Q&A: Browar Nepomucen

Bigger is definitely better at Nepo


The last time Ferment spoke to Browar Nepomucen, back in 2020, both the UK and Poland were in the depths of lockdown. A lot has changed since then, both in the brewery and the wider Polish beer scene. We caught up with the brewery's Paweł Pistolin to fill in the blanks.

It feels like ages since we last caught up – what’s new?

Paweł: Well we’ve bought a lot of new equipment – for example, Rolec DryHopnik – to make sure we’re getting the best quality with every brew. We also have a brand new 55hl brew house, which means next year we’ll be able to brew twice as much as this year or a year before. 

Exciting! And in terms of the beers themselves, has that extra capability in the brewery allowed you to go in any interesting new directions?

Paweł: We are brewing a lot of new beers, yes. Last year it was around 100, this year we already have 90, with a few months still to go. When we compare what we’re brewing, I can say that we brew much more classic styles beers like lagers, and also some non-alcoholic beers. It is like this because we are now cooperating with many good restaurants, hotels, and cafe bars. These clients do not target so much the beer geeks, so they need more ‘easy to drink’ beers. 

I notice you recently made a beer with Browar Artizan using Phantasm. Can you tell me a bit about Nepocumen's approach to experimentation?

Paweł: We are fully open to collaborations here in Poland and also in foreign countries. In 2023 we had a lot of beer travels: Spain, Sweden, Netherlands, Lithuania, Czech Republic, France and more. This year, we experimented with Phantasm and SubZero, a new hop product. We cooperate directly with Yakima Chief Hops, but also with many other suppliers so I am sure we keep our finger on the pulse. Because we brew a lot of new beers, we have quite good distribution and are well known in the domestic market, so we are able to brew whatever our imagination tells us. It is a good situation if you have a deep need to experiment.

I see from your social media that the brewery is hoping to push export, particularly in and around the British Isles. Is this simply about finding new customers, or is there more to it than that?

Paweł: First of all, it is a great pleasure to export; it is an opportunity to visit new places outside Poland and meet new people, which is always fun. I also love organising tap takeovers outside Poland, brewing collaboration beers and taking part in beer festivals, and we have been working in that way for the past three years. In my business, export is around 15%, so not huge value, but it isn't ‘nothing’ either. Our aim is to offer great beers at a good price, and the fact that export has also helped us build good hype is also not without significance.

The last time we visited Poland, several breweries mentioned the struggle the craft sector in general has in growing its share against macro-brewed beer. Is that still the case, or are drinkers more receptive now?

Paweł: Clients in Poland want to drink good beer. In every big city, we have a lot of bars with craft beers. It is also good that restaurants and coffee bars started offering craft beers because their clients expected it. 

Another important point in the Polish craft beer market is that almost every big shop now has good craft beer on the shelf. In that way, craft beer can be bought by almost everyone. Last but not least, beer festivals in Poland are still big events; nearly 100 breweries took part in the largest events in Wroclaw, and Nepo was able to sell 2000-3000 litres of beer in three days.

Have you noticed any changes to beer culture in Poland over the last number of years? 

Paweł: First of all when we compare the last three to four years with 2015 or 2016 when we started, now we have many more people drinking good craft beer. So our education and promotion are working. Many people who were not interested in beer came to realise that beer can be quite similar to food. You can find many different tastes.

Today, smoothie fruit beers, in a pastry sour style, are very popular. Many people are looking for sweet beers. It is a big change, because when we started we thought that bitter hoppy IPAs would change the market. Of course, good IPAs are still the key to success, but today we brew a lot of NEIPAs and many other variations. Today, craft beer is for everyone, and there's nothing wrong with that.

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