Zywiec: Worth asking for, if you can
I believe the pronunciation sounds something like ‘shivetz,’ but I’m not positive. It’s definitely a beer that would be hard to order after the third round or so. This has to be the one that first brought about the phrase ‘same again, please.’ If you can just get that first one ordered....
It probably won’t be all that easy even if you can get your mouth around the name. This Polish import is a bit hard to find, but well worth the effort. A couple of those bars that try to offer hundreds of beers may have a dusty bottle or two, but you’re most likely to find it in a Polish market or a small bar in a very particular kind of neighborhood -- say, one in Gdansk. Or, more likely, Chicago. Thankfully, it comes in the blessed brown bottle, so skunkiness isn’t much of an issue. If you’re able to locate one, it should be suitably fresh.
Its scarcity is a bit of a shame in this country, because this is an import that is perfect for typical American beer drinkers. This lager is best ice cold. The colder the better. Obviously that would make it suitable for warm weather, but that’s the way most Americans prefer their beer no matter their environment. There’s even a sort of beer thermometer on the back of the label, where a logo appears when the beer is the correct temperature -- apparently, just short of frozen is ideal.
Zywiec is a pilsner-style lager, so it’s light, but still manages to be flavorful. The big, fluffy head is short-lived. It’s just as well swigged straight from the bottle. There is that tinge of a metallic undertone that you find in many Eastern European beers, but the colder it is, the less noticeable that becomes. There is a distinct buttery taste throughout, that nothing diminishes. Some won’t like that. It’s definitely unusual, but not really unpleasant. Overall, the hops predominate and make it a good, dry, thirst quenching beer that’ll leave you wanting more.
Coming from Poland, it’s not surprising that this would go well with a kielbasa or two. There may not be a more perfect beer paired with that sausage ever invented. Even if you’re not having a kielbasa when you pour this beer, you’ll be wanting one after a couple sips. It doesn’t matter if you like kielbasa or not, trust me, it’s what you’ll want. It might work with some other summery fare as well, but nothing else really springs to mind. Don’t fight it -- just have the sausage.
Even though this is one of the more popular Polish lagers, not many bottles seem to make it to this shore. You’ll probably need to do some searching. There are plenty of other pilsners more readily available, but this one is unique enough to make the hunt worthwhile. If you generally drink the macro-brews, this is a great option with a bit more flavor and a little more kick at 5.6% alcohol. It’ll be familiar enough, but with just enough complexity to make it interesting. And if you aren’t interested in that, it’ll still take care of that thirst on a hot day.
If you can’t ask for it by name, just point.