From the summer kiln to the autumn sparge – a quarterly review

This summer was a right old scorcher, and we’re pretty sure you guys also got your thirst on as a result. As luck had it, it seems that this summer played host to a whole plethora of beer festivals as well. All in all, there were plenty of opportunities to kick back and indulge in a beery treat, and with 43 new labels launched as well as (a new record of) 7 new breweries, the industry has seen quite a busy quarter.

Something is stirring up north

Bucharest may still be in the lead when it comes to numbers of breweries (currently at 17, if you count the gypsy brewers and those just outside the city limits), but the province is hot on its heels, with entrepreneurial minds developing a taste for this bubbling industry.

Sibiu is an interesting example, already rocking up 3 breweries in and around the city. After Nembeer and Urban Brewery, August 11th saw the official launch party of Bere Sibiu. With a blond and a wheat beer under their belt, there’s also talk of a red and a brown ale due to join them soon. Their beers may be not be the easiest to get your hands on just yet, but we’re promised they’ll be making their way to the online shelves at Berero Store and the rest of the country soon enough.

Iași has also been busy these past three months, with the sudden addition of two new names to its map. First to jump on board is actually a rather familiar face to the denizens of the city built on 7 hills (that’s right, folks, Iași, just like Rome, also has a soft spot for septuple topography). Although originally opened in 2005, the Șapte Coline brewery put its production on hold in 2009, due to manufacturing setbacks. In July of this year, however, they underwent a rebranding under the name of Șapte Premium, and their 4 beer range is currently only available around Iași.

At the other end of the spectrum we had a new and rather unexpected microbrewery join the ranks in September, it’s timing going hand in hand with the first craft beer festival to take place in IașiCearfisă may have debuted with a modest range of a Pilsner and a Weissbier, yet what makes their debut truly remarkable is the fact that they went out straight on tap, with bottles due to follow sometime next month. A rather curious move, considering the fact that there are still microbreweries out there who have yet to make the transition from bottles to kegs. They get bonus points from us based on that alone.

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The newest brewery in Iași, Cearfisă, freshly poured at the Giraffes’ Festival, the city’s first craft beer event (photo credit: Cearfisă)

Meanwhile, Oradea was also quick to catch up, with the Tom Beer brew pub opening its gates in late September. With an Austrian brewer looking after the production line, they seem to have taken a liking for German styles, as well as plenty of pub grub to keep them company. So if malt battered schnitzels are your thing, make sure to pay them a visit.

This isn’t to say that things have been quiet in Bucharest these past three months, of course. August saw the launch of Plan Beer and their pun riddled brews, with their Golden Shower blonde ale also bearing the title of Evolution Beer at the Bucharest Craft Beer Festival’s third edition.

Out and about on collaborative ventures

Speaking of brewers in Bucharest, we noticed that Three Happy Brewers and their ‘always happy’ tagline has seen them busy with all manner of collaborations and fellow gypsy brewers popping in to make use of their recently increased output. When not too busy with Anagram‘s newly released saison and batch two of the West Coast IPA, or their Transnistrian tea infused collaboration with Sunstone Alehouse, the brewery picked up yet another gypsy brewery to join in the general fun. The lads from Dead Men Hops took over the mash tuns and fermenting vessels, and on August 11, launched their first beer, a dry hopped lager under the auspicious name of Genesis.

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While all the kids out there are brewing IPAs, these lads decided to play it cool and go with something on the more traditional side. Here’s hoping for more! (photo credit: Dead Men Hops)

After (finally) launching their long awaited Quad in July, as well as some unique takes on their Blond and Dubbel, Oriel Beer have also embarked on a couple of collaborations themselves. With Sunstone out and about in the general neighborhood, they brought the brewer over for a quick detour into the realms of IPAs, while still keeping true to their Belgian theme. Their quad IPA looks set to push new boundaries in the realms of craft beer lover’s favourite style, combining a hearty malt bill and complex Belgian yeasts with endless hops. Word has it that it should be ready in early November, so keep an eye out for that.

It actually seems that Oriel Beer have developed a bit of a taste for collaborations, as they did a take 2, this time with HopSaSam, who came all the way from Belgium to partake in an interesting take on Tripels. This one will come packed with Belgian hops and lemongrass, and because Oriel Beer love their barrels, it will spend some time maturing in țuică barrels, before seeing its launch some time next year.

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Craft beer collaborations usually mean that some form of shenanigans will eventually ensue – especially when the right crowd is around (photo credit: Sunstone Alehouse at the Oriel brewery)

Now that they have their brewery up and running, Bereta have also been busy pumping out IPAs like there’s no tomorrow, each bearing a name more far-fetched than the other (seriously though guys, if anyone knows how you’re meant to pronounce 8=D, do let us know). After their farmhouse peach IPA brewed with Hop Hooligans, they did one more collaboration with Wicked Barrel, another (you guessed it) IPA packed with Galaxy, Mosaic and Centennial hops, which has finally seen its official release, after all the teasers we were given at the Bucharest Craft Beer Festival.

Speaking of the old Hooligans, they haven’t been slacking on their collaborations these past three months either. In fact, it seemed that they missed their get together with Hophead and their Triple dry-hopped Rye IPA launched back in February, so they hopped on board for a second brew, this time in the shape of a Belgian IPA. And after a NEIPA brewed in collaboration with English hop supplier Simply Hops, they packed their bags and headed up to Wales for a bit of a field trip. After returning to the Hopcraft Brewery (we got a whiff of lactic acid being involved, so we’re hanging on the edge of our seats for this one), they also popped into The Velvet Owl Brewing Company for something on the fishier side. Either way, it looks like there will be no shortage of interesting brews from these lads in the months to come.

While this quarter has seen quite a few beer releases and collaborations, we were also pleased to see that some of the already established names have brought new brews to the table. It was the case with Zăganu, who joined the Imperial IPA family with their 10% ABV 5 year anniversary beer. When not too busy redesigning their labels, Bere a la Cluj have continued their exploration of space and lagers, adding a dry-hopped variety to their repertoire. IPAs were definitely on the rise in terms of popularity this summer, as we saw Nembeer poised on adding one to their range. And just when we feared that we won’t be hearing anything from Zburătorul this year, the small gypsy brewery nesting at Ground Zero, they treated us to a NEIPA, as they continue to present the menagerie of labels that come with their circus theme.

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Their strongest beer yet: Zăganu‘s 5 year anniversary Imperial IPA 

A time to feast and drink

If you think this summer was dull, then you probably need to check your social media more often and go out more. The last thing this summer saw a shortage of was beer festivals, and while some cities were spoiled with a couple, others finally treated their denizens to long awaited first editions.

Sticking to chronological order, we were tremendously pleased with the way our Craft Beer Festival Cluj turned out, as well as all the ideas we got a chance to see implemented. From homebrew workshops to homebrew competitions and beer related charity events, you folk were an awesome crowd. So awesome, in fact, that when you weren’t too busy tucking into almost 100 Romanian craft beer labels, you still had enough strength to hold a pen and vote for the beer that would best represent the people of Cluj. After doing the maths, the winning style was IPA (of course), which was diligently brewed by 3 of the craft breweries in the city: Hophead, Kutuma and Bere a la Cluj. And because it’s almost that time of the year when we look back to our first festival endeavour, do drop round between October 12 and 15 to have a taste of this awesome concoction, which will be launching at the second edition of the Craft Beer Days mini-fest. </bragging over and out>

In Sibiu, Beer Craft @ Art did not live to see its second edition this year, due to the venue cancelling, however the city folk weren’t left twiddling their thumbs. Craft Beer in the Park was a chilled out gathering of a few known names, such as Hop Hooligans, Zaganu and Harvester, as well as some Romanian names brewing abroad, such as 1717 and Arădeana. Not long after, in the second week of September, Craft Fest Sibiu had its comeback to the streets of the city, bring forth both familiar faces as well as new ones, such as Nembeer and One Beer Later.

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The city of Sibiu was almost on the brink of being spoiled with 3 craft beer festivals this year, yet it looks like 2 were enough to do the trick (photo credit: Hila Tibi via Craft Fest Sibiu)

The festival season kicked off in Bucharest in late July, when the  Craft Beer Producers’ Association took a break from dealing with the Mt Everest equivalent of paperwork and the Craft Beer Revolution Festival took over the terrace at Berăria H, as it brought over 16 breweries for 2 days of festivities. Yet the real bonanza unfolded about a month later, when the iconic Bucharest Craft Beer Festival decided it was time to shift gears from ‘revolution’ to ‘evolution’, with its third edition in late August. Although it is currently the only recurring ticketed venue in the country, the festival does take home the prize for the number of attending breweries (42, counting the cider manufacturers as well) and also beer labels (140 at this year’s edition). While beer photography and brewing workshops were a welcome sight (especially given the success Brews Brothers enjoyed at the festival in Cluj), personally, we’re hoping that event organizers across the country will shift more of the spotlight on beer, rather than using live music and street food as the lure for these kind of events. Admittedly, the Romanian public is still in its infancy when it comes to understanding what real craft beer festivals are actually all about, yet if there’s a starting point when it comes to forming an educated opinion, these venues should provide the the necessary cues.

One interesting thing to note about this summer’s festivals was the emergence of foreign craft beers sold on site. While we had Brewdog and Ah Craft Beer Project at the Cluj festival, those who attended the Bucharest Craft Beer Festival got a chance to get their hands on a taste of Fourpure from the UK, AleSmith Brewing Company from the US, Elvis, Labrewtory and Tenemu from Moldova, and even Mikkeller. Those who attended the Craft Art TM Beer Festival hosted by Terapia in Timișoara also got a chance to try some Hungarian and German brands, such as Fóti Sörfőzde or Camba Bavaria. While such participants do not a fully fledged craft beer festival make (not on the scale of festivals you see in the UK or Belgium), we’re happy to see event organizers try and both diversify their lineups, as well as pique the interest of those who wouldn’t normally get their hands on some foreign brews.

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While you can find foreign craft beer at festivals at the stands of various specialized vendors (such as Stația “RomBeer” pictured above), we’re hoping to see the brewers themselves make an appearance in the years to come (photo credit: Ioana Epure / Uncle Jeb Studio at the Bucharest Craft Beer Festival)

Strangely enough, the small town of Vatra Dornei also hosted its very first craft beer festival. Now, we may not know much about Vatra Dornei (the fact that all the squirrels in the town are called Mariana doesn’t count apparently, as it’s not beer related) so we can’t really follow-up on how this went. But us being nosy does lead us to believe that its elusive organizers are quite likely to branch out and organize similar events across the country in the future, under the same brand, so keep an eye out for next year.

Winter is coming…

Well, ok, it’s not reeeally (not yet anyway), but after all the IPAs and DIPAs and NEIPAs we were treated to this summer, we’re more than ready to see something from the darker spectrum. Not that there’s anything in the realm of dark beers looming on the horizon any time soon (except perhaps for Hop Hooligans brewing a more coconut-y version of their Cannon Fire, as well as some elusive beasts due in November) but we have faith all the same.

There is much to look forward to and more. After badgering Bere Noah for updates for over a year now, we were very happy for them when we saw that they started brewing the first batch of their pale ale the other day, and we can’t wait to finally try it.

We were hoping to see Bere cu Miere display their wares at the Bucharest Craft Beer Festival, however it looks like they have moved their launch date by another month. The fact that they have a honey dark ale in the making does make up for it, so fingers crossed. Clandestin Beer are also experiencing delays, and with the start of their production moved by up to 5 months, chances are you will probably get to sample their brews some time next spring.

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At 7.5% ABV, we’re very much looking forward to get our hands on this upcoming honey dark ale (photo credit: Bere cu Miere)

After we heard that Wicked Barrel generously donated their homegrown crop of Centennial, Chinook and Columbus to eager homebrewers, we’re also curious to see whether the saison we sampled earlier this year will be released in the months to come. Meanwhile, White Collar Brewing have an American pale ale in the pipes, so do keep an eye out for the launch date. And just when you thought that the list of ‘coming soon’ labels from Oriel Beer couldn’t get any longer, their Belgian Dark Strong Ale is also due to launch this winter – and by ‘this winter’ we hope they mean that we can get our hands on it before Christmas.

Normally speaking, we wouldn’t fuss too much over the fact that Hop Hooligans have announced new versions of their Shock Therapy in the upcoming months. After all, if there’s a hop, chances are it will find its way into one of their versions sooner or later. However, when we saw that version 15 will be jam packed with Loral, it was sure to set our taste buds tingling. After all, if we remember correctly (which we might not, so do correct us if needed), the last time this elusive hop found its way in one of their beers was in the first batch of their insanely dry-hopped Game Over, and it was only fair that it got a chance to shine as a stand-alone.

We also caught a rumor that the county of Arad is due to set its very own flag on the Romanian craft beer map. For those of you born before the millennial craze, the name of Zimandul may ring a faint bell. For the younger and ungrizzled folk, the village of Zimand is currently seeing one of the old Romanian beer brands make a comeback, hopefully under the artisan label. The actual location and brewery are still under construction, but here’s hoping that their endeavours will be on the true to the craft creed. Only time will tell, for now.

Last but not least, Ground Zero are still awaiting their much needed paperwork, so that they can relocate to their new hangout and give all the gypsy brewers they have accrued this year free reign over their fermenting vessels. We also got a sneaky preview of something that smells an awful lot like lactobacillus with a hint of salt, so if you’re just as passionate about sours as we are, do feel free to join in the general hype. In the meantime, if you’re one of those lucky enough to be born with a creative streak, now is your time to shine, as one of the most emblematic breweries in the country is considering a label makeover. So have a wee look-see over here for more details on how you can make your own claim at immortality.

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Please tell us we’re not the only ones who think that label looks awfully, promisingly familiar. Please. (photo credit: Ground Zero)

And no, we didn’t forget, so here’s your complementary list of all the beer releases for this IPA riddled quarter. You folks enjoy!

Amon-Ra – Agapa – Light Ale

Anagram – Saison de Citron – Saison/ Farmhouse Ale

Bere a la Cluj – Astrobaut – Dry-hopped lager 

Bere BucurestiAle (Dristor & Drumul Taberei labels) 

Bere Sibiu
SB Blondă
SB Platinată

Bereta
White Diamond Whale – Farmhouse Peach IPA (collaboration with Hop Hooligans)
IPA
It Has To Start Somewhere – DIPA 
Speish Odyssey – IPA (collaboration with Wicked Barrel
Birthday Bash – Strawberry Milkshake IPA (collaboration with Wicked Barrel and Hop Hooligans, brewed for Berero Store  3 year anniversary)
Pale Ale
8=D – IPA 

Cearfisă
Weissbeer
Pilsner

Clinica de Bere – Strașnic – Blonde (brewed for the Lidl supermarket chain)

Dead Men Hops – Genesis – Indie Lager 

Hop Hooligans
Shady Sushi – IPA
Trouble Gum – Belgian IPA (collaboration with Hophead)
We Like New Hops And We Cannot Lie – NEIPA (collaboration with Simply Hops
Shock Therapy IPA – Version 13: Simcoe
Shock Therapy IPA – Version 14: Amarillo & Rakau

Sourpuss – Blackcurrant Berliner Weisse
Earth Is Not Flat – NEIPA 

Kutuma American Wheat Beer with cáscara (brewed for Meron café)

Nembeer – Indiana – IPA

Oriel Beer
Oriel Quadrupel Jack Daniels BA
Oriel Dubbel – with Maris Otter malt
Oriel Blond Wild – with Brettanomyces yeast

Plan Beer
Golden Shower – Blonde Ale 
A New Hop – American IPA 
Fear Of The Duck – IPA 

Șapte Coline
Pils
Triplu H
Märzen
Neagră 

Three Happy Brewers – Tea Muppets – Transnistrian Tea Hopped ESB (collaboration with Sunstone Alehouse)

Tom Beer
Varadinum – Weissen
Șapte Regi – Vienna Lager
Nincasa – Pale Ale
Aurul Romanilor – Blonde

Zăganu– 500 – Imperial IPA (5 year anniversary beer)

Zburătorul – Trândava – NEIPA 

 

 

 

 

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