When researching the bars to visit in Kyiv I decided to stick with those that had ‘Verified Venue’ status within the Untappd app. The thinking behind this was that I would be able to see in advance what beers were available and, more importantly, be able to point at the beer I wanted on my phone screen should the language barrier prove to great. In the end I only ended up resorting to pointing once. And I ended up with the wrong beer…
After a days travelling I decided to limit myself to the bar closest to the hotel as my introduction to the beers of Ukraine. I was still worried about the fact I had no cash on me and also apprehensive about the potential language barrier. A half hour walk through the icy streets found me at Konteyner, the original site of what is now a small multi location chain. Money fears were allayed when I found they took card payments, and then I found that the barman spoke English. And breathe…
There were 10 beers on tap here but one of those was Staropramen from Chechia meaning I had 9 beers to go for. As well as their standard measures they also offered the chance to try either 3 x 30cl or 3 x 20cl of any beer at a set price. This suited me perfectly as I could have three flights of 20cl and try all of the beers. The cost for the 3 x 20cl was 98UAH, or c£2.50. I decided I was probably going to like drinking here!
The bar, as you might expect given it’s name, has quite an industrial feel to it with lots of exposed brick and steelwork. It was quite small and very busy but I managed to find myself a seat and I happily started working my my way through the list. The guy serving me was very helpful, especially when I started asking where the beer from Konteyner Beer Project had actually been brewed. It took a few variations of the same questions before he understood what I was trying to ascertain but was happy to tell me it had been brewed at Underwood Brewery. For my first night I picked up 9 beers from 8 different breweries, a satisfactory start.
Friday was my first full day in the city, but as the bars don’t open until 12:00 onwards I spent the morning exploring before heading to my first stop. Although I knew which bars I wanted to visit I didn’t have a set itinerary. It was a case of seeing where I was and then checking the app to see which bars were close by. And so it turned out that a five minute walk from where I was in Independence Square was the second branch of Konteyner. The setup was the same, albeit they had a couple more beers on tap. The flights were also available but, conscious that this was my first bar of the day, I limited myself to just two flights. And a sausage, the first of several sampled on the trip.
I wrote about my journey to the next bar in my earlier posts, but it was the one that had the best reputation from all of my research, Punkraft. This is a cellar bar with a very discrete entrance. Once inside you are at a long bar with 22 taps and tables that were laid out for dining. I initially sat at a table but was told that it was reserved so I moved to take a seat at the bar. When I left a few hours later the table was still unoccupied.
They don’t do flights here but all beers are available in both 40cl & 25cl pours. My plan of attack here, and indeed in all bars, was to concentrate, initially, in picking up new breweries before starting on other beers that took my fancy. This is another advantage of using Untappd, you can see in advance what beers are available and plan accordingly. I ordered a plate of aged cheese here that was so good I had to have a second. I have no idea what the cheeses were, other than good! I had seven beers here from 5 different breweries before I decided it was time to move on. One thing that caught me out when I paid was that I was asked to tap my card on two different card readers, but it is simply the case that the bar and the food bills were to two different companies, something that happened elsewhere too.
From here I headed to what would be my final bar of the evening, DUX Bar. This was a small bar which was half constructed from old shipping containers. They had eight beers on tap available in the usual 40cl & 25cl measures and from these I had the three that constituted three new breweries for me. I found myself a table and spent a pleasant final hour of the evening out in the city before heading back to the hotel.
After the mishap of the previous evening my mobility was somewhat impaired, but that wasn’t going to stop me. After a morning’s exploring I headed off to my first bar in the early afternoon. Mokri Vusa is a large, multi-room sports bar with an impressive list of 20 beers on tap, although not all are Ukrainian. It was here that the confusion arose whilst trying to confirm some details using Untappd, the bar mistook what I was asking and assumed I wanted the beer I was pointing at. And so I ended up with a Czech Black Lager. Ah well, a tick is a tick. Whilst here I enjoyed a large plate of assorted sausages washed down with 4 new beers.
It was a short walk around the corner to my next bar and as I approached you could see a large number of beer fridges glowing in the late afternoon. I went in, fired up Untappd and started to look at the tap list to make my choice. I started asking the chap in there for the beer I wanted when he pointed out that the bar I wanted was downstairs. This was a separate bottle shop! Oops! I descended in to Ked’s Pub, a large cellar bar with lots of seating and a choice of 24 beers. Once I had my first beer I sat down and looked a bit more closely at Untappd. It turned out that the bottle shop upstairs was also a verified venue and they shared the same address. I spent several hours in here as they had a number of breweries available that I hadn’t previously encountered. I also used my time to draw up a list of beers from upstairs that were from breweries I hadn’t already had and also hadn’t spotted on the lists of the bars I was yet to visit. In all I had 7 draft beers here and picked up another 6 bottles/cans as I left to drink in the hotel later.
While I was in Ked’s Pub I received a message on Twitter from a friend who had been to Kyiv previously to ask if I knew about a brewpub that they had visited. As I had limited myself to the Verified Venues in Untappd it was, unsurprisingly, news to me. But a brewpub was guaranteed to have beers that I wouldn’t find elsewhere so I checked directions on Google and made my way to Pivna Duma. Once through the doors you descend in to another cellar bar and restaurant. They had 5 of their own beers available, 3 regular beers plus 2 seasonals, and it was possible to get a tasting flight of all 5. In all honesty none of the beers were anything special, but I wasn’t going to get them anywhere else. As to the vodka drinking that occurred here, well you can read about that in my earlier posts. I finished up here and headed back to the hotel where I sampled a couple of the bottles that I had bought earlier.
And so I was on to my last day in Kyiv. Via Facebook I had received gen from another friend about another brewery tap, so I added it to my list and headed there to start my day. Gonzo Bar was yet another cellar bar with 20 of their own beers on tap. Although all beers were only available in 40cl pours I had been tipped off that they were generous with their samples and so I ended up by buying a couple of the beers and grabbing samples of a further 5.
I had already been informed by the girl behind the bar that the light in the gents wasn’t working so I’d have to take a torch if I wanted to go but I wasn’t quite prepared for the full blown powercut that plunged the cellar in to total darkness and silence for several minutes. All part of the fun of exploring new places!
I made my way from here to my second stop of the day, and what turned out to be yet another cellar bar with a large dining area, Drunken Monkey Bar. I chose to sit in the bar area but I was still able to order food to my table and I couldn’t visit Ukraine without having a bowl of borsch. 20 draft beers available in 40cl or 25cl measures with about half of them coming from KF Brewery. From what I can ascertain I think that this bar may be the de facto tap room for the brewery in the city. When it came to settling up I was again presented with a bar bill and a food bill, at least this time they made it clear to me.
While sitting in the Drunken Monkey I had been looking through what beers were being checked in locally on Untappd and it became apparent that there was another brewery tap within walking distance. Naturally it was added to the list and became my next destination. After a pleasant walk I arrived at Tsypa Craft Pub a two room, sort of, cellar bar. Well it was a few steps below street level at least. I found myself a perch and set about sampling some of their beers trying 5 in total. I also ordered some smoked cheese. I won’t make that mistake again should I revisit.
By now it was getting late and I still had a couple of bars yet to visit and so I resorted in to using Uber to get around more quickly. The fourth stop of the day was the third of the Konteyner bars. It was the largest of the three but otherwise stuck to the same formula. I had time for just one flight here and I guess it’s a sign of how much progress I had made in the city in that there were no new breweries available for me. I also, whilst looking at other local beer activity, spotted that there now appears to be a fourth site. Next time.
Time to hop in another Uber and head to the last Verified Venue on my list, and the second closest to my hotel. Varvar Brew have a number of sites around the city, and indeed in other cities, with the actual brewery tap being just outside the city centre, but from what I could tell the one I visited was the closest to being a tap room in the city centre. 14 of their own beers on tap plus a lot more in bottles and cans. I’d already had a few of their beers in other bars so I chose 3 of the ones that I fancied trying including their take on the Grape Ale style with the wonderful name of Sweet Child O’Wine. I have to confess that I was unable to finish all of the beers as they didn’t do flights, I felt really guilty and ended up apologising to the staff, telling them that there was nothing wrong with the beers, just my capacity!
And with that I headed back to the hotel where I had four cans waiting for me. I ended up just drinking about a third of each of them, but hey – a tick is a tick! A few hours sleep and I was on my way to the airport where, with time to kill, I managed one final Ukrainian beer tick, a macro wheat beer that was pretty awful, but I was happy enough to get it in the book and bring me up to a round 70 Ukrainian beers for the trip.
Now, when can I go back…?