We’re delighted to say that the trip we organised to Hungary was a great success. Irish Pubs Global recently arranged a two day business trip to Hungary where Kevin McParland Executive Director of Irish Pubs Global brought a number of Ireland-based and overseas-based Irish pub and restaurant owners to micro-breweries manufacturer Zip Bier Technologies. Zip are a market-leading company who produce high quality, modern, automated, microbrewing systems for pub owners and restaurateurs all over the world. They recently came to Dublin as an exhibitor at the Alltech Craft Brews and Food Fair and they have a very exciting, game-changer of a product for Irish pub and restaurant owners….

The party of 8 pub and restaurant owners who traveled, have among them have 19 pubs and restaurants across Ireland, USA and Italy. We flew from Dublin to the beautiful city of Budapest where the group refreshed themselves and were given a guided tour of some of the various types of pub concepts in Budapest before travelling on to the Zip factory. First stop for lunch was the cool “Spiler” bistro-pub by Restaurateur Roy Zsidai and renowned chef Zsolt Litauszki. It is a New York-meets-Hungarian-old pub that serves really great food, local beers and wine in a casual-dining setting. We all enjoyed a fantastic lunch and sampled one of the local beers which went down well after the flight. We also visited the ultra shabby-chic “Szimpla Kert” which is one of a number of “ruin pubs” in Budapest and Berlin. At first glance it looks like a bunch of post-apocalyptic hippies are squatting in an old dilapidated building, but on closer inspection, you realise the repurposed décor mixed with original art is creative and deliberate. Unsurprisingly, it’s a magnet for students, professionals and tourists alike because as well as a great music venue, it has its own outdoor cinema and at weekends is sometimes used as a local farmers market.

We then traveled by (probably) the coolest Mercedes minibus I’ve seen to the ancient town of Miskolc to visit the Zip Technologies factory where they employ 18 local engineers and 68 craftsmen, designers etc in total. This growing factory and design-house is where entrepreneurial pub and restaurant owners have their brewpub systems designed and hand crafted from scratch. They’ve designed, built and installed over 140 microbreweries and craft breweries in the last few years all over the world. These complete, automated, turnkey brewing systems are bespoke pieces unique to every brewpub or brewery and they can be installed in as small a space as 25 square metres if the ceiling height is high enough. The beautifully designed, highly-polished Sheffield steel and copper systems are as close to being sexy as a brewery possibly can be. They are real showpieces that make award-winning beers. These aren’t for sticking in the back shed behind a pub out of customers view, these are the focal-point of the gastropub or restaurant. Placed behind glass and with led lights focused on them, they catch the light and the eye as customers can see the chef or barman setting the automated system to brew whichever pre-selected beer he wants or has developed. This is a game-changer for pub owners. Not only can they control the price of what their beer costs, but they can produce new signature beers unique to their business. This is a tourist attraction in its own right, one with so many possibilities from the house’s own beers, to seasonal brews, special-occasion beers, beers developed in conjunction with top brewers, chefs or even celebrities. It gives the owner so much more flexibility and creativity. They’ll still sell the beers that they currently do, but it brings them closer to the growing craft beer drinker as well as attracting a new vein of tourist customers.

After our tour of the Zip factory and studio, we checked our bags into the 4 star Aurora hotel and were whizzed to the Zip Brewhouse gastropub to see how this modern microbrewery system works in a modern pub or restaurant environment. The design of this new gastro-pub concept is very modern and attractive. Lots of floor-to-ceiling two-way blackened windows against smooth lines of black and dark woods and the outline of technical drawings of past customers decorating the walls. There are comfy leather booths with Zip’s own four-tap, self-pour system. At the end of the bar is a full-width space-age glass room housing the brewery. It’s polished stainless steel and laser-etched branding glistens with shades of cool blues from subtle LED lighting. It’s definitely an attention-grabber and you can’t stop looking at it.

We followed Laslo, the owner and manager of Zip through the door into the brewing room. There are no smells or steam from hops or boiling malt. It’s clinically clean looking and we all gather around the computer screen which is the nerve-centre of the system. We’re shown a menu of preloaded beers on the screen. Laslo explains that all you have to do is select the beer you want and click Start. This particular 500 litre system can produce 1000 litres of beer in one day from two brews. The fully automated, closed-system looks after all aspects of the brewing, chilling, storage and cleaning and can be controlled remotely via wifi from anywhere in the world. Similarly, Zip can trouble-shoot any problems remotely if needed. Some beers can be ready for drinking within 10 days, but most he recommends are stored for 21 days to let the beer develop best. After this time, it’s pumped into one of the chilled, vacuumed and pressurised serving tanks ready for serving and will keep fresh for at least 4 months. You can store it, you can keg it, you can bottle it, you can serve it.

It’s an impressive system, but the proof of the pudding is in the drinking. After about an hour of staring at all the shiny metal vessels and pipes and valves (and watching grown men pretend to be Neil Armstrong coming down the three metal steps between the brewing vessels) we sit down in one of the booths to try out the beers. There’s Zip’s own designed and made self-pour system and screen in each booth so you can top up your beer and keep it fresh. I like this system for a craft beer bar especially. It allows the customer to try different beers without committing to buying a full pint of something blind. The screen above the taps gives information and pictures of each beer and the foods that match plus you can see exactly how much you have drunk and what the cost is. The beers are good. The master brewer in our party is impressed and everyone else agrees. There’s a medium-bodied IPA with zesty overtones, a Nordic style lager which is very clean and crisp, a creamy German-style Weiss beer, which is fresh and a little fruity, a robust Stout (8% ABV) with subtle coffee, chocolate and dark fruit flavours. Their Stout and their Weiss beer both won silver medals at the Alltech Dublin Cup competition in February. No mean feat given the quality of beers in that international competition.

Next we enjoyed a fantastic meal of European and Hungarian fusion dishes paired with the beers. Their menu, interestingly enough has beautiful pictures of all the dishes which is a very simple, but massively helpful thing to have in a menu. Their shredded goose pate’ de foie gras with fresh chillies on freshly baked bread was stunning. I must have eaten half a dozen slices and washed it down with the perfectly-paired lager. The borsch was the best I’ve ever had and the local Lillafured trout was beautifully fresh and didn’t taste at all farmed, (apparently because of the spring-fed lakes that they live in.) It went perfectly with the Weiss beer. I finished with the deliciously dark and thick orange and chocolate truffle with Turkish delight reduction. It’s a heavy dessert, but so moreish! The stout complimented the dark chocolate, bitter orange and sweet rose-flavours like they were made to go together. Unusual, but it worked.

After chatting with Laslo and asking many general and probing questions, our party had a quick drink in a local nightclub and headed to bed. Some had a little lie-in the next morning but others went to the local Cave Spa to refresh their body and minds. By 10.30 am after breakfast, we were back in the Zip Brewhouse tasting some beers with the owners of the nearby award-winning Kaltenecker craft brewery. Only Cicerones, Master Brewers and Irish Pub Owners have the ability to taste beers at 10.30 in the morning! It was genuine work though. We then had another look at the brewing system and had the official presentation about Zip’s systems, their USP’s, generous credit terms, warranties etc.

We enjoyed a fine lunch of 9-hour cooked racks of pork ribs in a delicious sweet and spicy sauce with all the trimmings. After more questions were asked and answered, some of our party had a chance to get quotes and talk terms with the Zip team on particular projects they have in progress. The rest of our party headed to the massive, ultra-high-tech, automated Hell Energy Drink factory which uses some of Zip’s engineering. This massive 75,000 square foot plant produces 300 million cans a year and only needs 6 people to run the entire plant. We then headed back to Buda and Pest for a quick touristy look around and see the river Danube, Heroes Square, Dracula’s Castle, the Parliament Building etc. We had a bite to eat then headed to the airport. On our Aerlingus flight back to Dublin, we took some pics with the lads from Dingle Brewery who were on the trip with us. (Zip produce larger Craft Brewing systems too) They were half-pleased, half-perturbed when the cabin crew told us that their Crean’s lager (which Aerlingus now stock) had sold out within the first 5 minutes of the trolley-service opening!

Allin, everyone had a great trip and learnt a lot about what’s involved. Some are pressing ahead with buying a micro-brewing system, others are keeping their cards closer to their chests… They all learnt a lot though and had some good craic and great hospitality along with it.