Who was the first to brew beer in Gdańsk? This is unknown, almost like the answer to the question when was Gdańsk founded. Beer was present at Motława for centuries and is referred to in the oldest documents depicting Gdańsk’s history. The brewery privileges, beer taxes, brewers’ protests, streets called Beer Street (Piwna), Brewery Street (Browarna) and Malt Makers’ Street (Słodowników), Jopen beer, the Hevelius’ brewery, the beer regulations at the Artus Court, the Brewery Tower (Baszta Browarna)… the History of Gdańsk is full of beer references. The Gdańsk brewers were one of the first groups of craftsmen granted special rights to create a guild. This does not seem surprising, as there were hundreds of brewers in medieval Gdańsk. They were a strong and wealthy social group, which gradually became a notorious opposition against the City Council.
Jopen was the best-known type of beer among all the varieties produced in Gdańsk breweries over the ages. It is a legendary beverage – many have heard of it but not many have had a chance to taste it. The name of today’s Piwna Street which used to be called Jopengasse is derived from it. However, it was not really drinkable, due to its syrupy thickness, resulting from the complicated and non-standard production process, and was used mainly as a medicine and spice added to soups and sauces.
The best times for Gdańsk brewers fell to the first half of the 15th century, with the number of beer producers amounting to approximately 400, and the total volume of beer produced amounting to a quarter of a million barrels of 126 litres each. It was slightly less in the times of Jan Hewelius, the most famous representative of the brewer’s profession, also known as an astronomer who brewed beer for a living. The 19th Century brought various economic changes in Gdańsk, including brewing beer on an industrial scale in the two main breweries – Danziger Actien Bierbrauerei in Kleinhammer (Kuźniczki), next to Langfuhr (Wrzeszcz), and Fisher’s Brewery in Neufahrwasser (Nowy Port). After WWII brewing beer still flourished in Gdańsk until the changes in the 1990’s came and deprived Gdańsk of its breweries and its own local beer. Almost two decades passed before the next ones started to be set up in the area – and then it was in Gdańsk city centre.
There are only a few breweries in Gdańsk nowadays. Still, it makes them even more attractive, as each of these places produces beer and serves it as well in its own pubs. Guests are excited to watch the working production system and taste the golden beverage resulting from the process.