Romanian beer – establishing a craft identity

In the three years we’ve been keeping an eye on the local craft beer industry, we have often asked ourselves all sorts of questions. ‘Should we add this brewery to our database? What makes this brewery ‘craft’? Is there even a definition of craft beer in Romania?’ So back in January, we sat down and took on an enormous task: trying to come up with a definition ourselves.

Given the complexity of this topic, the fact that there are no Romanian legal entities to provide answers, as well as the fact that the local craft beer market follows US trends very closely, we conducted a series of interviews with some people who will, hopefully, provide us with both a background, as well as something to aim for in terms of establishing our own identity. The people we interviewed are as follows:

Jeff Alworth: Portland-based writer, author of The Beer Bible and writer for Beervana;
Stan Hieronymus: US writer, author of For The Love of Hops and writer for Appellation Beer;
Lars Marius Garshol: Norwegian writer for Larsblog, the man behind the kveik revival, as well as keen observer of traditional brewing practices (with some focus on former Communist European countries);
Flaviu Odorhean: Cluj-based bar and restaurant adviser, Beer Academy UK accredited sommelier, as well as founder at Beer Hype;

As a disclaimer of sorts, we want to point out that this article is a synthesis of our own take on the market, our close observation of current trends, biases and preferences that we have had access to via specialized social media platforms, as well as face to face discussions with people in the local industry.

Now that we got that out of the way, let’s start by asking ourselves:

What is craft beer?

As far as Romanian legislation is concerned (and to be fair, legislation around the world as well), there is no definition for craft beer. The closest you can get to defining a craft brewery falls (with a lot of leeway) under the ‘microbrewery’ umbrella term, which is mainly relevant when it comes to excises. In Romania, all breweries, from Asahi subsidiaries to OneTwo Brew, operate under the same NACE code (1105), referring, broadly, to the production of malt based beverages.

There are some specifics, however, referring primarily to the brewing tax, which is broken down into two benchmarks:
maximum annual output of 5,000 hectolitres: the fee for this is 10,000 lei (approx. €2120), and it’s what most craft breweries are aiming for when opening; this is also one of the common denominators for the breweries featured on our website;
maximum annual output of 200,000 hectolitres: the fee for which is around 200,000 lei (approx. €42,325); already that’s a lot, and even though it’s a one-time payment, it’s very difficult for small breweries to even afford to pay taxes for that level of brewing, let alone exceed 5,000 hl per year. The vast majority of breweries that are considered craft in the country realistically brew around 1,000 hl annually.

Given this state of affairs, craft breweries in Romania are struggling not only because the bureaucracy behind it does not differentiate between them and the macro giants (a process which is especially cumbersome when it comes to customs and recipe approvals, and making sure that hop forward beers in particular can be legally sold while at their best), but also because the general public is often unable to differentiate between what is craft and what is macro tarted up with marketing gimmicks.

This means that the task of defining what craft beer is falls in the hands of several unassuming entities: the breweries themselves, NGOs, and the consumer making an educated purchase.

So far, there have been two noteworthy approaches at defining craft beer in Romania:

The Ground Zero 2016 manifesto – which, while it doesn’t set a definition per se, it does establish a set of guidelines that craft breweries should strive to meet:
Standard vs. Variety: craft beer should celebrate innovation and diversity, instead of keeping production costs low and catering to the masses;
Global vs. Regional: craft breweries should have a regional character, and should strive to leave a positive impact on the local community, rather than shareholders;
Quantity vs. Quality: employing traditional brewing methods and natural ingredients, rather than rushing to deliver a subpar product;
Industrial vs. Artisanal: craft beer is brewed by breweries that do not exceed 200,000 hl per year, is properly bottled (avoiding green or plastic bottles) and it is found in specialised locations (this section hints at the fact that it should not be sold in supermarkets, as that’s where macro beers live);
Men’s beer vs Everybody’s Craft Beer: craft beer should cater indiscriminately to everyone, regardless of gender, social background or cultural predisposition; there is a craft beer style for everyone, and it will change consumers’ tastes and buying habits;

The manifesto may sound somewhat romantic and militant around the edges, but it is noteworthy because it is not only the first public attempt at defining this niche, but also because it comes from a brewery that has pioneered the meaning of craft in Romania.

The Craft Beer Producers’ Association – an NGO founded in 2017 by five Bucharest craft breweries, which provides the following set of guidelines:
– made in Romania;
– maximum annual output of 200,000 hl;
– made using only natural ingredients, without the use of enzymes or other ingredients that speed up the fermenting process;
– made using corn flour only in specific beer styles, and not to cut down production costs;
– made by a brewery where a maximum of 25% is owned by a brewery with a yearly output exceeding 200,000 hl;

These guidelines do align somewhat with the US Brewers Association and their criteria for the Independent Craft Brewer Seal (with the exclusion of the TTB Brewer’s Notice), but they also bring some particularities. Unfortunately, the spokesperson for the Producers’ Association was not available to shed some light as to why they opted for this specific set of traits.

As for the consumers, well, here’s where it gets complicated, and for a surprising reason:

A tedious question of nomenclature

‘Craft’ is not a native word. In Romania, ‘craft’ has been appropriated as a mot à mot translation for ‘artizanal’, and, as with many neologisms, it is used side by side with the word ‘artisan’, in a seemingly interchangeable way. However, there is a division in terms of use, attributed to a person’s age and educational background.

As most beer connoisseurs in the country have developed a palate by drinking foreign beers and are attuned to western mentalities regarding the product, they have also shown a propensity for using ‘craft’. Meanwhile, drinkers who have only been familiar with macro beers prefer the word ‘artisan’ when referring to beers that not part of the range that was available on the market as part of the macro breweries’ portfolio.

This division became even more apparent when macro breweries started using the term ‘craft’ as a free pass for tapping into this niche. Back in April 2017, when Heineken released the Silva Romanian Pale Ale, there was a lot of controversy among the beer geeks. Admittedly, while Heineken were doing nothing wrong as far as semantics go, this move did raise ethical concerns, especially in the light of the beer being released under the marketing-concocted ‘authentic Romanian craft-quality’ tag, and its implications for the general, non-craft drinking public. Moving forward, improper use of ‘craft’ and even ‘artisan’ is still causing a lot of wariness among consumers.

But the divide between what is ‘craft’ and what is ‘artisan’ has been around before that. Interestingly, there is an unofficial consensus among both brewers and drinkers that ‘craft’ usually means breweries that approach new styles, new ingredients, have a less traditional attitude towards marketing, and the general belief is that their beers are usually better, in terms of quality. ‘Artisan’ breweries mainly follow a ‘holy trinity’ of ‘small, independent, traditional‘, which is grossly ambiguous, and perhaps a fairer taxonomical approach would be referring to them as ‘independent’.

When we ran the question of ‘craft vs. artisan’ by Jeff Alworth, his answer was:

These terms are largely impressionistic. In the US, “craft beer” was a term given to the newer breweries opening in the 1980s; [we] used it to distinguish the industrial breweries making mass market lager. Not long after these breweries got going, a trade organization formed to give them political clout. Decades later, that morphed into the Brewers Association, and that group adopted the phrase “craft brewery” and gave it a definition. It’s worth noting that “craft beer” means very different things in other countries. In the UK, it means newer, American-style breweries, but not classic cask ale breweries like Hook Norton and Harvey’s, which still make a traditional style of beer on Victorian-era equipment in a manner that is the most hands-on of any in the world. But those are still not considered “craft” there. This term has been fought over from the minute it was born and means different things in different countries.

Admittedly, this is a somewhat vague definition when it comes to the Romanian market, so we sought the input of someone who has been tuning into the consumer trends way before our time. Cue Flaviu Odorhean:

I do think there’s difference in between those terms. Artisanal implies a type of skill strongly linked to tradition, in which the Human factor is really important, it has a personal note, it is closely related to any form of art and is often perceived as small scaled. Artisans are shrewd about their abilities and their practices are deeply rooted. Craft, on the other hand, is the type of skill that bears a certain ingenuity, dexterity, maybe even unorthodox stuff and has a certain degree of dynamic activity. It is astute, slick, sly, sharp, always witty but catchy, never ordinary, opposite of classic. As an example, I think Germany is very true to their tradition showcasing their craftsmanship (being artisanal) while the US is being very crafty, beer wise. I think the breweries in Romania also divide [into] two categories, not with a very specific border in between, but glancing at their overall approach to beer, it’s easy to see some differences.

Lars has a simpler approach to what craft is, and in his 2013 article attempting to define it, he concludes on a note that strikes quite close to home when it comes to the Romanian market:

[…] for me a “craft” brewer is one that works in the tradition from the new US craft brewers. If you use the term differently that’s fine by me, so long as you don’t tie yourself in logical knots by using it three different ways simultaneously without realizing.

Tying ourselves in knots is not only our specialty, but also something Romanian craft beer drinkers are quite prone to, so perhaps simplicity is not going to help settle this debate. So in order to determine the best way to define ‘craft’, we broke it down into some key points:

Fine-tuning a very broad definition

Quality

The be all and end all of craft beer, and also the breaking point for a brewery’s reputation. Cue Flaviu again:

Quality expectations are so relative, especially in such an untrained market! But, I do believe that quality should be one of the reasons one would pay the [extra] money for. All breweries in Romania have put out batches they are not very proud of, but I’m not talking about that; the thing is this shouldn’t be a habit, that’s what makes the difference. And yes, I have refused to put beers on menus because of low quality.

And yet, many breweries to this day that are labeled craft have hit and miss beers. Many improve throughout the years, while with others, the quality tends to degenerate over time. As a result, breweries that were considered pioneers of craft in Romania, such as Clinica de Bere, are now being labeled as mediocre artisan breweries that can’t keep up with the trends. Other examples include Kutuma, who had a hard time recovering from a disastrously poor debut range; or Nemțeana, who have in the past sent out beer before it has finished fermenting in order to meet demand; or Bere Sara and Urban Brewery, which have had a general decrease in quality over the years. However, Bereta have also pushed out beer with defects (such as oxidation), and Hop Hooligans have released beers that raised a few eyebrows in terms of of expected quality. Looking at it this way may seem demoralizing, but there is an interesting point to be added from Jeff:

In the US there has always been an implication that craft beer was higher quality, but this was basically BS (or perhaps a sales pitch). Quality, as measured by consistent product and biological purity, has always been higher among the bigger breweries where the equipment is better and the quality testing and labs were top-notch. What craft breweries in the US had that the big breweries didn’t was an interest in tradition and flavor. The US [was] only briefly a good beer country, and that was when millions of Bavarians came here in the 19th century and brought their great beer. Prohibition of alcohol in the early 20th century wiped out beer culture, and it was replaced by a monoculture of mass market lagers – and that persisted for decades. By the late 1970s, Americans literally did not know that anything but mass market lager existed. Craft breweries didn’t bring quality (many of them made pretty bad, amateurish beer, actually), but they brought back an interest in the traditions and styles that were lost.

Which ties us in with the next aspect:

Traditional

Romania’s brewing tradition revolves around lagers, which we have adopted as a result of German influence (same with the use of hops, which was introduced by the Transylvanian Saxons – sași – in the 14th century). Given the fact that we don’t have a set of local styles per se, it’s only normal that many breweries will brew bottom fermenting beers, in accordance with former brewing trends as well as consumer preferences. 

This, however, begets the question of why breweries that mainly focus on traditional styles get a sidelong stare from the beer geeks, who prefer their craft breweries jumping head first into making IPAs and imperial stouts. It is perhaps due to a curious coincidence, with many breweries that go for traditional styles also seeming to suffer from a lack in quality, which later translates in their approach of IPAs, for example. It’s also very possible that this is due to the fact that lagers and Pilsners are two styles preferred by macro breweries, however, that shouldn’t mean that a brewery that mainly goes for those is less craft. Take Lăpușna for instance, who still use wood stoves for mashing and boiling, or who have pretty much their own yeast strain by this point, after years of brewing with it.

When referring to ‘traditional beer’, many consumers seeking to switch to craft also associate it with ‘natural, unfiltered, unpasteurized’, tied in with in with Reinheitsgebot and using only malt, hops, yeast and water for making beer. However, none of those three terms are intrinsic to craft, be it in Romania or elsewhere. ‘Natural’, for example, is a very loose term – for example, enzymes used in macro breweries are natural, and while they are used to speed up the brewing process, they have become acceptable in styles such as brut IPAs. Many of the hop varieties used in craft beer are the result of selective crossbreeding, and so are a lot of the yeast strains – should this mean that, as far as consumers are concerned, only beer brewed with noble hops and the most basic strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae can be considered craft?

Going back to translation difficulties, many Romanian beer drinkers associate the word ‘unfiltered’ with cloudy Hefeweizens, as opposed to the practice of removing hop particles, yeast and other particles from the finished brew. However, while any IPA made by a craft brewery in Romania is unfiltered by default, untrained consumers will encounter difficulties in understanding it because of its association to wheat beer, which can cause difficulties in properly appreciating the style. As for ‘unpasteurized’, it is worth mentioning that, although it is not a standard practice, there are some craft breweries that do pasteurize their beers that are sold via supermarket chains.

On the other hand, many of the breweries that are considered craft are predisposed to using adjuncts, such as fruit, as well as copious amounts of dry hopping. Adjuncts, as well as dry hopping, not only increase the price of beer, but also impact the stability of the packaged product, and as more and more Romanian craft breweries aim for a spot on supermarket shelves, they are also making life difficult for themselves in terms of quality and shelf life because not all of them pasteurize.

We pitched this train of thought to Stan, who confessed that: ‘I am a fan of creating delicious beers with the simplest of recipes’. In a way, he is right: a craft brewer should be able to produce excellent beer with the 4 main ingredients, without needing to quadruple dry hop or add fruit, which may sometimes hide any potential off-flavours. This also correlates with a recent Beervana article about the alleged difficulty in brewing a Pilsner, and a certain consensus that ‘Poor beer is distinguishable from good beer no matter the style, and the fact that a brewer should be confident enough in their craft to successfully tackle any style. Which takes us to the next point:

Qualifications

Funnily enough, the general consensus seems to be that brewing classes are not needed to be a good brewer, and that many successful craft breweries were started off by homebrewers. However, there are many cases in Romania where you see breweries being opened by someone with no prior brewing experience, because craft beer is a trendy business opportunity in a very young market, but the resulting product is often subpar. As Stan points out in our interview:

Some of the most delicious beers in the United States have been created by brewers whose only previous experience was making beer at home. But the ones who manage to remain in business after five years, ten years, have either [taken] courses to gain the knowledge they need to produce consistent, high quality beers or hired people expert in areas in which they aren’t. Usually they have done both.

Lars positioned himself at the other end of the spectrum, and when we asked him whether a brewer should have some form of qualifications for their beer to be considered craft, his answer was:

I think whether it’s craft or not is something you can taste. You don’t need to know anything about the brewer at all to decide if it’s craft. I also don’t think the beer needs to be good to be craft. You can brew in the American tradition and still make terrible beer.

It is worth mentioning that there are currently no accredited brewing classes available in Romania. What is more, given the fact that there is no equivalent for it, the Ministry of Education does not recognize brewing certificates obtained abroad. This means that someone who trained in brewing in the UK, for example, can frame their diploma and hang it on a wall for decorative purposes, because it has no value as far as legislation is concerned.

On the other hand, universities of agricultural sciences do have classes on food production, and the curriculum asks students to do practice sessions in factories. Some students chose dairy manufactories, some chose breweries, and while it’s not much, it does help give people with an interest in brewing an opportunity to get acquainted with the process. In some cases, this side of the curriculum has even resulted in the students themselves contributing to recipes that were later added to a brewery portfolio, as is the case of the Whisky Porter from Bere a la Cluj.

Innovation

There are two aspects to innovation, concerning both brewing practices, as well as styles tackled. As Jeff sees it:

Innovation is a double-edge sword, and it’s been fascinating to watch it become such an important buzz word. Going back [in US] history, the early craft breweries were dead-set against innovation. They hated it. They wanted to bring back tradition. To them “innovation” meant gadgets and ingredients to make beer more consistent, easier to make at a mass scale, and less flavorful. (They were correct on all counts.) For decades “innovation” was nothing anyone aspired to. But when America began developing its own beer culture focused around hops, all of a sudden they began to brew in entirely new ways. American brewing (using hops the way we do) was itself an innovation. By around 2010, breweries were all trying to get ahead of the curve and come out with new beers that pushed the envelope in the direction customers were demanding, and that’s when they really began focusing on innovation. Now there are a million techniques for infusing beer with hops, and many hop products to help out. So it’s come full circle […].” 

However, as the equipment manufacturing industry changes in order to breach into the craft market, smaller breweries now also have access to high quality equipment, and that doesn’t make them less craft. The days of open fermentation and beer with a shelf life of 9 to 14 days are a thing of the past in Romania, and while Cazino still make and package their beers in an olde worlde fashion, to do so is often detrimental in a capitalist market. 

A very important point to add here is a 2018 Beervana article, which extrapolates on Alex Langland’s book on Cræft and brings forth an interesting debate regarding just how craft a beer made using machinery really is, as well as whether corporation-owned breweries are closer to cræft due to their historical background and long brewing practices (such as Fuller’s).

Innovation also applies to styles, and as Lars points out, this is beneficial for countries with a limited range of native traditional styles, such as Romania.

As I remember Romania 10 years ago, you had basically only lager beers. In that case I think an expansion of the brewing scene to include US influences is good. It means people get more choice, and I can’t really see that any diversity or interesting beer culture is lost that way. So in that case it seems like pure gain to me.

An increased range of styles does make the market more interesting, and it’s also worth noting that craft breweries also put a personal touch on an established classic. But does innovation in terms of style threaten more traditional and regional styles? If all craft beer had to be innovative, the beers produced would be in a constant state of flux, with styles ebbing away and transforming into something new month by month. In this theoretical situation, long established styles such as Czech Pilsners, English ales, Irish stouts, and Belgian Dubbels, would stray far from their origin until they are unrecognizable. Some Romanian breweries, such as Oriel Beer, do tread very carefully around this particular topic, and insist on the fact that the beers they make are their personal approach to the style: for example, they refer to their Dubbel as an Oriel Dubbel.

While some brewers do honour these classics, it can be argued that in doing so, they are also inadvertently running the risk of diluting their cultural value. As an example, brewers in Köln aren’t overly pleased that their iconic Kölsch is being brewed around the world, and being transformed into something almost unrecognizable in the process.

Funnily enough, this exact trend has helped save many dying styles, such as Gose, which is now enjoying a newfound popularity. Many modern Goses, or Berliner Weisses, are probably a far cry from their roots, but it is the innovation of brewers adding fruit and other adjuncts to compliment the tartness of these styles, that has ensured their success over the last few years.

Transparency and Integrity

These two are interesting points to add, particularly for the Romanian market. As a former Communist country renown for its corruption, the craft beer industry should aim to make itself exempt from that label. This is particularly relevant in the light of businesses opening just for the sake of profit, as well as the surge of macro breweries labeling their products as ‘craft’. The ‘natural, unfiltered, unpasteurized‘ trio has been liberally brandished by many macro breweries when they started breaching the market with a faux-craft portfolio. However, many craft breweries also refer to these key characteristics when marketing their products as well. You will find the trio printed on labels and on banners, but at the same time, it can result in having negative connotations through association. 

The ‘human touch’ should also be a key aspect in terms of defining craft beer. Aggressive marketing campaigns and corporate speech are the trait of macro breweries, so craft breweries should aim for the opposite. They should display transparency in disclosing all ingredients used, be clear about the beer style (rather than just naming it ‘bere artizanală nepasteurizată‘), and be open for communication with drinkers themselves rather than delegating a spokesperson. In a (somewhat antiquated) article from Boak and Bailey the following key traits for craft beer are mentioned:

[…] The brewers have their names and/or faces on the website or packaging. There are identifiable individuals making the beer. They might even be contactable on Twitter or through their own blogs. […] There are signs of innovation led by the brewers rather than marketers or management. The brewers are the management.

When we asked Jeff what his opinion is on whether transparency and integrity should be quintessential traits for craft brewing, he said:

Those have become untenable in the US. […] I hope Romanians start from scratch and think about what good beer is and how good beer should be made, and then consider how to measure that. You could do a lot worse than transparency as one of those criteria.

Seeing that the Romanian craft beer scene already follows the US model quite closely, it would be good to see that they also follow them in their approach towards integrity, ethics, and impact on the environment. Which brings us to:

Sustainability

This is an aspect that almost borders on the futuristic, as far as Romania goes. In terms of being more environmentally friendly, it’s questionable whether the majority of craft breweries in general do have a lower carbon footprint. Across the globe, many craft breweries use renewable energy sources, local water and recycling systems, but Romania is not there yet.

In contrast, it pays for macro breweries to be, incidentally, as environmentally friendly as possible. The less water they use, the lower their costs. They waste nothing, and even harvest, clean and reuse CO2 produced during fermentation. Obviously, they still consume huge quantities of energy due to their sheer output, but they streamline their processes to reduce unnecessary energy waste.

Recycling is another tedious affair, even when it comes to glass. Most macro breweries have designated distribution services to ensure that the beer bottles they send out to bars and shops are taken back to the brewery once emptied, where they are stripped of labels, cleaned, sanitized, and refilled. For craft breweries, who do not have this sort of infrastructure just yet, recycling comes down to the consumer making sure that they separate waste responsibly. A lot also depends on a craft brewery’s ability to invest, as it is also seen in the use of kegs: macro breweries can afford to buy and clean Sankey kegs, which are reusable, as opposed to the one-way plastic kegs which are cheaper, and more common with craft breweries.

Sustainability is also tied to the ingredients used. Most Romanian breweries rely heavily on US or New Zealand hop cultivars, and use malts from Germany or the UK. There are a couple of reasons for this. Local hops (mainly noble hop varieties) do not have the flavour profile the brewers are after, while the local malts do not have a sufficient range to cover all brewers’ needs (they are mainly base malts). Also, the vast majority of malt produced in Romania is sold to macro subsidiaries, with a very small percentage going to smaller entrepreneurs (such as Nemțeana and One Beer Later, which are one of the few breweries in the country consistently brewing with Romanian malts).

Hops are a problematic topic, because Romania’s annual yield is too small to accommodate an increase in demand, and what is harvested is sold primarily to macro contractors. In a report by AgroIntelligence from March 2019, Acațiu Mora, CEO of the largest hop growing business in the country, points out that: ‘Given the beer demand in Romania, we don’t [produce] as many hops as required. In Romania, there are 500 ha of [farms] with support system for hops, out of which only 286 ha are [in use]. This represents only 11% of a total estimated at 2500 ha, to ensure the country’s hops needs.’ One must bear in mind that these figures refer strictly to the quantities needed for macro breweries.

There have been, however, noteworthy initiatives in terms of sustainability. The fact that aluminium is easier to recycle than glass was one of the decisive factors for Hop Hooligans switching to cans in 2018. Also in 2018, craft breweries have offered their backing for WWF Romania and their initiative to ensure the quality of water. Kutuma have started contemplating growing their own hops by securing a piece of farmland with local hop growers, while Wicked Barrel have recently released a Saison that showcases their own homegrown hops.

You can argue that if we all drank craft, there would be lower energy consumption, though, if it were down to craft breweries alone to produce the same quantity of beer as the macros, it’s likely the carbon footprint would be much bigger. Perhaps cutting down energy usage and becoming more environmentally sustainable is a goal all breweries should strive for. Craft beer is a modern product, and it requires a modern attitude from both brewers, as well as consumers.

But who defines what craft beer is?

Everything discussed so far does beget the question of just how much is the definition of craft set by consumer practices. Romanian law does not have a definition for ‘craft’, nor is it clear whether it should. At the moment, breweries that are craft are simply labeled as ‘microbreweries’, for sheer legislative purposes. 

According to the Wittgenstein effect, the meaning of a word is determined by its use. If macro breweries keep labeling their beers as ‘craft quality’, this can cause great damage to the industry image early on, and the real craft breweries can have a difficult time correcting preconceptions. Admittedly, and especially for a market as young as Romania’s, macro breweries are, albeit in an indirect way, aiding the industry by raising awareness for styles that are new to the market. One such example is the release of Bergenbier Ale in 2015, which introduced the unassuming public to a style the vast majority of beer drinkers in the country are not familiar with, but which is quite favoured by craft breweries. 

The questions raised so far in this article are open-ended, but the goal is to have the points mentioned above materialize into something tangible and also irrefutable: a craft beer seal. And it looks like there’s already some progress in that regard. 

In January of this year, 17 brewers met in Brașov to discuss craft beer in the country, in a meeting organized by The Board of Trustees for Independent Businesses. The Board has been around in its current variant since 2004, but its main focus has been smoothing out the bureaucratic processes in the craft beer industry. Among the topics discussed in Brașov was craft beer and what it actually entails, and while a seal was not properly addressed, they did admit to the fact that it is one of their end goals.

Later this year, in April, the Pils brewed by Sikaru started displaying The Craft Beer Producers’ Association‘s logo on the label (Sikaru being one of the five founding members). While it is good to finally see some progress on the Association’s part, it does raise the question as to why the ‘seal’ only featured on just two labels (the Pils and later the Vienna Lager), and whether it will soon be picked up by the other members as well.

We started our research for this article in January 2019, but have postponed publishing it because there always seemed to be something looming on the horizon, something that would be the turning point for the industry. But such things are only possible to assess in retrospect. When you are caught up in events that are still unfolding, it can be difficult to set a reference point for the bigger picture. Who knows, in several years’ time, we might look back on this year, or the years before, and be able to say ‘There it is, the moment that changed everything!’.

But for now, it is important to set down some guidelines for what craft truly entails simply because the industry is so young in Romania, and we have a very rare opportunity to start off on the right foot. Not just in terms of branding and marketing, but also leaving an example for the future, and making the industry sustainable in the long run. 

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