Tuesday 23 May 2023

Hungarian Voodoo is a sweet surprise

I was not expecting to meet a Hungarian brewery at Brew//LDN this year, but there it was: the confidently-named First Craft Beer from Budapest, with a bar of its own and a range of brews on tap. They say the name is because when it was founded in 2017 by two brothers, they reckoned it was “the first new wave open-view brewery in Hungary.” Which I guess reminds us that it’s possible to claim pretty much anything if you define your criteria carefully enough. 

Anyway, it seems the beer market in Budapest is pretty big, despite it having a relatively small population. Like so many European craft breweries, First produces international styles, including ‘all the usual suspects' – on tap here were a Pils made in collaboration with a Czech brewer, two IPAs, a Fruit Sour and an unctuous dessert Stout.

Their 5.6% Voodoo IPA (how long before the New Belgium lawyers come calling, I wonder?) was relatively mild, hoppy-bitter and sweet – too sweet for my liking, but as the server explained, Hungary has always been Eurolager country, so drinkers there have quite a sweet tooth. 

Fruit Locker's actually pink, but the lighting
 in the venue is utterly weird so you can't tell!
Lightly fruity and piney, the Triple Flower Power IPA was also pretty sweet, though as it’s a 9% Triple IPA, the alcohol and bitterness helped cut through the sweetness a bit. Fruit Locker. which they describe as an Imperial Pastry Sour, was 9% and rather sweet too. But it was properly tart as well, with sour cherries, tangy currants and a warming booziness adding a good balance, making it for me an unexpectedly pleasing brew.

Apparently, most of the brewery staff are home brewers. They are all able to contribute ideas, too, so the idea for the rich and dark Dessert Storm – another 9%er – came from "one of the guys on the canning line." Fully in the modern pastry stout tradition, it's like Tiramisu in a glass – creamy and sticky-sweet, with notes of coffee and chocolate syrup. The best of the bunch? Maybe, but the Fruit Locker is in there too. 

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