, more breweries emerged, and the beer revolution gradually inundated the market. It is estimated that in the coming years, regional breweries in Poland will increase their share in sales up to 30%.
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It’s important to note that when discussing craft breweries, they are often interchangeably referred to as local. This is not due to limited distribution, but rather the area where the beer is produced. Polish regional breweries are increasingly confident in showcasing their connection to their local community, language, and culture, incorporating these elements into their operations.