Monthly review – March 2019

Spring may be upon us, but the industry is far from in need of thawing out. Following the momentum of previous months, March has seen plenty of releases, from new beers to new breweries, and some very long awaited collaborations. And as the country braces itself to stubbornly enjoy a cold one on a sunny-ish terrace, let’s take a look at what’s on the brewer’s table.

Return to the light

After a winter that showcased plenty of Romanian brewed stouts, porters and other such dark delights, March has been a somewhat mixed month, though it’s been nice to see a number of lighter beer styles making a come back. In particular, it’s great to see the often shunned lager sneaking onto the stage. Well, we do love a good lager, and we’ve been pleased to see a few more breweries tackle the style recently.

Putting their own hoppy spin on this classic style, Bereta, in collaboration with homebrewer Mihai Haze, concocted a New Zealand hoppy lager as the third installment of the Bereta Brewing Community series. Hopped exclusively with exotic New Zealand hops (Kohatu, Nelson & Wai-iti) it’s a potent take on lager, but one that is the perfect refreshment for these almost hot afternoons.

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Beers tend to take after their brewer, so when your last name is Haze, it’s only normal that even the lagers follow suit (photo credit: Bereta TM)

It seems hoppy lagers are the next big thing, as take 2 of the Hop Hooligans and Zăganu collaboration has now gone live. After their smoked lager was released last month, the yeast used in the brew hopped on a car ride to the brewery in Măneciu-Ungureni, where it was added to an India Pale Lager. Featuring the classic Citra & Amarillo hop combo, this easy going beer can be enjoyed pint after pint.

Three Happy Brewers are no strangers to brewing up thirst quenching lagers, and this month they brewed one exclusively for The Beer Institute. Hai La Euro is an ultra limited edition beer that celebrates Romania’s qualification into UEFA Euro 2020. Besides celebrating the footy, THB kicked the month off with a new release. Designed to bridge the gap between the two giants of the American IPA, West Coast and New England, their East Coast IPA is a hybrid of the two, combining dank piney bitterness with a juicy, fruity body. Another beer that certainly refreshed the palate after a winter of dark monsters.

Now, on the topic of IPAs, this month has seen an influx of nearly every possible variant of the style. Well, perhaps we exaggerate, but Hop Hooligans alone have released 2 new versions of Shock Therapy (each displaying the terroir of Australian vs. American Cascade hops), a blackcurrant milkshake session IPA, a DDH Mango & Pineapple NE DIPA, and a BBC DDH DIPA.

Wondering about all the silly acronyms above? While we’re sure you know well enough what DDH and DIPA stand for, BBC hop pellets are relatively new on the market and are also known as ‘pure hops’. Developed in collaboration with the Boston Beer Company (BBC, get it?), they’re made in a way that preserves more of the volatile oils responsible for hop aroma. Basically, they’re supposed to store better, last longer and give a whole lot more of a hop punch to the beer they’re used in.

This is not the first time the Hooligans have used such hops, which were originally seen in We Like New Hops and then again in Earth is not Flat. It seems the lads are on a quest for supreme hoppiness, and our taste buds are more than happy to tag along.

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The pursuit for the ultimate ‘hop juice’ goes on – here’s hoping we won’t get to this stage just yet though (photo credit: Hop Hooligans)

The collaborations continue in Jilava, with the Hooligans breaching ever more international borders. Polly Wants a Cracker (DDH Mango & Pineapple NE DIPA) was brewed in collaboration with Poland’s Browar Pinta, and they later went on to take over all the taps at Krakow’s BroPub by Brokreacja. Heading slightly closer to home, their collaboration with Bulgaria’s White Stork resulted in the epic Caravanserai, a smoked tea (Lapsang souchong) Imperial Stout, weighing in at 13% ABV and generating so much hype that it’s most likely sold out everywhere by the time you’re done reading this. Finally, they joined forces with Britain’s Team Toxic once again to create a pleasantly tangy cherry basil Berliner Weisse – Yuri’s Cosmic Basil.

Rounding off the lighter beers introduced in March, it’s always great to see something new from Hophead. They too have been experimenting with their favourite style, IPA, and this offering sees 3 different yeast battle it out. Blending American, Belgian and German yeast strains, Othervice puts a fruity, estery twist on an otherwise typical Hophead IPA. In fact, we’re having one just now to help this article along, and it’s great to see a brewery play to its strengths, while putting a new twist on a proven formula. It doesn’t always work, but this one definitely does.

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Hophead beers sometimes take a while making their way out of Cluj, so be on the lookout for this elusive brew (photo credit: Hophead Brewing)

Double Double Toil and Trouble

Thought we’d covered all the IPAs? Think again chaps, we haven’t even got to the black IPAs yet. Perfektum doubled up on their Black IPA to launch the first Double Black IPA in Romania, a roasty, bitter-sweet treat that rocks in at 8.2% ABV.

Bereta stormed into March with a confession: while they can’t help chucking in hops by the fistful, they’ve always harbored a secret passion for Brown Ales. Admittedly, it’s a style more likely to be favoured by the British elderly down at the village pub, but the lads gave it a modern spin. Dark Side of the Hops Black IPA is packed full of that unmistakable Bereta character and massively dry hopped with Mosaic & Centennial, all balanced by a nutty, roasty malt base. With a hefty 7.5% ABV, it’s just shy of being a double black IPA (DBIPA) itself, and the guys quickly proclaimed it their favourite beer.

But the big news at the Bereta brewery this month was the third official Black Pot Day, this time on March 16th. The now legendary Imperial Stout concocted by Bereta and Wicked Barrel returned in its third reincarnation, and in three different versions to boot. Guests were invited to the brewery on the big day to try all 3 fresh from the source, complete with special glasses and T-shirts to mark the occasion.

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Proud father of three (photo credit: Bereta TM)

If you haven’t tried them yet, be sure to get your hands on them soon, as this super limited edition has already sold out at the brewery, and some shops even have limits on how many you can buy. Try and get 2 of each and, if you can resist temptation, age them for a few months and allow those jagged edges to round off into something truly delightful.

As the cauldron smoke cleared in the wake of Black Pot Day, we heard whisper of a plot to create a mini festival to mark next year’s edition. We’ve already marked the date in our calendar, so let’s hope they manage to make it work. These initiatives are a great boost to the craft beer industry, and make it into something more than just the beer in your glass.

When not toiling over the Black Pot, Wicked Barrel found time to visit Oriel Beer. Dark vs. light clashed in an epic brewing session back in October 2018 and, several months later, it resulted in See The Light?, a Russian Imperial Stout which showcases both Oriel Beer’s penchant for Belgian beers as well as Wicked Barrel‘s gift with Imperial Stouts. Launched on March 22nd at Beer Zone in Iași, it was an excellent coming together of two great homebrewers, now measuring their strengths side by side as brewers in their own right. 

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Dark chocolate, molasses, coffee, dried fruit and phenolic spices – tasting notes aside, See The Light? is every bit as complex and minutely crafted as you would expect it to be (photo credit: Oriel Beer)

Milestones and New Beginnings

This month has seen Ground Zero celebrate 4 years on the market, and it’s been a helluva ride. From the early days of handing out bottles of Imperial Fuck to unsuspecting bar owners, to running their own bar and upgrading to a bigger brewery, as well as taking a number of gypsy brewers under their wing, they’ve come a long way. Their 4 year anniversary marks not only 208 weeks since they’ve put the ‘craft’ in ‘craft beer’ and became the first Romanian craft brewery to adopt a more Western, less traditional approach, but it also marks a time of tremendous growth, from the tiny 3000 litre equipment they started off with, to a whopping 22,000 litre set up which needed a whole new location to operate from. Their brewery on Șoseaua Pipera 44 is going live tomorrow, April 1st, and we can’t wait to see how this new chapter will continue to shape the industry and give numerous brewers both a head start in the business, as well as something to aspire to.

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Work hard, play hard, make some excellent beer in the process – here’s to all the accomplishments Ground Zero have seen through the years (photo credit: Ground Zero Beer)

Sadly, we couldn’t make it to their birthday bash — not least because their 5th XperimentALE beer was launched there, a New Zealand hopped IPA — but we were thrilled to have head brewer Răzvan join us for our monthly Meet the Brewer evening in collaboration with Beer Hype. He gave us a glimpse into the world of Ground Zero and even hinted at a new collaboration with none other than Zăganu, fellow pioneers in the industry, and whose head brewer Laurențiu also joined us that evening. We look forward to seeing what they come up with (rumors say it will be a mighty craft-izanal brew). 

While Ground Zero embark on their 5th year in the business, a number of young guns seem set to join the fray. Most recently, Clandestin Beer finally opened their doors, releasing their first brew. Their debut is an IPA, brewed in the classic style with Citra & Simcoe, and at 5.3% ABV, it sounds the perfect beer as the days warm up. We’re obviously not the only ones who think so, as their entire stock sold out after just one day at The Beer Institute. If you’re lucky, you might just find a bottle or 2 on Berero, but get it fast!

We’ve been name-dropping and hint-hinting about gypsy brewers plotting something at Bereta since January, and now the new kids on the block and their social media page have officially gone live. OneTwo Brew are due to launch their pineapple Gose soon, a salty, zingy, mouth puckering beer we’ve been eagerly waiting for, brewed with Himalayan salt, plenty of pineapple (120kg per 750l of beer), and dry hopped with Vic Secret & Nelson.

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Still a bit on the young and lively side, this pineapple Gose from OneTwo Brew has the makings of an exciting debut (photo credit: Bereta TM)

Through some curious twist of fate, Bereta also managed to get their hands on some quinces, which is quite a feat for this time of year. These eventually made their way into the 4th beer from their BBC series, a quince Berliner Weisse, another bold style, brewed in collaboration with homebrewer Ionuț-Alexandru Bătrînache. This one’s due for release over Easter, so stay tuned. 

We’ve mentioned Blackout Brewing in the past, another bold gypsy brewer, whose first brew was a formidable imperial stout, brewed at Bere a la Cluj. Well, after splitting that batch in 2, and creating an ultra limited Costa Rica coffee edition (200 bottles only!), they decided to brew up a batch of DDH IPA a month later. Now all bottled up and ready to go, all three will be officially launched on Friday, April 5th, at Bere a la Cluj’s new tap house, Planetarium.

Harboring gypsy brewers is all the rage these days, and sticking in Cluj, it seems that Kutuma has played host to yet another eager brewer. Details are scarce right now, but there was no holding this one back and his beer is already fermenting away. In the meantime, their hemp lager has also been officially announced and is due to be brewed next week. We had a sneaky taster back when it was it the testing phase, and it worked quite a treat, so we’re eager to see what brewing a full 2000l litre batch will produce. 

And finally, Cluj will also see a new initiative starting from April, organized by us here at Beerologique. We saw many a great concepts while in the UK, and one of our favourite was definitely Thornbridge Brewery and their monthly gatherings with beer on tap and a pizza van. We may like to keep things simple, but we thought that the beer loving people of Cluj would like a slice of that as well. 

Our Craft Tranzition Party is a monthly event that takes the shape of a mini festival of sorts, and celebrates local craft beer. It’s aimed at encouraging more people to fall in love with craft beer, so tell your friends, and we’ll see you at Casa Tranzit on April the 6th, from 3pm.

See you there!

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Also, here’s the list of new beers released this month:

Amistad – Switch.eat IPA – IPA (brewed for Switch.eat Bistro

Bereta
– Dark Side of the Hops – Black IPA – 7.5% ABV
– BBC Hoppy Lager (with Mihai Haze/Gravity Rise Brewing) – 5.1% ABV
– The Black Pot – Imperial Stout (with Wicked Barrel2019 relaunch) – 10.5% ABV
⇒ Coffee, Cacao Nibs, and Chili version
⇒ Vanilla & Pistachio version

Clandestin Beer – Fortul 13 – American IPA – 5.3% ABV

Ground ZeroXperimentALE New Zealand NEIPA – 6% ABV

Hop Hooligans
– Collision Course – Comet BBC & Centennial BBC DDH DIPA – 8.5% ABV
– Shock Therapy V18 – IPA – 6.5% ABV
⇒ V18A: American Cascade
⇒ V18B: Australian Cascade
– Caravanserai – Smoked Tea Imperial Stout (with White Stork)  – 13% ABV
– Yuri’s Cosmic Basil – Cherry Basil Berliner Weisse (with Team Toxic) – 6% ABV
– Alien Juice – DDH Blackcurrant Milkshake Session IPA (with Yria Cerveza Artesanal)– 3.8% ABV
– Polly Wants His Juice! – DDH Mango & Pineapple NE DIPA (with Browar Pinta) – 9% ABV

Hophead Brewing – Othervice – IPA (with 3 different yeasts) – 5.8% ABV

Oriel Beer – See The Light? – Belgian Imperial Stout (with Wicked Barrel) – 10% ABV

Perfektum – Double Black IPA – 8.2% ABV

Three Happy Brewers
– East Coast IPA – IPA – 6.5% ABV
– Hai La Euro – Lager (brewed for The Beer Institute) – 5% ABV

Zăganu – India Pale Lager (collaboration with Hop Hooligans) – 6% ABV

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