If somebody had told me a year ago that one day I would be going to Poland trying to sell YellowBelly Beer, I would have thought it was an accurate prediction based on our current growth! We were invited through Bord Bia to a meet and greet with Polish beer importers and distributors at the Ambassador’s residence in Warsaw. Of course, we would attend. That day came on Wednesday the 7th of December, my travelling companion was the exotically named Kamil Che. Kamil is a Polish guy we know, so he seemed the obvious candidate…
While our day of travel was the Wednesday, my work began on Tuesday. I was tasked with the unenviable challenge of Individually wrapping 48 bottles of beer in bubble wrap and cramming them into two suitcases. One each. I felt like Pablo Escobar, although I doubt Pablo would have took part in such menial tasks. I felt like one of Pablo Escobar’s skivies. I met Kamil at the airport and gave him his suitcase which contained 24 bottles of beer. 12 Lager and 12 Citra Pale. I looked at my own, packed to the gills with Pink Freud and Harvest Lager. We wondered about the legality of what we were doing. “I’m sure its fine”, was the prevailing thought as we approached the check in desk.
“How are you guy’s doing today?”
“The bags are full of beer.”
I sung like a canary… I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I don’t know whether it was the lack of sleep or the fear that got to me, but either way Ryanair were now fully aware what we were up to. Would I be sent home in disgrace? Would the suitcases be destroyed? Would I be arrested? We were in the lap of the gods now.
“That’s ok sir, just bring them to the oversized baggage drop and they will stick some fragile stickers on them”
It was as easy as that! Next time I’m bringing cocaine.
The flight itself was unmemorable. The usual fair. Safety demonstration, Irish Times and a snooze. It was at the arrivals hall where everything got a bit ‘James Bond’. We were greeted with a placard with our names on it, and a car was waiting outside to drop us to our hotel. We retired to our rooms to shower and suit up. We arranged to meet in the lobby in an hour and make our way to the Ambassador’s residence.
Looking sharp and feeling good we made our way out into the cold Warsaw night. Jay walking is a very serious offence in Poland but luckily the residence was only a short stroll away, unfortunately we didn’t know where that was! Luckily with a translator by my side and multiple Polish people giving us directions we eventually found the residence, and what a residence it was. A long winding, paved, tree-lined driveway led us to a 5-story mansion. It was like a country estate nestled into the rustle bustle of a major European city. We’re in the wrong game. We were buzzed in by the butler and brought into the drawing room to set up our stand.
We got set up and people were starting to arrive, canapés were being brought around on silver trays, but not a Ferrero Rocher in sight. The beer was going down well, although one distributor queried why we didn’t have a stout. But in fairness he also probably wondered why I wasn’t a leprechaun. Other than that, the evening was a success and some good contacts were made. The first leg of our world domination plan was nearly complete. Bord Bia brought us and the rest of the exhibitors out for a meal afterwards where we got to sample some Polish cuisine. There was then talk of going to some cocktail bar, but me and Kamil knew where we were headed. We had met the owner of the ‘Jaberwocky Bar’ at the event earlier and we promised we’d be down to sample some of his 20 taps later. So, while the rest headed off to drink Cosmos, Kamil and I flanked by, who else but the Ambassador and his husband, went off to drink pints.
We jay-walked our entire way to the pub, reckoning diplomatic immunity might stretch to companions. We were given the full tour by Rafal including the proposed site for an on-site brewery, and drank copious amount of Polish craft beer. The beer was only ok, they are at the start of their own craft revolution and I have no doubt the quality will improve with time. At 2am we said our goodbyes, we promised to return to the residence anytime we were in Warsaw. An invite I’m sure the Ambassador immediately regretted.
See you soon Poland!