Monthly review – November 2019

As the year draws to an end and the nights become darker, colder, and longer, you’ll find that you probably have much more time to spend reading our monthly reviews. And after months of bemoaning the absence of dark beers, it seems that this month we’ve been quite spoiled for choice. So, go grab a pint of something dark and strong, settle down under a blanket, and find out what’s new in the brewing world.

The harvest from a drunken haze

October had been a very productive month for Bereta and Hop Hooligans, who not only organized Haze Fest, but also had quite a few collaborations under way, and this month they got to reap the fruits of their labour. First to showcase their collaborative ventures were Bereta and Dry & Bitter Brewing Company, who got together for a groovy little number: a DDH IPA that is packed full of juicy, fruity hops, as well as that iconic Bereta hazy look. Their collaboration with Hop Hooligans and Alefarm show no shortage of hops either: this time, a chunky DIPA featuring hops from around the world: Mosaic, Callista and Kohatu. Last but not least, Supersonic, the Hooligan’s collab with White Stork, had a last minute soft launch at their mini-tap takeover at Mikkeller Bucharest. It looks good from afar, but if you couldn’t make the official release, have no fear, as cans will start being filled next week.

Keeping things international, after a long summer that culminated in the organization of Haze Fest, the guys from Bereta decided that a holiday was in order. Across the ocean they flew, landing stateside, to a land where they could sit back, and enjoy their favourite beer styles without worrying about brewing or events. Well, in theory anyway, and while we’re assured many brews were enjoyed, they couldn’t keep away from brewing, and ended up collaborating with New York’s Finback Brewery to create Knife Party, a sour double IPA featuring sumac, cherries and vanilla. The cans will land shortly, so keep your eyes peeled and don’t miss them! Here’s hoping that after a short break, the guys have been inspired to continue their amazing work for the Romanian craft beer industry in new and exciting ways. 

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We’re gonna take a stab in the dark and say that sours could very well become a Bereta flagship, after their IPAs (photo credit: Bereta)

Hop Hooligans have had a packed month, and when not busy releasing new beers, firing up the kettles for future brews or announcing attendants for next year’s edition of Haze Fest, they also popped in to Newcastle upon Tyne to see a man about a dog for a bit of a collaboration with Wylam Brewery – something on the juicy, hop bomb side of the flavour wheel.

Flying back to Romania now, and Double Drop Crew and Blackout Brewing also have a beer to show for in the aftermath of Haze Fest series of collaborations. Save The Rave is the first incursion into the realm of dark beers for Double Drop Crew, and while the reviews it received so far are somewhat mixed, we’re hoping it will encourage them to delve a bit more into roasted malts.

Collaboration nation

As the world of Romanian craft beer continues to evolve and mature, it’s great to see even more brewers open to the idea of collaborating with their fellow malt mashers and hop heads, and this month was no exception.

First of all, Anagram Brewing decided to capitalize on their newly formed friendships, and after bumping into Kofi Ti at this year’s Bucharest Craft Beer Festival, they decided to collaborate on an exciting new concept. Anagram’s Saison scarcely needs an introduction, and when combined with an artisanal tonic brewed by the first craft soda producer in the country, the result was sure to deliver. Sonic is an intriguing tonic and Saison mix, bringing together the best of both worlds: a thirst quenching treat, with herbal, peppery notes and a dry finish. Here’s hoping we get a taste of it again in summer!

Next we head to Târgu Mureș and the Bere Noah brewery. Noah is famed for excellent beers that are sold out as soon as word about them gets around, which means every inch of fermenting vessel space is prized. Now, head brewer Călin isn’t one for getting lost in a bubble, and this month saw him collaborate once again with Radu of Wicked Barrel. Together they tackled a notoriously difficult style, but one that is fitting for this time of year. After a brew day lasting almost 24 hours, Nymphetamine was born, an 11% Imperial Stout that promises to be dangerously addictive, and definitely seductive. Already almost sold out from the brewery, you can expect it to hit the shelves of your favourite bars and shops from January.

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Putting the ‘wicked’ in Wicked Barrel yet again: you know you’re up for an extreme brew day when Radu is in the house (photo credit: Bere Noah)

Return of the gypsy brewers

Wicked Barrel certainly haven’t been idle this month, and instead of patiently waiting for their own brewery to be complete, they’ve been back to their usual playground, torturing the equipment at Ground Zero. More on that in a bit, but first let’s see which other gypsy brewers have been active this month.

In Timișoara, Owl Brewery released their long-awaited second beer: Ashy, an IPA which features the ashy-faced owl giving you a non-judgmental sideways glance on the label. Brewed at Bereta and featuring Azacca, Cascade and sprinkle of Vic Secret, it is a deliciously fruity beer, with mango, pineapple and citrusy notes, and very little bitterness.

Meanwhile, Dead Men Hops headed back to Three Happy Brewers for their 4th beer. After debuting with Genesis, an easy going lager at 6% ABV, it seemed normal that their second lager would come about as an antipode. Nemesis stays true to its name, an Imperial Dark Lager weighing in at 7% ABV, while also turning the tables with a grain bill of dark, roasted malts, and an assertive bitterness.

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Back to the roots and bottom fermenting beers, this time with a dark twist (photo credit: Dead Men Hops)

In Cluj, November saw take 2 of the much anticipated collab between Blackout Brewing and Hopdrops. We were all immensely excited when we heard that they were getting together to brew a DIPA back in September, and equally saddened when the painful decision was made to dump the 500 litre batch down the drain after a yeasty mishap. Fortunately, the pair weren’t deterred, and recently returned to finish what they started, doubling the batch size in the process. Look out for Dopamine just before Christmas – it promises to deliver an extra dose of holiday cheer to your bloodstream!

Bold brew world

November has seen several brewers entering brave new territories, and the results have been wonderful. It was a busy month for Addictive Brewing, who brought us two new beers. First on tap was King Loco, a sumptuous Kölsch that adds a spin to this traditional German style with a very inspired addition of Hüll Melon hops, giving it a deliciously fruity and moreish dimension. Yet perhaps the most exciting release from Addictive was Bosco, a sour ale with blackcurrants that takes us on a trip down memory lane to Horia’s homebrewing days. What makes this beer truly exceptional is the fact that it is the first beer in the country that was allowed to turn sour as a result of spontaneous fermentation. No acid or additional cultures pitched, just the brewer trusting in the terroir of his native town working its magic. And you have to hand it to him, it was a pretty ballsy move, as wild yeasts can be temperamental when it comes to the direction they can take a beer into. Luckily, it all worked out for the best, and those around Cluj and Oradea have already had a chance to try this tart, acidic and fruit riddled treat on tap. Stay tuned for the bottled versions of both the sour and the Kölsch in the weeks to come!

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Bosco and King Loco, giving preconceptions a middle finger and taking craft beer into an exciting direction (photo credit: Sisters Cafe)

One Beer Later have also had an exciting month, and after brewing their first Imperial Stout last winter, they also decided to give barrel aging a go, because… well, as the name suggests, Because We Can. And they went all out with their BA range, releasing 4 different versions of their latest beer: rum, scotch, bourbon and brandy, each beer showcasing the unique qualities of the barrels used to mature it in. Expect a great variety of tasting notes ranging from caramel and vanilla from the bourbon barrel, a waft of peat from the scotch, oak and coffee from the rum, and dark fruits and chocolate from the brandy barrel. The label, featuring Beethoven, is on par with the brewery’s list of celebrities, albeit with a double entendre: it’s not just about the well known composer, but also about a rather famous Saint Bernard and the little barrel of cockle warming treats that is iconic for their breed (admittedly, not as far as the FCI is concerned).

Kutuma have also brought us some exciting developments this month, as they too have joined the barrel aging trend. Their seasonal imperial stout, Ortu’ Popii, is usually released around Christmas, but this year they set aside a 300 liter barrel from the Zetea distillery to give their beer a new dimension: something on the fruity side (expect plenty of blueberries in the mix), which will be released some time in May of next year.

Taking another step toward the darkside, Noah also announced their first non-collab dark beer: The Moonspell. Noah’s take on a stout comes in at a modest 6%, and will be one of the few relatively lower abv dark beers available in Romania. Like all of Noah’s beers, it has a personal twist to ensure it’s just on that fine line between being true to style and heading out in a new direction all together. Concocted under the moonlight, rumour has it that the brewer even cast a moonspell over the boiling black brew. All we know for sure is that it’s coming soon, and it’ll be worth seeking out.

While November has seen a lot of breweries heading in new directions, it’s nice to see the ever-evolving Bereta brewery taking a step back every once in a while. In fact, they’ve taken a giant leap back in time to relaunch their very first beer: Ai pi iei. Returning at the end of the month, the new batch is no simple remake, rather it’s a shout back to those early days and pioneering styles such as the West Coast IPA, but tweaked to showcase the characteristics that the guys have developed over the years. Bitter-sweet, it’s a reminder that looking back every now and then can propel you forward when the road ahead looks murky.

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An iconic little IPA, breaking the mould and setting trends since 2016 (photo credit: Bereta)

As for what’s coming next at Bereta, hang tight for Christmas when they hope to release the first dark beer they’ve brewed for the coming cold season. Featuring an intriguing list of ingredients including cardamom pods, oats, and cacao nibs, this sweet stout looks set to spice up your holiday season. Enjoy an early Christmas gift on Romania’s National Day, as the Taproom & Bottleshop introduces a variety of exquisite rums, the barrels from which will be used to kickstart the brand new Bereta Barrel Aging Program. There’s no information as to what will be going into those barrels yet, but you can be sure it’ll be worth waiting for.

There have also been interesting developments around the country, with a couple of breweries that have been quiet for some time bringing us some new releases. In Brasov, Mustața de Bere have taken a break from traversing the globe to announce their third and fourth beers, and with an unfiltered Bière Blanche, and a Bohemian Pilsner, set for release in the near future. Bere Artizanală Sibiu have also released the fourth beer in their range, a red ale that is mainly available around Sibiu, but will hopefully work its way across the country in the weeks to come. Also in the Transylvania region, Bere a la Cluj have added a new lager to their repertoire, brewed for the Eastride Delivery yearly get together. You can currently find it in Cluj at Planetarium, or at Lokal in Oradea, with hopefully more locations soon.

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Romanian customs authorities have a way of dallying, so until the launch is official, feast your eyes on the latest beer from Brașov
  (photo credit: Mustața de Bere)

Birthday shenanigans 

November has also seen several anniversaries across the board. Hop Hooligans marked their 3 years anniversary with a massive tap takeover at Hangar by Ground Zero, where 15 of their beers were allowed to take center-stage. Of course, an anniversary beer was in order, and Rites Of passage rose to the challenge: a DDH DIPA in typical Hop Hooligans fashion, featuring a hefty amount of Waimea, Nelson Sauvin and Amarillo, as well as a special nod to Maori traditions and their tā moko ritual, and its invitation to look to the future while also considering the teachings from one’s past. Past, present and future were all also honoured with a birthday brew day among their friends at Bereta and Ground Zero, and the public were more than welcome to pop in and have a nosey at how this anniversary collab went down behind the open doors at Ground Zero brewery.

Carol Beer have also donned their party hats this month, as they celebrated their 2 year anniversary. To mark the occasion, they not only ran guided tours of the brewery, but also provided their guests with special prices for their beers, a craft burger workshop hosted by AltFel, custom labels, a birthday cake, as well as the release of a new beer, their very first porter. And because it’s almost that time of the year when gifts start rolling, 10% of the sales made on the tickets were donated to a charitable cause.

Perfektum also marked 5 years since they opened this month, and invited everyone to join them at The Beers for the chance to talk to one of their founding members about the story of the brewery, their trials and tribulations, but also the successes they have enjoyed in the past half a decade.

Next month is already off to a celebratory start, as Wicked Barrel are doing an early release of their anniversary Piece Of Cake imperial stout tonight. This year’s release goes with a side of PSA, as they not only fondly recall all the exciting ways they’ve been tormenting Ground Zero‘s equipment since the first batch of The Black Pot, but also admit that they may have perhaps put a biiiiit of a strain on the bottling line. This thick, creamy, heavy brew seems to have resulted in some of the bottles not being filled all the way up, but alas, have no fear: prices will be adjusted accordingly.

Speaking of birthday parties, Oriel Beer also have their own second anniversary due in December, but in the meantime, they’ve had a very exciting month. Although we haven’t seen any new releases from them in November, Laurențiu and Ioana have been busy brewing the second batch of See The Light?, their collaboration with Wicked Barrel. This complex Belgian Imperial Stout is due to undergo a very special treatment, with two 400 liter Armagnac barrels already filled with what promises to be yet another delectable treat. In the meantime, it’s best to save the date, as December 15th marks not only their anniversary, but also the release of two new beers which are currently bottle conditioning – exciting times ahead!

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While most breweries are trying to find space for fermenting vessels, Oriel Beer are going for an old-school look for their place (photo credit: Oriel Beer)

When not busy turning their brewery into a veritable cellar and barrel aging station, Oriel Beer have also found time to enter one of the most prestigious international beer competitions. It goes without saying that their BA Quadrupel range is the most awarded craft beer in Romania, and after their Belize Rum BA Quad won the gold medal at the International Craft Beer Award in Germany earlier in May, this month it was time for the Mezcal BA to shine. Out of 1000 samples sent off from 38 countries, their latest version of Quadrupel won them yet another gold medal at the European Beer Challenge hosted in London. You can read the full background story on their blog, over here.

Looking over the list of this year’s EBC winners, we were greeted by a familiar, albeit surprising face: Szenttamási Aranykakas. This little contract brewery that is currently making its beers in Hungary took the judging board by storm, winning double gold medals for their IPA, stout and Altbier, as well as silver for their wheat beer. It is a curious turn of events for a brewery that has been on the Romanian market a little over a year, and we’re curious to see how their beers will grow, should they look to relocate.

December is usually a very busy time of the year, and we usually see a good amount of new breweries launch at the last moment – the fact that customs’ offices are wrapping up as they get ready for the holiday season probably has something to do with it. Folk in Cluj have been busy, and after brewing their first beer back in October, Propaganda Brewery is finally launching next week, on the 5th, with a very bold debut as well. Kronos is a Russian Imperial Stout delivering as many gifts as a certain trio of wise men: organic Cocoa nibs from Peru, vanilla from Madagascar, and a blend of Guatemala and Ethiopian coffee from Yume Coffee Roasters. We’ve already had a sneak peak from the fermenting vessel and it’s an absolute treat, so drop by next Thursday to check it out. 

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

Addictive Brewing:
Bosco – Blackcurrant Wild Ale – 6% ABV
– King Loco – Kölsch – 6.6% ABV

Anagram – Sonic – Tonic-infused Saison (collaboration with Kofi Ti) – 4.8% ABV

Bere a la Cluj – Eastrider – Lager (brewed for Eastride Delivery) – 5% ABV

Bere Artizanală Sibiu – SB Roșcată – Red Ale – 5.2% ABV

Bereta – Groove Generator – DDH IPA (with Dry & Bitter Brewing Company) – 6.4% ABV

Carol BeerPorter – 7% ABV

Dead Men Hops – Nemesis – Imperial Dark Lager – 7% ABV

Double Drop Crew – Save The Rave – Black IPA (collaboration with Blackout Brewing) – 7% ABV

Hop Hooligans:
– Rites Of Passage – DDH DIPA (3rd year anniversary beer) – 8% ABV
– Flightless – DDH DIPA (with Bereta and Alefarm Brewing) – 8% ABV
– Shock Therapy Version 21: Calista, Loral & Centennial – 6.5% ABV
– Supersonic – Coconut & lime IPA (with White Stork Brewery) – 5% ABV

One Beer Later – Because We Can – Barrel Aged Imperial Stout – 9.5% ABV
– Rum BA
– Bourbon BA
– Brandy BA
– Scotch BA

Owl BreweryAshy – IPA – 6.2% ABV

Three Happy Brewers – Coney Island – Session Hazy IPA – 5% ABV

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