Thursday 3rd October 2013
Sometimes you discover something great when you least expect to, and that was the case here. We had a short break at Malbork station whilst travelling across Poland towards Kaliningrad in Russia.
Malbork was known as Marienburg whilst it was in Germany and was the home of the Teutonic knights. It is to be found about 50 kms south-east of the port city of Gdansk.
Polish railway stations no longer sell alcohol so we went looking for a place that sold beer and what a place we found! We've found you never have to go far from a large station in this country to get a drink and we immediately espied a row of small kiosks and shops to the right of the station building.
In the middle of various outlets there was a careworn wooden building with some pumpkins outside. We went inside, adjusting our eyes to the semi-darkness.
What struck us first was the enormous amount of bottled beers there were available, displayed either side of the small bar. Those to the left were the more common beers, mostly from nationally-distributed breweries. On the right were a large amount of beers from small brewers.
I have admit that I was fairly ignorant of what is available in Poland from small independent and the medium-sized regional brewers but this quick visit put me right on that subject. I was with Vaughan, Russell and Patrick on this first visit of around thirty minutes. Separately we all revisited later and this is an account of my return to the pub.
On this particular day we all arrived at Malbork Castle, a World Heritage Site. They visited it, but having done this before, I walked into the town, before continuing on to Gdansk by train.
I will digress here, as I would like to mention the first time I ever saw the castle at Malbork. It was in the 1970s and I was on a train, hauled by a steam locomotive of course, and I looked out through the fog, so typical of this area, as we crossed the bridge and I saw this magnificent edifice, it was mesmerising for about 15 seconds.
I always said I would return and look at it in detail and I did as soon as soon as I could, which was in the early 1990's.
I'd like to say that Malbork castle is a fantastic visit and I remember with great pleasure sitting in the medieval restaurant sipping a beer after a very satisfying meal. Anyway on this particular day I bought my train ticket at the station and went to the pub nearby. I was spoilt for choice and I can't detail all the bottled beers that were available but I will detail some of the breweries that were represented.
I could have beers from the following: Browar Kormaron of Olsztyn (a city to the east); Browar Sulomar, trading as Cornelius, from Piotrków Trybunalski near the city of Łódź; Browar Lwówec from the town of the same name in Silesia. Brewed in a town, Jastarnia, located halfway along the narrow spit that extends out into Baltic Sea north of Gdansk, was Piwowar Tomasz Lisakowski.
An odd beer was a Pils brewed in the Czech style all the way from the Persza brewery in Ukraine. The eclectic selection continued with beers from Browar Konstancin of Konstancin Jeziorna, south of Warszawa; Browar Jabłonowo from the town of the same name, south-east of Warszawa; Browar Zamkowy from Raciborz, in industrial Silesia and Amber Browar of Kolbudy, near Gdansk.
A company specialising only in English style ales was Ale Browaru who use the plant of Browar Gościszewo. This, the host brewery, is probably the most interesting represented here.
It is located in the town of Sztum, no more than 15 kms south of Malbork. Please note that the village of Gościszewo is about midway on the road to Sztum, maybe the brewery was once located there? Apart from the many bottles of their beer on offer there was a real treat as Gościszewo Naturalne Niefitrowane Piwo was available on draught, served from the wooden barrel that can be seen on the bar in the photograph.
They also sell a traditional kwas, the old low alcoholic drink of Eastern Europe and Russia. This was the real deal as it was fermented from bread.
Looking around the pub I noticed in detail the quirky touches that make it so atmospheric.
There are large jars of preserved fruit and vegetables on the tables, some of which are old sewing machines. There are also some candles and even an old Bakelite telephone on one of them.
Although the parts of the furniture and fittings that are in use are clean, you can see that more inaccessible parts of the main room are dusty.
This is an extremely laid back pub and maybe you should expect service to be a bit relaxed. Every now and then the lady serving behind the bar would disappear out to the front of the pub. This was because they also operate a fruit and vegetable stall out on the street. Its name translates to "Pantry" after all! On the sign outside there are the words "Jazz Club" and most of the time this does not apply but every now and there is some live jazz. I don't think this could be performed in the main room but, whilst on the way to the facilities, I noticed another room, so it must happen here.
Should you ever visit the castle of the Teutonic Knights at Malbork, and you should, try also to visit Spiżarnia, for a true experience of small Polish brewers.
Spiżarnia, Dworcowa 23, Malbork 82-200. Tel: 694 496 545
Open: Monday-Thursday 10.00-22.00; Friday-Saturday 10.00-23.00; Sunday 12.00-22.00
The pub is just outside Malbork station. If you came out of the exit, turn right and you will see the pub near the old water tower. Malbork is connected by InterCity trains to Gdansk, Gdynia, Warszawa and Poznan. There are also a few more to Olsztyn. The station and pub are around 10 to 15 minutes walk to the castle.