Monthly Review – July 2019

After a fairly dry June (not as far as weather was concerned), we’re wrapping up July with a plentiful bounty. With almost 30 new beers released this month, from crowd favourite IPAs to a couple of delectable barrel aged offerings, July has seen a perfect combo of quantity and quality. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. So kick off your flip-flops, lean back in your chaise longue with a cold one, and read on.

Pale ales for a sunny day

Warm, sunny days call for something on par to keep them company, and nothing fits that bill quite like IPAs and pale ales. This month, brewers were more than happy to comply, so we’ve seen plenty of new releases in these two categories.

We’re starting off with Hop Hooligans, who released their (almost) anniversary batch of Crowd Control. Not trying to be contrary when it comes to kiribans, but rather than going for a special label for their 100th batch, they timed this anniversary release with the Cluj Craft Beer Festival, and placed batch 98 on the pedestal instead. Following close by is their Bad Hair Day pale ale, spiced up with a bit of rooibos tea, pineapple and vanilla. Their range of brews for this month was also boosted by their collaboration with Dogma Brewery from Serbia, which resulted in two beers: a DDH DIPA for the Romanian market, and a Micro IPA for the Serbs (which we will hopefully get to try as well – bottle only though, by the looks of it).

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Collaborations come in all shapes, styles and ABVs (photo credit: Dogma Brewery)

The gypsy brewers of Cluj have also been busy, with Blackout releasing Glitch DDH DIPA, packed full of Simcoe, Mosaic and Galaxy. This is the first Blackout brew to forgo using hops in the boil, using them in the whirlpool and dry hopping stages instead, and also the first one brewer Adi Oros claims to actually like (but then again, brewers do tend to be notoriously fussy when it comes to their own beers).

Meanwhile, Player One took a trip to southern realms, to Patos brewery, where he brewed batch two of their Weiss – featuring not only a change in the recipe, but also a brand new label design. Gypsy brewers in Bucharest have also been busy, with Zburătorul releasing a new beer after almost a year of keeping quiet – Blind Detective, a London Pale Ale that adequately delivers the entire London beer drinking experience – from the low ABV suited for any respectable Englishman, to the twig-tamed hop aroma.

While very busy with keeping up with demand over summer, Hophead also found the time to release a new beer: a coffee IPA to celebrate the 3 year anniversary of Bujolé Restaurant. This edition features coffee from Honduras, which has a fruitier flavour profile, and less of that astringent bitterness you can find in beers of this type. The beer was such a success that the restaurant insisted they have it on tap, and even went to some extraordinary lengths to make sure it’s properly served. So when Darko pointed out that the kegs would fare better in a fridge, they went out and bought one just for that – a casual reminder that brewers can and should make demands of bars when it comes to ensuring quality.

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Infused with specialty coffee for 26 hours, and with Citra & Mosaic hop additions, this coffee IPA from Hophead is worth trying both by bottle and on tap (photo credit: Bujole)

One Beer Later have also been busy, and while their BA imperial stout is still yet to be released, this month they’ve presented us with a different high ABV offering: a DIPA, complete with a label featuring Charlie Chaplin tipping his hat off to fellow drinkers.

Speaking of light beers, bottom fermenting beers have also been on the menu this month. After their collaboration with Carol and using their facilities back in April, Sikaru went back for a take two, this time brewing a Vienna Lager, which, just like their Pils, is easily found on the shelves of the Carrefour supermarket chain. Meanwhile, one of the founding members at Sikaru paid a visit to Clandestin, where, keeping true to the name, they brewed a Kölsch style ale for the Istru bar in his hometown, Tulcea. There’s no news on whether this will see the insides of a bottle just yet, but for those who are taking a trip down to Bucharest this summer, you can find it by the growler at Stația RomBeer.

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According to Bogdan, sailors don’t fare well on land, so he made them a little brew to cheer them up (photo credit: Portu’ Vechi)

Perfektum have also been busy with new releases, which have mostly made appearances at festivals. Back in May, during the Festin festival in Bucharest, they did a trial run of their new Pils, and since then, they have perfekted the recipe and took it for a spin around other events across the country this month. To keep it company, they also brewed up a Rye IPA, which has so far seen a limited release at various venues in Cluj, as well as Bucharest. Keep an eye out for the bottled versions due to come out soon!

At the other end of the colour spectrum, Oriel Beer decided that any day is a good day for a barrel aged treat, and released two of their long awaited collaborations with Liliac winery: a Merlot BA Dubbel, and a Chardonnay BA Tripel, which have been patiently maturing since December 2018. To keep in tune with the season, they also released a blackberry version of their exceptional Quad, featuring blackberry juice from Abund Berry – they recommend adding some real blackberries into the glass when serving, to make the most of this berry delicious beer.

Oriel Beer haven’t been the only ones delving into Belgian styles this month. After over a year since having a chat with Radu from Wicked Barrel and hearing his decision to brew a Saison, we’re happy to see it finally released this month. Unlike its name might suggest, Hillbilly is something on the cleaner side: dry, with a bit of yeasty funk, a mild carbonation perking in the background, and a subtle hop bitterness. Speaking of hops, it also features Radu’s homegrown Centennial hops, which, after 4 years, finally yielded a crop large enough to be used in more than just homebrewing.

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(photo via Untappd)

Amistad have also taken on Belgian styles, and after a sneak preview a couple months back (which was available on draft only in Bucharest), they livened up their Saison with a few hops and released an intriguing hybrid – Saison IPA, complete with the posh paper trimmings that made Bacchus beers stand out on the shelves.

Bereta seem to be taking a trip down memory lane with the increasing number of sours they’ve been releasing lately. Perhaps it’s down to that fateful day back in October 2015, when their Berliner Weisse with pears saw an eager welcome at the first brewers meet-up organized in Cluj. Either way, this month they not only did a re-release of their limited edition Safe Spot Landing, but also released What The Fruit, a Gose with raspberries, sour cherries, rhubarb, salt, lactose, and vanilla. 

Cruising down memory lane a bit further, we’re very proud to have witnessed the launch of Addictive Brewing at Cluj Craft Beer Festival in mid July. Brought to you by one of the most passionate craft beer advocates in the country, who has been aiding the industry with advice and exquisite taste buds since before we even knew that Romanian craft beer was a thing, Addictive Brewing has had a spectacular debut. Going out in force, with 4 beers in unique bottles, the styles they tackled on a commercial level may be on the tamer side compared to what we saw Horia concoct back in his homebrewing days, but they hit the spot just as well, and are all ranked above 4 on Untappd.

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While we love good beers, as collectors, we also have a soft spot for bottles with a unique shape and design, and Addictive Brewing checks both boxes (photo credit: Addictive Brewing)

Craft beer for the people

With the heat of summer well and truly upon us, July has been another great month for craft beer events throughout Romania, and beyond. To Cluj first and foremost, whose denizens were treated to the 2019 edition of the Cluj Craft Beer FestivalWith a new location at the gorgeous Iulius Park, the festival looked fantastic, as brewery stands sat along the lakeside, while sprawling grassy areas provided plenty of space to chill out, enjoy the music, kick a football, or partake in the occasional fire juggling. Continuing to innovate, the organizers ditched plastic in favour of branded glassware, which, by offering drinkers a smaller, 300ml serving, it allowed them to try a wider variety for a more affordable price. In addition to beer, they had live music and DJ sets, workshops, food trucks, and a nano-brewery showcase from Marican.

Bucharest has also seen more events bringing craft beer to the people this month. The last weekend of July saw Ground Zero celebrate the opening of their long-awaited new brewery, with a party at their own Hangar Gastropub. After working on their new location since December of last year, the opening of the new brewing facility called for a full-on celebration. All beers poured at the event were the first batches brewed on the new equipment, and the first 3 kegs were on the house. It’s good to see that 4 years of hard work when it comes to giving craft beer an identity are slowly but surely paying off, and we’re hoping to see more interesting developments when it comes to not only events, but also new beers and collaborations with gypsy brewers. 

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Peak inside the new powerhouse: fermenting vessel after fermenting vessel, just waiting to be filled and propel the craft industry forward (photo credit: Ground Zero Beer)

Over the same weekend, the gargantuan Berăria H played host to its second edition of Craft Beer Revolution, in which 10 Romanian craft breweries were invited, as well as Cidru Clarks. This is another divisive beer event, in that, like Beer Crafters in Cluj, craft breweries were shoulder to shoulder with macro owned industrial beers. Add to that the fact that most of the major players in the Romanian craft beer scene didn’t attend, some pulled out altogether (such as One Beer Later and Nembeer), and some even questioned the legitimacy of calling it a craft beer event. There is an age-old debate regarding events of this type and whether they are truly beneficial to the industry. On one hand, they do give craft brewers an audience they might not otherwise reach, and that exposure can, in fact, grow the market. On the other hand, they do risk undermining the craft beer image through association with macro. As we’ve said before though, this is a topic that deserves a lot of consideration, and its own dedicated post, eventually.

It is also worth mentioning Electric Castle which, although not a beer festival, implemented a very welcome change of scenery when it comes to the type of beer available at large scale, internationally acclaimed music events. The organizers have been toying with the idea of putting local craft beer on tap since 2018, but for the 7th edition, they made the relationship official. Electric Castle reached out to the craft brewers of Romania, and partnered up with 16 breweries – and we’re not just talking the big guns, but also smaller names, such as Wicked Barrel and Anagram Brewing. What’s laudable is that they went for a fairly wide array of styles, and even took the time to put up a brief yet informative description for each beer, so that the unassuming drinkers knew what to expect – something you rarely see in bars, let alone beer festivals. Bringing craft beer to a whole new crowd could be perceived as risky, but the public pretty much drank the bar dry by Saturday, with Cluj breweries alone selling almost 100 kegs over the festival! We want to raise a pint of kudos to good ol’ Norbert from Kutuma, who sacrificed sleep in order to man the taps for the entire event – legend says he’s still recovering.

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(photo credit: Hophead Brewing)

While we’re talking about reaching new crowds of people, it’s worth mentioning the Best of the Balkans Beer Night at the Berlin Beer Week. Four Romanian breweries – Bereta, Ground Zero, Hop Hooligans, and Oriel Beer – were featured among an impressive lineup of some of the greatest beers from the region. It’s encouraging to see breweries gaining much deserved recognition on an international stage, and we anticipate that there’ll be more to come in the future.

Bere Noah is infamous for being difficult to get your hands on outside of Târgu Mureș. With their small batches, and best drunk fresh styles, it truly is a great local beer that is worth traveling for. However, ever the man of his word, when head brewer and owner Călin promised a few cases to The Beer Institute, a few more to Berero, and a keg or two to the Zăganu Romanian Craft Beer Bar, he put in the extra hours to get the job done. 

Last weekend, Bere Noah made the most out of their visit to Bucharest, and a meet the brewer evening at the Beer Institute was the perfect chance to launch their latest beer, The Godfather – we were cheekily hoping for the Dogfather, but there’s a story here! Named after Călin’s own godfather and friend of 25 years, this beer honours the man who first introduced the brewer to craft beer all those years ago, and has supported his dream ever since. Cheers to that!

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A huge cheers from Călin himself – none of this would have been possible without you guys (photo credit: Bere Noah)

Our final look at bringing craft beer to the people takes us to the seaside town of Constanța, home of Bere Cazino. For quite some time, the brewery used to make their beers available in plastic bottles, through their shop on Piața Tomis. The shop may have closed at the end of December last year, but the public demanded a return of their beer in plastic bottles, and the brewery saw to it. The decision to start providing beer by the PET might seem peculiar to some, especially in the light of most craft breweries shunning PET packaging. However, this is just an example of Cazino staying true to its old school ways. In an effort to reduce the price of their product and make it more widely available to locals, Cazino have gone against the grain, ensuring locals can find fresh releases of their beer for competitive price. Though not exactly growler-tier, the lager is packaged by the litre and delivered fresh, once every two days, to local shops – so if you’re down by the seaside, we recommend giving it a try. 

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Plastic bottles may be all manner of unsightly, but it’s what’s inside that matters (photo credit: Bere Cazino)

An intriguing array of get-togethers

Looking at the new beers looming on the horizon, we can’t help but notice that there’s a lot of collaborations afoot. Hop Hooligans are definitely the capybaras of the industry, friend-shaped and always down for a brew day with pals. The Bereta lads are of the same ilk, so after brewing the Berero 4 year anniversary beer, the guys got together at the Hooligans’ brewery for a melon, rhubarb and lactose concoction. Hop Hooligans also have an elusive collaboration in the works, with Brokreacja, a coffee & coconut foreign extra stout that is meant to be the darker counterpart of the Hefeweizen released this month. Here’s hoping we get a taste of it on native grounds. 

Oriel Beer have also shown a predisposition for having friends over, and on the 24th of July they announced an upcoming beer with Bereta, combining the skills of both breweries: Oriel Beer and their barrel aging, and Bereta and their crafty sours – in this case, a (potentially) fruity Gose. Expect it in several months or so.

Staying true to the gypsy brewer label, Player One has done a fair bit of travelling recently, and after brewing at Patos, he has announced a collaboration with Oriel Beer – a Belgian Wit. After chucking that in their fermenting vessels, he’s also contemplating a trip eastward to Capra Noastră, who will play host to his IPA. More details on that are still under way, so keep your eyes peeled.

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Wheat beers and Belgian styles coming together right before your eyes – should be ready in a couple of months or so (photo credit: Player One Brewery)

Capra Noastră are also set on continuing their range of beers with interesting additions, and have a lavender beer in the making. There’s nothing official regarding the style just yet, but knowing them, it will be something of the Belgian persuasion.

Given the time of the year, there’s also some shenanigans afoot when it comes to Berero, one of the most prominent figures in the world of Romanian craft beer, the online store that has been bringing beer to the people for the past 4 years. Founder Ioan Mitroi seems quite partial to IPAs and fruity additions, as well as celebrating the shop’s birthday in style, with a collaboration. This year is no different, and Bereta played host to Wicked Barrel and Hop Hooligans to concoct Tetraphobia, a double IPA that is loaded with blackberries, rhubarb, and lactose. It launches on August 3rd at the Bereta Taproom, and will hit Bucharest the following week.

Those who attended the Craft Beer Revolution at Berăria H and made a pit stop at the Bere cu Miere stand might have noticed a new beer that they are currently working on: a limited release of an amber ale, which we’re hoping to see make an official debut in bars and shops across the country in the months to come.

Wicked Barrel have also been productive lately, and when not busy mixing cement for the foundation of their upcoming stand-alone brewery in Bicaz, they’ve also announced the 3rd coffee beer in their repertoire: Monday Fuel, a coffee stout with a unique label, celebrating all those who have helped them along the way since they first launched.

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From friends, fellow brewers, shops and a plethora of inside jokes, there’s a lot going on in that label – how many can you identify? (photo credit: Wicked Barrel)

There are interesting developments in Cluj as well, and in the wake of the Cluj Craft Beer Festival, three of the city’s gypsy breweries are due to come together and do a take two of Berea Clujenilor. So stay tuned for the adventures of Blackout Brewing, Player One and Hopdrops, as they embark on a once in a lifetime journey to the Hop Hooligans brewery, where they will brew the ultimate IPA to quench the thirst of the denizens of Cluj.

And to wrap things up, here’s this month’s list of new releases:
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Addictive Brewing
– Magus – Belgian IPA – 8% ABV
– Loner – Rye IPA – 6.7% ABV
– Haunted – IPA – 6.5% ABV
– Sinner – Wheat Beer – 4.8% ABV

Amistad Beer
– Saison IPA – 6.3% ABV
– Pure Blonde – Pale Ale (brewed for Grădina Eden) – 4.6% ABV

Berărescu – Fruity Crush – Melon Beer – 4.7% ABV

Bere a la Cluj – Roasters Hoppy Brew – Cold brew infused Lager (brewed for Olivo Coffee Roasters– 5% ABV

Bereta
– IPA – El Dorado & Vic Secret dry-hop – 6% ABV
– What The Fruit – Gose with raspberries, sour cherries, rhubarb, salt, lactose, and vanilla – 4.6% ABV

Blackout Brewing – Glitch – DDH Double IPA – 8% ABV

Clandestin Beer – Portu’ Vechi – Bere Marinărească – Kölsch style ale (brewed for Istru Bar) – 5% ABV

Hop Hooligans
– Bad Hair Day – Rooibos, Pineapple & Vanilla Pale Ale – 5% ABV
– Banana Split Machine – Strawberry & Vanilla Hefeweizen (with Brokreacja) – 5% ABV
– Small Talk BIG BREW – DDH DIPA (with Dogma Brewery) – 8% ABV
– Small Talk BIG BREW – Micro IPA (with Dogma Brewery) – 3.7 % ABV – currently only available on the Serbian market 

Hophead Brewing – Coffee IPA (brewed for Bujolé Restaurant 3rd anniversary) – 5.6% ABV

Ignat Brewery/ Bere Noah – The Godfather – DDH IPA – 6.5% ABV

Nembeer – Madam Ghimbeer – Summer Ale with ginger – 4.5% ABV

One Beer Later – Jos Pălăria – American IPA – 6% ABV

Oriel Beer
– Oriel Dubbel – Liliac Merlot barrel aged – 8% ABV
– Oriel Tripel – Liliac Chardonnay Barrel Aged – 9.5% ABV
– Oriel Quadrupel – Blackberry Vanilla Edition (with blackberry juice from Abund Berry) – 10% ABV

Perfektum
– Pils – 5.1% ABV
– Rye IPA – 6.6% ABV

Player One Brewery – Super Weiss Brew (batch two: brewed at Patos Beer) – Wheat Beer – 4.5% ABV

Sikaru – Vienna Lager – Lager (brewed at Carol Beer) – 5.3% ABV

Tomești Hill Crafting Brewery – Should’ve Been Red – Red Ale

Wicked Barrel – Hillbilly – Saison – 5.2% ABV

Zburătorul – Blind Detective – London Pale Ale – 4.8% ABV

 

PS: here’s a complementary hug for that guy who was sad because we never hug him when we see him at craft beer festivals – there you go, mate, enjoy Ɛ>

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