Feel it! Speak! Take a pic! Where have you ever heard such requests in a museum? In Żywiec, however, everything is a bit different. One of the most favourite traditional beers in Poland is brewed in this small pretty town, and the local Brewery Museum will tell you how this came about. On your visit you will be expressly requested to do things which are mostly strictly forbidden in museums. Visitors are asked to place their hands on straining vats, wooden barrels and many other objects, comment on them and give their opinions. Not only that, they are free to take photos of them as often as they like. 18 cellar rooms cut into the cliff – the historic ice cellars where the beer is stored – lead visitors through an entertaining 150 years of brewing history. The exhibition has its own particular flavour because of the charming way it is presented: whether this be a shaking time machine that “tosses” its passengers into a replica of a 19th century alleyway in a small Galician town, or a labyrinth that vividly illustrates the tangled political and economic situation at the time of the People’s Republic of Poland. One thing is sure. At the end of the tour you will be able to enjoy a freshly tapped glass of Żywiec.
Imperial, Export, March beer, Lager, Porter and Ale were the names of the beers which made Żywiec famous at the end of the 19th century. Then, at the time of the dual monarchy of Austria/Hungary, the place was still called Saynbusch and belonged to the house of Habsburg which set up today’s brewery in 1856. That said, brewing traditions in Żywiec go back as far as the year 1537 when one or two citizens of the town were awarded the right to brew and sell beer.
Nowadays the Żywiec brewery belongs to the Dutch company, Heineken. The company opened the new brewery museum in 2006 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the brewery. Over an area of 1600 square metres the museum presents the changing history of the brewery and picks out specific epochs as examples. This is as true of the reconstructed late 19th century alleyway scene with its coopers workshop, printing shop, grocery shop and bar, just as it is for the replica of an atmospheric art deco Żywiec restaurant. By contrast the room which deals with the dark years of the Second World War is almost bare. In a recording of a television interview Archduchess Maria Krystyna Habsburg, the daughter of the last pre-war owner of the brewery, tells how a few valiant members of the staff prevented the Nazis from wantonly destroying the traditional brewery. But the recurrent theme running right through the museum is always Żywiec beer. What are its ingredients, how is it made and how has technology improved beer production over the centuries? In this connection the placing of a highly modern brew house (1996) immediately next to its well preserved historic pendant from the reign of Kaiser Franz-Joseph gives visitors a wonderful opportunity to make clear comparisons. The way in which the museum links history, technical progress and biographical details with hands-on opportunities, has proved a great success. In the first three years of its existence 300,000 visitors poured through its doors from all four corners of the world.
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Tuesday - Sunday 10am-6pm