“ Address: Drevená 8 / 811 06 / Bratislava „
When it comes to beer, the Czechs are quite rightly proud of their brews which are sold and enjoyed all over the world; brands such as Pilsener Urquell and Staropramen are not unusual or exotic, they can be found in pubs and bars (and supermarkets) across Europe and beyond. You would be forgiven for thinking that the Slovaks don't share this brewing tradition but nothing is further from the truth; Slovakia may not have any of the really big international brands but there are lots of smaller domestic brands and, better still, loads of good microbreweries.
Some tour agencies offer trips to the large brewery just out of town, but if it's the local microbreweries you want to visit, you need to get yourself a city plan and get researching. There are a few places around the city, but my favourites are the Bratislavsky Mestiansky Pivovar - for surroundings and location - and Richtar Jakub (which I'll review in the future) - for atmosphere and the beer. The two are quite different: the former is quite touristy, though enjoyable, while the latter is off the beaten track and frequented more by young people who appreciate the good choice of beers and prices that are slightly lower than in the very centre of the city.
Bratislavsky Mestiansky Pivovar translates roughly as the Bratislava City Brewery; on the website it's described as the 'Burgher' brewery but city brewery is a closer approximation for modern English. Although these are new premises and new owners, this beer hall, restaurant and microbrewery on Drevena, just off Bratislava's main shopping street, Obchodna,echoes the long tradition within the city and numerous old photographs and drawings hanging on the walls act as a reminder of this heritage.
Although it's fairly new, there's a comfortable ambience at the Mestiansky Pivovar and this, in combination with a restrained use of traditional architectural features, makes it feel traditional, though it's a tad more comfortable and stylish than your average beer hall. This may come from the fact that the food gets equal billing with the beer and the two times I've visited, I've noticed that at least half the customers have been dining. I haven't eaten a full meal here myself but I can say that the food looks good - generous portions of traditional Slovakian/central European fare in the form of hearty main courses and the sort of snacks that go well with a beer.
There are no designated areas for eating but it's quite obvious when you go in that some areas are more suited to dining, and some to drinking; on the ground floor there are a couple of small areas separated from the main area by walls of frosted glass which give the idea of a private dining area so they'd be good for groups. In the main area on this floor there are higher tables of the kind you'd rest a drink on if you were standing, or you can sit at the bar. The upper floor is also mixed in this way. You can expect that after a certain time in the evening, or from lunch time at weekends when the stag parties are in town, the place is busier and noisier though since these customers are used to standing to drink, you still stand a chance of getting a table. If you are particularly keen to eat at Mestiansky Pivovar you can make a reservation. Service is at table and the place is always well staffed so service is prompt. All the staff can speak English so if your Slovakian is patchy (like mine) or none existent, you'll get by.
The Mestiansky beer is brewed on the premises. There's a light and a dark. The light is a decent unfiltered lager type beer, superior to your big mass produced lagers and pleasant drinking, if not remarkable.At the time of writing (April 2013) it;s priced at Euro1.20, Euro1.90 and Euro3.80 for 300ml, 500ml and one litre respectively.
I'm not a particular lover of dark beers but my travelling companion tried it and I felt it wrong not to at least give it a try. This is a richly flavoured beer with a pronounced coffee flavour. The dark is served in 400ml only, priced at Euro1.70.
Erdinger Weissbier is also available as well as an alcohol free beer, though personally I'd rather drink a 'proper' soft drink. If you want to try some of the other alcoholic specialities such as the fruit brandies there is a full range including ones made from pear, plum and apricot.
It's traditional to have a 'beer snack' as you drink and this place offers a good range for the not so squeamish drinker. We had the pickled sausage with chilli peppers (Euro3.50 for 80g) which was really good: strongly flavoured it was the perfect snack to have with the light beer. For next time I've got my eye on the 'Bratislavské susi' - Bratislava sushi - which is pickled fish fillets with apples and spring onion in cream (Euro3.50).
For a lighter lunch soup will set you back between Euro3-4 while a bigger plate of pork with red cabbage and potatoes will cost you a shade over Euro7. Meaty mains go up to about Euro14. There are a couple of fish dishes but those who eat no meat at all will be restricted to salads and some sides (be aware though that fried pork fat is a common garnish).
Visitors in Bratislava during the summer may prefer to visit the second branch of the Mestiansky Pivovar on Dunajska heading east out of town, because it has a large summer terrace. In summer a limited amount of seating is available in the city branch on Drevena.
Mestiansky Pivovar is not my favourite Bratislava beer hall - for me it's just a little too large - but the beer is a nice change from the ubiquitous Pilsener Urquell and if you can't get further out of the centre it is your best bet for a decent pint (or European equivalent).
Both branches are open daily. The opening hours of the Drevena branch can be seen here http://www.mestianskypivovar.sk/en/conta​ct