Ruin Pubs are bars that have been opened up in dilapidated buildings that were partially destroyed during WWII. They are usually decorated with random furniture and decorations that have been gathered from anywhere that they can find them. The decorations are colorful, whimsical, and don’t follow any particular themes other than uniqueness. Because of their popularity, they can be quite busy, noisy, and sometimes a little rowdy. We went late afternoon to early evening and stayed away from the late night crowds.
The original Ruin Pubs opened in the Jewish Quarter of Budapest, which is now a center of wonderful restaurants and shops, as well as the pubs. Although some of the pubs serve food, the beer, wine, and mixed drinks are the real focus of the Ruin Pubs. We went to the original Ruin Pub called Szimpla Kert, often just referred to as Szimpla, which definitely lived up to the reputation. It was quirky, fun, and a little noisy, especially as more and more people came to the pub. To be fair, it isn’t the cleanest of environments, but you don’t go to a Ruin Pub expecting an elegant experience, you should expect it to be a little on the rough side.
Today there are over a dozen Ruin Pubs in Budapest and there are several companies that will take you on a guided pub crawl. Obviously, you don’t need a guide to do a Ruin Pub Crawl as you can find plenty of maps online that will show where each of the more popular pubs are. Even if you’re not into bars and drinking, visiting a Ruin Bar to see the eclectic decorations and experience the unique atmosphere is at least worth a visit. Many of the Ruin Pubs don’t open until at least 5:00 pm, so be sure to check on the hours of the pub you’re planning on visiting before heading there.
It is certainly no secret that we enjoy having both different beers as well as wine during our travels. We had heard about a brewery in Denver that was creating beers with fermented grapes and we knew that we had to give them a try. The Liberati Restaurant and Brewery has 15 different Oenobeers, or beers made with as much as 49% of the fermented ingredients coming from grapes. We sampled several of the beers that they offered and each had its own flavor profile. For some, there was no mistaking the wine component of the beer as the grape flavors were very noticeable. There were others where you wouldn’t even know that the beer was brewed with grapes if you hadn’t read the menu. And there was even one beer that tasted exactly like a port wine and, if you didn’t know better, you would never think it was a beer.
The first beer that we tried was called the Sea of Cherries and it was definitely on the fruity side. It was made with Pinot Noir grapes, but the flavor of the cherries certainly were up front. The second beer was a Franciacorta that was bubbly and the champagne-like qualities certainly came through. Next was an Imperial Kolsch and the taste was that of a traditional beer despite having been brewed with Pinot Grigio grapes. Another beer that was more on the traditional side was a Nut Brown beer that was darker beer with a nutty flavor. The final beer that we tried was the Port Oenobeer, which we have already mentioned tasted exactly like a port wine, bold and delicious.
It is certainly an interesting innovation in brewing beers. Even with the grapes, the beers can have just as diverse flavors as any other beer, including IPA’s. Although we only tasted one-third of the beers on their list, we are excited to try them again the next time that we are in Denver. The restaurant itself has a wide variety of Italian food and a wonderful atmosphere, including an outdoor patio area.
We had heard in advance of going to Hungary that it was known for the wine that it produced and we certainly weren’t disappointed. In addition to having several wine regions that produce very interesting wines, we also discovered that Hungary has a craft beer scene, at least in Budapest, that is very similar to what we have in the United States. We also went to a specific wine tasting with a charcuterie board where we learned about the various wines as well as the history of Hungary.
The region that we heard the most about for producing excellent wine was Eger, which grows both red and white varieties of wine. As far as red wine from Eger, the Bull’s Blood or Egri Bikaver was really good and came with an interesting back-story. Legend has it that in 1552 a small group of soldiers were drinking wine in preparation for the upcoming seige of Eger and bull’s blood was added to the wine to give them extra strength and stamina. The group was able to successfully beat the larger group of Turks and the legend was born. In addition to the Bikaver wine, we also had an “old” Chardonnay wine from Eger that had been aged for 4 years, which was delicious.
We also tried wines from other regions including a sweet dessert wine from Tokaj, which is in the northeast corner of country. We also tasted an interesting wine from the Sopron region, which is in the mountainous area in the farthest western part of Hungary. In addition to the wine tasting, we tried many different wines during our time in Budapest. We also tried a couple of the fruit brandies called Palinka, which is an aperitif and is quite popular. We tried both the plum and apricot versions of Palinka and enjoyed both.
Many of the restaurants that we went to had at least a dozen different craft beers on draught. The national beer seemed to be Dreher, which is a lager and was available at almost every place that we ate. We prefer darker beers, so we had several of those as well. We didn’t make it out to the countryside, so we don’t know if it is similar to Germany where every city has their own beer, but Budapest seemed to have a lot of choices to offer.
For anyone who likes wine, a trip to Hungary will certainly provide the opportunity to try a lot of different wines. We would certainly recommend a wine tasting, whether by visiting some vineyards or doing one within Budapest. For those that prefer beer, plenty of options abound and all of the ones that we tried were certainly very good.