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“In the first week that the tanks were opened we were visited by an 85 year old man in a suit,” says Gàbor Szabó, one of Anker’t’s three owners along with Krisztián Vranik and Leó Menyhàrt. “We thought he was lost. But he explained his grandsons had told him about our Pilsner Urquell tanks and he decided he had to come as he had been to Plzeň in his youth and tried the beer there.” The three guys ended up drinking with him for a few hours. “It was inspiring and we suddenly knew we were onto something that was important to a lot of people.”
Anker’t is a ruin pub in Hungary’s capital city, Budapest. Ruin pubs – 'rom kocsma' in Hungarian, literally ‘pub in a ruin’ – are unique to Budapest. Disused, often derelict, spaces are rented and turned into places to party. Some come and go, some hang around; some are sparse and others are multi-storied and excitingly varied; all have beer and music for a fun loving crowd.
Anker’t is situated in Budapest’s seventh district and can squeeze in 800 people on a busy Friday. There are three owners who all have very defined roles: Gàbor looks after the finance and business side; Leó is in charge of image, concept and service; and Krisztián looks after the music and events. We sat down to talk to them about ruin bars and tank beer.
Leó: “Gàbor and I first worked together when we started an underground arts centre for musicians, painters and bands. A non-profit space with a recording studio. We had a hang out area so we put in a fridge and stocked it with beers. It was an honesty box payment system – pay what you want, which helped us cover our expenses. The centre did pretty well, so we started looking for a bigger space.”
Krisztián: “It was destiny actually. I was running my own club nights but had just lost my space and was looking for somewhere new. We got together and founded the original Anker, which was an immediate success. There was no logo on the outside, so it had a full-on underground vibe and for two years it was the party venue.”
Gàbor: “After Anker we wanted to find a garden place for the summer. We found this abandoned space – which had been empty for the last 35 years. I think before that it was a factory of some sort. It took us one and a half years to get the right government permissions, as most of the apartments in the seventh district are privately owned so it was difficult.”
Leó: “One of the first things we did was sit down with some beer brands. That’s when we tried tank beer, something a bit different we hadn’t heard about before. Pilsner Urquell were looking for bar owners that believed in the beer – not just to get it in any and every bar they could.”
Krisztián: “Czech beers have a great reputation in Hungary. It’s really close to us and there’s no need to explain that it’s good beer. It’s like French wine – people just understand.”
Leó: “Serving the beer well makes a huge difference. Our staff have visited the brewery in Plzeň – they totally get the seriousness of beer. They believe in it, push it and care about it – and our customers like watching their beer being poured. I can now really taste the difference whether it’s served well or badly.”
Krisztián: “Craft beer is fashionable. Tank beer is craft – it’s the original beer and it’s brewed in an authentic way. Tankovna is a simple concept to get. I understood it first time. It has a good story which is easy to remember.”
Leó: “Ruin bars are eclectic but I think they have too many colours. Our concept was not to try and hide the location or building – to make the most of the wood and cement. And not to have any colour, to only use black and white. Essentially, we started minimalism in Hungary.”
Gàbor: “Being minimal was part conceptual, part financial – we had no money for furniture or fancy ornaments. On opening day we had no furniture or money so we went to IKEA and bought the cheapest simplest chairs on our credit card. But of course people didn’t notice – they weren’t coming for the furniture!”
In Hungarian, 'anker' means anchor and 'kert' is garden. They thought the combined name would be a neat wordplay, but “it turned out to be a really bad idea!” says Leó. The ‘t is soft and barely pronounced in Hungarian so people confuse where they are or are supposed to be meeting friends. Luckily they’re only 500m apart and after Anker’t was Hungary’s first tank bar, Anker has now followed it, meaning both are pouring fresh, unpasteurised beer in some of the coolest tank bars anywhere in the world.
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