Monthly review – October 2019

This month, it wasn’t just the leaves turning all the shades of the warmer colour spectrum, but the beers as well. It was about time too – after an IPA suffused summer, darker beers have finally come onto to the center stage. And to keep them company, we’ve also seen quite a few breweries take on some old school styles, as well as some new players joining the industry before the year is out.

The colours of autumn

Starting off with the long awaited dark beers, we were glad to see that Oriel Beer have finally released the fourth version of their Quadrupel, this time matured in Mezcal barrels. This batch of their award winning recipe was brewed about a year ago, and then left to work its magic in two 190 liter barrels of Mezcal añejo for 8 months. There, the melange of  six types of malts, two types of flakes, two types of hops, coriander seeds and a blend of Belgian yeast strains soaked up the fruity, herbal and peppery notes of the Mezcal, before spending another 3 months bottle fermenting away to perfection. As with anything from Oriel Beer, time is the ultimate secret ingredient, and as Ioana and Laurențiu describe their newest concoction, drinking it will make you feel like you’re in heaven.

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Of course, the Oriel Quad is far from completing its journey through various barrels from around the world, so here’s a sneak peak of the Ecuador rum version, brewed this month, and coming your way some time next year (photo credit: Oriel Beer)

Speaking of exquisite melanges, Oriel Beer also revisited their winter ale, and released its second variant this month. Though lower in alcohol than last year’s offering (9.5% ABV vs. the 11.8% ABV we had in 2018), Oriel Winter is an equally complex mix of cocoa beans, vanilla essence and Ceylon cinnamon, aged on apple and hickory wood chips.

Oriel Beer have been busy playing host to gypsy brewers in recent month, and October saw the launch of two new beers resplendent in their signature bottles. Starting off with Player One Brewery, who found it the perfect spot for pursuing their love of wheat beers. Back in July, they popped in for a brew day visit at Oriel Beer, and the result was a 5.5% Belgian Witbier called Wit Hazard, garnished with a bit of Gordon Freeman/G-Man on the label (seriously though, we think they missed a trick with not calling it Half-Wit, but then again, we can see why they didn’t).

Meanwhile, Blackout Brewing returned for a second visit, this time bringing his own recipe in. The result was Vintage Babe, a farmhouse ale that, at it’s 7% ABV, is deceivingly easy to drink (we’ve fallen for it at least a couple times already), and it also comes with a touching backstory (yup, the vintage babe on the label is very much real, and very much a babe).

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A beer with a classy bird on the label also needs some classy drinkware to keep it company (photo credit: Blackout Brewing)

While we’re talking about Blackout Brewing, it’s worth mentioning that a second edition of Quantum Suicide has been knocked up and is currently winding down its fermentation. Stronger, blacker, and featuring over 15 different types of malt, Adi also thought it’d be wise to brew up twice as much as last time, so there will be plenty going around. Expect a coffee version alongside the regular version in the next few months.

This month also saw the Tomești Hill Crafting Brewery resume their gypsy shenanigans, and while their red ale completely flew off our radar several months back, we were glad to get our hands on their newest release. The Black Suit is a classic beer both in name, and in style (dry stout), and it’s great to finally see a dark beer of the stout variety, that punches below the imperial weight class. At 6.2% ABV, expect an easy drinking stout, packing a hefty amount of roasted malt notes, and that old school dryness made famous by a certain toucan‘s favourite tipple.

On the topic of old school, one of this month’s main surprises comes from Hop Hooligans, who brewed their very first West Coast IPA (yeah we didn’t think there were any styles the lads hadn’t tackled yet either). Brewed for the Romanian band byron, this is a textbook example of how IPAs differ from pale ales: dank hops (a classic Centennial, Simcoe & Chinook combo), higher ABV, and a bit of crystal malt sweetness to reign in the hop bitterness. It’s also surprisingly clear, as far as Hop Hooligans beers go.

October was also a time for Anagram Brewing to return to the old West Coast, if not physically, at least in beer form. Meet Big Sur, a beer that takes us not only across the Atlantic, but also on a trip back in time, to the days of steam beer and the people drinking it. Now this is a style you won’t come across too often: California Common is one of those old school beers that speak of a time when brewing relied heavily on brewers’ ingenuity (in this case, lack of refrigeration back in the late 19th century CA, which prompted them to consider different brewing techniques and ingredients). For Paul, Big Sur is not just a tip of the hat to the brewing methods of old, but also to his time spent in the States, and particularly to Anchor’s Steam Beer, one of the first special craft beers he ever tasted. It is definitely one of the most curious beers we’ve tried this year: easy drinking, with a very mild bitterness (featuring Northern Brewer, and a sprinkle of Chinook in the dry hopping), rounded off by fruity yeast and a malty backbone, and bringing to mind the kind of beers you would enjoy after a hard day’s graft over a century ago.

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While we’ve never had a California Common before (seeing that it is quite a rare style), this beer perfectly captures the taste of nostalgia in a glass (photo via Untappd)

There has been no shortage of IPAs this month either. We’ll take a look at 3 new IPA offerings from Hophead a little later, but first, let’s head over to Bereta. Apart from 2 new beers that are part of their Call to Art initiative (featuring artwork from Ilustrescu and Kristina Malajmare), they’ve also been busy brewing with White Stork from Bulgaria. The results were a NEIPA (with hefty amounts of new generation hops, such as Azacca, Idaho 7 and Cashmere), as well as a one-off keg blend concocted for the White Stork Republic at Koncept (and as with most Bereta one-offs, it was a sour, this time with blueberries, quince, lactose & vanilla, fondly called Blue Balls). 

Hop Hooligans also added their very own one-off keg blend to this month’s line of releases: Crowd Out Of Control, a mix of their iconic Crowd Control and the temperamental Sourpuss (the raspberry variant), dedicated to the crowds attending Haze Fest (who, by the way, have been very much on their best behaviour). The Hooligans‘ collaboration with Bere Noah also went out to the masses this month, a NEIPA with peach and Carolina Reaper & Habanero chillies. Who’s A Good Boy (the name is no surprise, as in, really, you can’t talk Bere Noah without adding copious amounts of ‘dog’) is a curious brew, in which the sizzle of peppers slowly creeps up on you, leaving a pleasant tingling on the tongue that rather than being overpowering, matches the fruity, juicy hops perfectly. 

Besides playing with fire and debating who’s the best boye with the Hooligans, Bere Noah also found the time and space to host Wicked Barrel, the first gypsy brewer given clearance to brew at the tiny Târgu Mureș brewery. The result was NSFW – not that there are any beers that are SFW per se, unless your workplace is remarkably lenient, or a brewery. This double IPA certainly features influences from Noah, what with its hazy, full bodied goodness, though Wicked Barrel‘s touch is clear to see: a delightful malty sweetness rounds everything off, completely taking your mind off its 8% ABV.

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What better place to enjoy your newest beer, than in front of what will one day soon be your very own brewery? (photo credit: Wicked Barrel)

It also seems as if the Bicaz based gypsy brewer of Black Pot fame left an impression on Noah’s head brewer Călin, who put together his first dark beer this month. While details are scarce, it’s great to see Noah tackling something entirely different to their current range, and we can’t wait to try it!

While this month has seen many breweries return to the styles of old, Fabrica Grivița decided it’s time to switch gears and enter the realm of hazies, with its first hazy IPA. To celebrate, they went all out with a weekend event at the brewery, Crafts & Arts – Craft Beer Weekend, which also featured fellow colleagues from Clandestin, One Beer Later and Cidru Clarks. Admittedly, we’re a bit hazy (excuse the pun) on whether hazy IPA is really a style, but Grivița are not the only ones to have taken on this type of beer this month. Similar shenanigans have also been in place at the Plan Beer brewery, with their The Plan Beer Musical also brandishing the style on the label. Either way, one thing is certain: Romanian craft beer drinkers do seem to have a soft spot for hazy, hoppy beers, so it might just be that this whole hazy IPA trend really is where it’s at. 

Growing old gracefully

Moving on from the latest crazes, let’s take another trip down memory lane, this time stopping in Cluj at the Hophead brewery, where anniversary celebrations are afoot. Four years ago, Darko and Dana finally moved into their tiny brewery in a largely residential Cluj neighborhood. After years spent in the US developing a love for craft beer and brewing, they decided the time was right to introduce a new type of beer to the people of Cluj, a bold idea, as they were the first in the city to bring modern, US inspired styles to the unassuming public.

Needless to say, their gamble paid off, and in the 4 years since they opened their doors, the brewery has gone from strength to strength. So much so, that they will shortly be moving out of their humble nano brewery, and scaling up to a brand new 1,000 litre brew house, which they hope to move into by the end of the year. To celebrate 4 years of brewing, they decided to release 4 new beers, each one a recollection of various stages of the brewery’s growth.

Once Upon A Time is a DDH DIPA that pays tribute to their humble beginnings, a bitter and dry (due to the two yeast strains) beer that, like any success story, starts off as a mixture of dreams, tension, and bittersweet hope. OMG It Works is a Smoothie Pale Ale that sweetens the deal with the addition of mango and passion fruit, and, as Darko and Dana suggest, it’s meant as a reminder to stop taking yourself too seriously. Last but not least, their flagship IPA, Opium, also got its own anniversary attire on. While this beer gets a different topping of hops each year on their birthday, this year they went double on the dry hopping, adding both Centennial and Mosaic, to celebrate their life getting both more complicated, and more beautiful as time goes on. There’s one more beer due to launch and wrap up this story, so keep an eye out for it in November. 

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A beer is always better when it has a bit of background story – make sure to also check the back of these labels, while enjoying this exquisite anniversary range from Hophead Brewing

Hophead aren’t the only brewery to celebrate their anniversary in October, as this month marked 6 years of Zăganu. In that time, they’ve managed to become a staple on bar and restaurant menus across the country, opened their own bar, and supported numerous charity initiatives through their beer. This 6th year has also seen the brewery tackle a wider array of styles, indicating interesting things to come. On the first of the month, fans were invited to join the team for a pint or two at Fabrica de Bere Buna – Romanian Craft Beer Bar, and indulge in special anniversary prices all evening.

While Amistad Beer weren’t celebrating their own anniversary this month, the (currently) nano brewery from Bucharest managed to concoct something new and exciting as a gift to the iconic Burger Van, as it marked 5 years of action. They took their first foray into the world of lagers, though La Caliente is anything but traditional. Featuring 5 spices, including cardamom and Cayenne pepper, it’s a smokey, fiery treat that is the perfect partner for the juicy, flavoursome burgers made by the van.

Making an entrance

And after something of a dry spell over the last few months, October saw the launch of a brand new brewery. We first caught word of a brewery due to open close to Arad over a year ago, and have eagerly awaited updates ever since. About 4 months ago, Atelierul de Bere Zimand finally fired up its production line, and this month we got a chance to try out their beers. With a varied range of mostly traditional styles (Pilsner, Helles, Schwarzbier, Kölsch , but also an IPA), their beers are slowly becoming available by the bottle in the area, and hopefully we’ll see them in shops and bars around the country later in the year.

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All around old school: from the styles, the labels and the 500ml bottles, Bere Zimand enter the stage as a reminder that you can still get by with a traditional approach (photo credit: Bere Zimand)

As we spend quite a bit of time brewing in Cluj, we recently got a chance to take a proper gander at some interesting developments on the gypsy brewer scene, namely Propaganda, who took to the mash paddle at Bere a la Cluj and decided to push the brewery to its limits. Rather than going for an easy going first beer, brewer Alex designed Kronos, an imperial stout packed full of vanilla, coffee, and cacao nibs. After spending 22 hours brewing this monster, 2 weeks of fermentation, and 2 weeks conditioning before being hit with the special adjuncts, it’s currently maturing in the tank, and should make an appearance around Christmas.

Meanwhile, in Timișoara…

From new beers to new concepts, it goes without saying that Bereta have been productive since they started out, and perhaps the highlight of their productivity this month was Haze Fest, which they organized along with Hop Hooligans. Now, we’ve covered the event quite extensively in a previous post, but just for good measure, we’ll reiterate the fact that this was by far the most important craft beer festival to take place in Romania since craft beer festivals became a thing, and that it will very likely single handedly change the way both the public and event organizers will approach this type of festival in the future. With the second edition announced for April next year in Bucharest, and with super early bird tickets already sold out, we’re eager to see what the lads have in stock for us.

Yes, Haze Fest was great, but one of the best things about it is the fact that it has resulted in several collaborations between the organizers and the participating breweries. Apparently, a pilgrimage down south to the Hop Hooligans brewery was a must for some of them, so expect three different collabs in the months to come, featuring Dry & Bitter, Alefarm, and also (a second beer with) White Stork.

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Fun times, hop bombs in the making, and mad Photoshop skills on the Alefarm collab brew day (photo credit: Hop Hooligans)

Haze Fest was also a good opportunity for our local guys to get together, with Blackout Brewing popping in for a brew day with the Double Drop Crew. The result is one of the most elusive beer styles on the Romanian market: a black IPA, which should also be ready in about a week or so.

Timișoara has been at the top of this month’s list of exciting developments, with Owl Brewery finally announcing their second beer since July, an IPA dedicated to the ashy-faced owl. And while at the Bereta brewery, there’s also some intriguing news floating in the air. We’re not talking just 7 new fermenting vessels that are due to come into play soon, but also something round, aluminium coloured, and designed to be filled with beer. No official announcements yet (not unless, like us, you listen to a not so elusive podcast), but definitely something to get excited about in the future. 

And without further ado, here’s the list of this month’s releases:

Amistad Beer – La Caliente – Lager with cardamom, Cayenne pepper & black pepper (brewed for 5th anniversary of Burger Van)

Anagram Brewing – BIG SUR – California Common – 5.4% ABV

Atelierul de Bere Zimand:
– IPA – 6.5% ABV
– Pilsner – 5.0% ABV
– Helles – 4.6% ABV
– Schwartzbier – 4.6% ABV
– 
Kölsch – 5.1% ABV

Bere Noah – The Dreamer – NEIPA – 6.5% ABV

Bereta:
– IPA – DDH with Citra & Nelson Sauvin – 6.6% ABV
– Blue Balls – Pastry Sour with blueberries, quince, lactose & vanilla (one-off beer blend for White Stork Republic at Koncept) – 6% ABV
– Escape – NEIPA (with White Stork Brewery) – 6.2% ABV
– DIPA – DDH Galaxy, Vic Secret, Nelson Sauvin – 8.1% ABV

Blackout Brewing – Vintage Babe – Farmhouse Ale – 7% ABV

Fabrica Grivița – Hazy IPA – 5.2% ABV

Hophead Brewing:
– Once Upon A Time – DDH DIPA – 7.1% ABV
– OMG It Works – Smoothie Pale Ale with mango and passion fruit – 5.2% ABV
– Opium Anniversary – DDH IPA – 6.5% ABV
– Douchebag – NEIPA (brewed for brewed for Jaxx American Restaurant) – 5.25% ABV

Hop Hooligans:
Milky Sourpuss – Raspberry – Sour Ale – 4% ABV
– Crowd Out Of Control – Raspberry, vanilla and lactose sour ale (one-off beer blend for the 1st edition of Haze Fest) – 6% ABV
– Who’s A Good Boy? – NEIPA with peach and Carolina Reaper & Habanero chillies (with Bere Noah) – 6% ABV
– Anima – West Coast IPA (brewed for the band byron) – 6% ABV

Oriel Beer:
– Oriel Quadrupel – Mezcal BA – 11.5% ABV
– Oriel Winter – 2019 edition – Belgian Ale aged on apple & hickory wood chips, cocoa beans and Ceylon cinnamon – 9.5% ABV

Plan Beer – The Plan Beer Musical – Hazy IPA – 4.5% AB

Player One Brewery – Wit Hazard – Belgian style Witbier – 5.5% ABV

Tomești Hill Crafting Brewery – The Black Suit – Dry Stout – 6.2% ABV

Wicked Barrel – NSFW – DIPA – 8% ABV

 

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