Three years I’ve lived here, and not once did anybody mention Pub Katedra to me. Three years. If I didn’t know you better, I’d suspect foul play. I have terrible thoughts of the whole of Poland smirking silently while I raved on about the impossibility of finding good beer in this country. You wouldn’t do that to me. Would you?
Katedra is less than a kilometre from my front door and it has more varieties of Polish beer than any other Polish pub I’ve seen: in other words, more than two. In fact it has a lot more than two, the spiral-bound beer list is half-an-inch thick. They claim to have more than 40 beers, mostly, but not exclusively, brewed in Poland. Forty Polish beers. How can that be? I’ve only ever seen five beers served in pubs. Why don’t they spread them around a bit? Five beers in 64,964 pubs and all the others in just one. Okay, it’s an admirable exercise in surrealism, but at least tell us that’s what’s going on.
If you think you like beer and have only ever tasted the mainstream Polish brands, stop what you are doing right now and go immediately to Katedra—your mouth, as Ford Prefect once remarked, will love you forever. I’m not saying they are all great beers, some just tasted weird, but the point is: they have a taste. Żywiec, Okocim, and Tyskie are not terrible beers, but they are achingly bland. They’re designed to be bland, so anybody can drink them without complaint. This is not what beer is about, in the same way that wine isn’t about adding alcohol to grape juice.
The breweries turning out this riotously non-standard cataract of beers are young and bursting with hoppy enthusiasm. Browar Fortuna is a prefect example: founded in 1995 it offers a dozen versions of madness-in-a-glass including the devastatingly flavoursome Czarny Smok (Black Dragon—the names need work). Others include Browar Jagiełło, Browar Konstancin and Browar Czarnków; names that will soon become more familiar than presidential candidates if there is any justice in this universe.
I guess I should say something about the pub itself. It’s on Poselska, but on the part of Poselska to the east of Grodzka. It’s the only bar, pub or restaurant on the entire street, which also makes it unique in Krakow’s Old Town. As if two points of uniqueness weren’t enough, Katedra goes one further by being the only Krakow pub I know of that is entirely non-smoking. Nicotine addicts need not panic. The place is cosy enough that standing outside on the ashtray-equipped doorstep you barely lose touch with events inside.
The interior is, apparently, based on the look of a short film inspired by a Jacek Dukaj—it’s geek chic. The adolescent Tolkien-inspired elements are understated enough not to get in the way of the beer experience. In other words, it looks almost exactly like every other Krakow pub except, mercifully, it isn’t underground.
Go there at the nearest opportunity. Feign an antisocial disease to get time off work if you must, or simply slide off into the blazing furnace that is July and hitch south to Krakow—nobody will notice.
Address: ul. Poselska 9
Bonus: Mention ‘Island1’ at the bar for one free look of blank incomprehension.