Monthly review – February 2019

February may have been the shortest month of the year, but there has been no shortage of new beers to enjoy. We hear tales of collaborations, gypsy brewers and the first whispers of new events coming up. And as 2019 shifts up another gear and winter takes the backseat, let’s grab a cold one and see what’s been going on.

Dark days call for a dark beer

Even though the days are slowly getting longer, February is still a winter month and it calls for keeping our hats on a bit longer. Romania’s brewers must have had this in mind when planning their recipes last year, since they’ve treated us to a whole host of dark delights to savour on those chilly nights.

Hop Hooligans had the right idea with their first release of the month. Knowing that the 14th of February is not a night to suffer in the frigid cold, they released an imperial honey porter, aptly named Bee With Me. Kicking in at 10% and packed with sweet honey and chocolate notes, it was the ideal beverage to fend off an icy Valentine’s night, while providing a healthy dose of Dutch courage for those in need. Those coping with a case of broken heart also had something to ail their sorrows, as Heartbreaker, their hibiscus, lime and jalapeño IPA switched to can.

If February was a beer style, it’d be a stout. Short and dark, with a promise of roasty goodness and very little bitterness as things begin to warm up. It’s surely no coincidence then, that stout has been the most popular style for new releases this month. We’ve seen six brand new stouts hit the shelves, from six separate breweries. For most of them, this was their first attempt at the style, and it’s been great to see brewers exploring pastures new.

We love it when breweries and those that sell beer get together, so we were doubly pleased to see Perfektum team up with Sibiu’s Eco Zen Boutique to create Hoppy Black, the first stout in Perfektum’s arsenal. Currently only available at the bottle shop in Sibiu, we’re hoping it will come our way soon. 

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Collaborations are an excellent way to try your hand at something new: here’s to the first stout brewed by Perfektum (photo credit: Eco Zen Boutique)

Also adding stout to their repertoire, Anagram brewed up a cup of Joe batch of coffee stout. They teamed up with the folk over at Bucharest’s Madison Coffee to concoct Masai Stout, an all day breakfast kinda beer, brewed with Kenya Kiambu specialty coffee.

White Collar Brewing cranked up the heat with Chocolate Nebula, a chocolate, milk and oatmeal stout with a sting in its tail. ‘Dry peppered’ with sizzling red hot chilli peppers for one day before bottling, it’s guaranteed to warm the old bones.

But they’re not the only ones to put a twist on their stout. Fruit additions have also been popular, and we’ve been spoilt for choice when it comes to liquid desserts this month, as Hophead Brewing revived their fantastically fruity gROZava. Originally a raspberry wheat, this new version comes in two shades, dark and light. Focusing on the dark side of gROZava, it’s Hophead’s first take on the style, but they’ve cracked it, creating a sumptuous raspberry milk stout that is far too easy to drink.

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There’s two sides to every story, and even two sides to one beer (photo credit: Hophead Brewing)

Room for one more pint of dessert? Then check out Ground Zero’s (that’s GZ, not to be confused with G0) Vii Și Ne, a positively debaucherous pastry stout. It’s the fourth in their XperimentALE range, and is a tarted up version of their COX Imperial Stout, with lashings of sour cherries, coconut, vanilla and cocoa to keep things interesting.

Like a game of ‘who has the blackest cat stout’, Bereta and former homebrewer Adi Oros, now of Blackout Brewing, joined forces for BBC #2. Together they created a breakfast stout packed full of coffee from Yume Roasters, as well as Tahiti & Bourbon Madagascar vanilla. And in true Bereta fashion, it’s been dry hopped to hell and back, creating an unusual but delectable hybrid black IPA stout. We’re keeping a bottle or two aside for a few months to see how it fares once the hops fade.

Before we move on, and if you’re not yet stouted out, stay tuned for The Black Pot Day, scheduled for the 16th of March, when Bereta and Wicked Barrel will be launching 3 versions of their iconic imperial stout.

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There’s mad talk of coffee, cocoa, chilies, vanilla, pistachios and even floaters. Better hang on to your seats, everyone! (photo credit: Bereta)

If you can’t get enough of the black stuff and need a Bereta fix in the meantime, check out their latest release, as their Dark Side of the Hops Black IPA is launching tomorrow, at Beer o’Clock

Get it while it’s fresh!

February hasn’t all been about darkness and roast. In fact, there’s been a few exciting releases on the paler side of the spectrum, including some new and exciting first-time brews on the market. Hop heads and juice lovers have had a fine selection to choose from this month.

Hophead Brewing dabbled in the dark side with their raspberry stout, but gROZava has two stories to tell. The raspberry smoothie IPA version was released at the same time as the stout, and offered the same satisfying berry tang, but was backed up by more than a handful of hops.

Staying in Cluj, Kutuma have just released a special edition of their American wheat ale. Zarva – New England Wheat follows the same recipe as the original, but swaps out the usual stuff for the unmistakable haze of NEIPA yeast. In true New England style, it also underwent a double dry hop, creating a juicy, fruity and extra hoppy version of the normal Zarva. Get it fresh to enjoy it at its best.

Following the Zarva out the door was Player One Brewery’s first foray on the market, as Super Weiss Brew launched just last week around Cluj. The kegs and bottles are flying out of the brewery, so grab a pint soon.

Speaking of beer flying out of the brewery, it’s great to see that Bere Noah’s third batch of their Poet of Pale Ale has already sold out at the brewery. Look out for it around Târgu Mureș (if in doubt, you’re sure to find it at Teo’s), and hopefully we’ll be seeing bottles and kegs make their way further afield soon, as by all accounts it’s a great beer.

Behind every great beer, there’s a great dog, or at least in the case of Bere Noah. Sadly, Noah the dog, the best friend who lent his name to the brewery, and his face to the label, passed away this month. We’ll raise a glass to this handsome muse and look forward to the beers he inspires in the future. Cheers Noah, this one’s for you!

Since dog’s aren’t really too fond of alcohol, we’d like to think that, wherever he is, Noah is enjoying the latest brew from Capra Noastră. Trează is the first non-alcoholic craft beer in Romania, ideal for dogs and designated drivers alike. It’s a far cry from your typical zero alcohol brew from the supermarket, and takes the shape of a flavourful Saison, fitting effortlessly into the Belgian inspired range Capra Noastră are known for.

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Non-alcoholic beers tend to get a fair bit of bad press – not the case with this one (photo credit: Capra Noastră)

Also in Iași, and ideal if you’re not driving, Tomești Hill Crafting Brewery returned with a second batch of their easy drinking pale ale, Crazy Pilot. Brewed at Ground Zero and apparently feistier than the first batch (as far as carbonation is concerned), you can grab it at Beer Zone, before it slowly takes off and lands in the rest of the country. 

Let’s brew it -your place or mine?

What would February be without a bit of love in the air and collaborations on the side? We’ve always had a soft spot for the latter, as it’s a great chance for brewers – or even event organizers or bar and bottle shop owners – to broaden their knowledge and learn from their peers, while, of course, sharing out their respective beer hauls and latest brews from the tank. Few other industries allow such open collaboration between potential rivals, and it’s often this openness that encourages people to gravitate towards craft beer in the first place.

With that in mind, it’s great to see more and more of Romania’s brewers warming up to the idea of collaborating with one another. For the first time ever, we’ve seen Zăganu fly the nest and take to the the mash tun and kettle at another brewery. Now, breweries tend to be a bit of a sausage fest, but that didn’t seem to hinder the lads. Not when you’re brewing with Hop Hooligans and shenanigans ensue, anyway. In fact, they enjoyed brewing with Hooligans so much, that they did it twice. The results were a Sausage Party, Romania’s first smoked lager, and an ultra dry-hopped lager due for release in the near future.

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For a beer made with 50% smoked malt in the grain bill, this lager is surprisingly crisp, with a mix of BBQ and cheesy notes (photo credit: Hop Hooligans)

Ever the popular and industrious chaps, the Hooligans had no sooner closed the door on Zăganu, before letting Wicked Barrel in to recreate their superb New Lands, a farmhouse style IPA, hopped with Australian hops and fermented at high temperatures with Norwegian Voss kveik yeast. But they didn’t just stick to homegrown breweries either. This month they’ve also brewed up batches with the guys from Bulgaria’s White Stork Brewery, Poland’s Pinta Brewery, and Team Toxic from the UK. Keep an eye out for the releases in the months to come. 

And they’re not the only ones joining forces with breweries from outside the country. After enjoying collaborations with Wicked Barrel and Sunstone Alehouse, Oriel Beer brewed up a batch with Belgium’s HopSaSam. Doing what they do best, they stuck with a Belgian style beer, this time a Tripel, but gave it a splash of Romanian spirit: țuică to be precise. We’ll be honest with you: we find țuică to be insanely rank, and would probably only drink it if our lives depended on it. If you’re of the same ilk, then you’ll be interested to hear that țuică and Belgian Tripels do find a common ground, in the fruity notes of the finished brew. The beer itself underwent a very complex brewing process, featuring țuică barrels that were used for a spirit made with different fruits (apple, pear and plum), as well as different wood types (oak, cherry and mulberry). After maturing in three separate barrels for 70 days, the finished brew was then blended, and Țuiple’Up was finally released this month, tantalizing taste buds and preconceptions around the country.

Coming back home, Bereta have also been busy entertaining guests, as the third beer of their Bereta Brewing Community initiative was brewed up this month. Homebrewer Mihai Haze made his passion for New Zealand hops clear, and together they brewed up a hoppy NZ Pilsner. Now, the only question is whether it will live up to its creators name, or whether it’ll clear up during lagering. Only one way to find out. 

Sticking with Bereta, it’s nice to see the return of the classic Romanian craft beer dynamic duo, as they got together with Ground Zero once again to resurrect Imperial Juice. We were last treated to this juice bomb 2 years ago, and it still packs the fruity, exotic punch of Bereta’s Juicebag, and the strength and bitterness of Ground Zero’s Imperial Fuck. Practice makes perfect, but be quick, as this one is best savoured fresh.

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Familiar faces are always a welcome sight: make sure to get your hands on this Double NEIPA while the hops are at their freshest (photo credit: Ground Zero)

Things to look forward to

February has given us a decent selection of new beers and styles to check out, but there’s plenty more where that came from. A number of exciting batches have been brewed up this month, ready to see the light of day in the weeks to follow.

As always, Oriel Beer manage to pique our interest with their latest batch of Quad, aged this time in Laphroaig barrels. This gloriously smokey and peaty Scotch single malt whisky is sure to add a whole new dimension to this already complex beer, making this a beer to look out for. The barrels of Auchentoshan are sure to bring their own contribution to the mix, though it’ll probably take a few months yet before we can get our sauce pot around that.

We also eagerly anticipate the first collaboration brew between Oriel Beer and Wicked Barrel. As a Belgian Imperial Stout, See the Light is a showcase of both breweries’ expertise.

After months of battling bureaucracy and keeping things under wrap as a result, we were happy to hear that Clandestin Beer are not only due to launch some time in March, but that they’ve got three beers in the making. Each featuring a different style and an intriguing backstory, it’s definitely worth checking out their website for new things to come.

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Here’s a sneak-peak of their IPA though, just in case (photo credit: Clandestin Beer)

Ground Zero continue their XperimentALE range with an exciting take on the ever popular NEIPA. They’ve used hops from New Zealand to bring a new palate of flavours to the table. We get the feeling this one will be incredible fresh and on tap, so keep an eye open for the launch date!

Also entering the murky world of NEIPAs, Three Happy Brewers have just released a new brew. Well, it’s not technically a New England IPA, in fact it’s their East Coast IPA, a middle ground where West Coast and New England IPAs can find a happy medium. It’s due to be released next week, though you can grab a wee sneaky bottle if you join us at our Meet the Brewer evening tonight, where Three Happy Brewers and Anagram Brewing will join us for a chat and a few pints – hope to see you there!

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Double dry-hopped with Citra and Galaxy hops, this East Coast IPA sees THB embark on a quest for hazier realms (photo credit: Three Happy Brewers)

And as a finishing touch, here’s your complementary list of this month’s new releases.
Cheers!

Bereta & Blackout Brewing – BBC Vanilla Breakfast Stout – 8% ABV

Capra Noastră – Trează – non-alcoholic Saison – 0.5% ABV

Ground Zero
– Vii Și Ne – Cox Imperial Stout with cocoa, vanilla and sour cherries – 9.8% ABV
– Imperial Juice (2019 relaunch) – Double NEIPA (collaboration with Bereta) – 9% ABV

Hop Hooligans
– Bee With Me – Imperial Honey Porter – 10% ABV
– Sausage Party – Smoked Lager (with Zăganu) – 4.7% ABV

Hophead Brewing
– gROZava – Smoothie IPA – 6% ABV
– Dark Side of gROZava – Raspberry Stout – 5.1% ABV

Kutuma
– Luna Plină – IPA – brewed for the band Luna Amară – 7% ABV
– East Coast Wheat – American Wheat Beer with NE yeast – 6.2% ABV

Oriel Beer
Țuiple’Up– Tripel matured in țuică barrels(with HopSaSam) – 9.5% ABV

Perfektum
– Hoppy Black – Stout – brewed for the Eco Zen Boutique store – 6% ABV

Player One Brewery
– Super Weiss Brew – Wheat Beer – 5% ABV

White Collar Brewing
– Chocolate Nebula – Chocolate, Milk & Oatmeal Stout – 6.3% ABV

 

 

 

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