For the fourth episode of our weekly series, we’ll be speaking to Silviu Burtă from Bereta Brewing. For Silviu, what started off as an innocent collector’s hobby grew into a passion for brewing, and later opening one of the most community-oriented craft breweries in Romania. From classic beers to core-geek, here’s how it all started.
My beer story began probably in a different way than for other people. Since I was a child I enjoyed collecting different things. I am not sure why but beer bottles fascinated me. Maybe because they had interesting names and the labels looked like some kind of emblem. Anyways, that’s why I started drinking different beers in the first place, to collect the bottles. But at one point I found some beers that were different, and that started my curiosity to try as many different ones as possible.
This was one of the first beers I started drinking regularly, especially when it was available on nitro draft. Back in 2006 I was a freshman student in Timișoara, and there was an Irish bar where you could get it most of the time. I liked this beer because it had a really nice texture and mouthfeel. Also the amount of “bubbles” was just right for me, making it really easy drinking and quite tasty, especially for its low ABV. For me it was something truly different in regards of what I knew about beer. At that point I tried quite a few Belgian ales and German beers but those all had a similar feel to it. Guinness was different. I also bought the bottled version with the widget inside by the case whenever I had the occasion to share it with friends who appreciated it as well. I also have to mention Kilkenny here. I enjoyed it maybe even more (on nitro draft) than Guinness but it was rarely available. I didn’t really like the bottled version though.
Flying Dog – Snake Dog
Fast forward 6 years to the summer of 2012. That’s when I went shopping to Auchan and it happened to be during their yearly ‘Beer Fair’. The best way to trigger a collector is to put him in front of a shelf full of items he never saw before. I filled my cart with new beers and one of them happened to be Snake Dog IPA. When I tasted that beer I had my ‘Holy Shit’ moment that made me switch from drinking beer for collecting the bottles to drinking beer to discover new flavors. It was basically my first contact with flavorful hops. I didn’t know what I was tasting there, it seemed unreal that beer could taste like that. Snake Dog is a classic American IPA with all it’s iconic flavors like pine, resins and bitter citrus rind. I fell in love and immediately started researching beer styles and places where I could find interesting beer. It took my half a year until I put my hands on…
Russian River – Pliny the Elder
…the godfather of hoppy beers at that time. And it wasn’t an easy job getting it back then, especially shipping it to Romania. But I managed to get two bottles and boy, what an overwhelming experience it was… Pliny wasn’t the type of beer to jump at you with something in particular but it amazed me because of its perfect balance and extreme drinkability. Almost clear golden color, white head. Resiny, green, hoppy aroma. Really good combination of malt and classic hops with pine and grapefruit pith. Medium body and carbonation. Extremely drinkable and tasty. By today’s standards, this beer passes as a decent West Coast style DIPA, but back then it was something godlike. I had it multiple times since then and I still enjoyed it, but times were changing on the hoppy beer front. But until we jump into the haze (*wink*), there was one more milestone beer I have to mention.
Firestone Walker – Parabola
Vintage 2011 to be precise. It was early 2013 when I had it, after trying about 150-200 different beers since my first encounter with an IPA. It wasn’t the first barrel aged stout I had, but it was the first mind blowing one. I wasn’t really into double digit ABV beers because I didn’t enjoy the alcohol burn. Parabola didn’t have any of that, even at 13% ABV. After sitting for almost two years in the bottle, it was at its peak. I didn’t know that back then, but I realized it later on after drinking quite a few of its vintages. It was oily black with creamy, brown head. Aroma had dark malts, bourbon, caramel and butterscotch. Taste followed with the same notes, slightly sweet but not cloying. Big barrel flavor, with vanilla and toasted coconut. Heavy body with creamy mouthfeel. Really well hidden alcohol. It was a gem of a beer, extremely complex and elegant. The finest vintage I had was 2014, too bad it went downhill from there. This is probably the first stop down memory lane that has something to do with my journey towards opening a brewery. That’s because I had this beer together with Adrian, my colleague from Bereta. For him it was probably THE moment on his beer journey. Which takes us to…
Omnipollo – Fatamorgana
…the beginning of the Haze Craze. Not really on a global scale, but it was for me at least. I had this one in mid 2014, believe it or not, on my first ever hombrewing session, together with Adrian, already my constant drinking buddy at that point. We were brewing our first beer ever in his kitchen, a hoppy pale ale we called Citro (because of the Citra-Amarillo hop combo). And what do people do while brewing? Drink beer of course. One of the beers that night was Fatamorgana. I had some Omnipollo beers before and I liked all of them, especially Nebuchadnezzar, so I had some high expectations for this one. But when I poured the beer, something seemed wrong with it. Opaque pale yellow color and a weird head with abnormally large bubbles. The taste was also quite different with intense hops, highly aromatic and “green”, pretty bitter as well. It wasn’t really what we nowadays call “New England style IPA” but it was totally different, especially regarding the look and mouthfeel. It wasn’t until one year later that hazy IPA was starting to be “a thing” and I had my first “proper” New England IPAs. The first bunch included some Tree House and Trillium beers, the most impressive of them being Vicinity by Trillium. I had these beers together with Adrian, and Cristian from Hop Hooligans. Back then (2015) we were still doing homebrews in a friend’s garage. I’m pretty sure that those NEIPAs had a big impact on all 3 of us and made us want to brew something similar in Romania. And we did, about a year later.
Hudson Valley Brewery – Demiurge
After years of trying all kinds of beers (about 6000 at that time), it was difficult for a beer to impress me in any way. But it happened on October 2018. I got some Hudson Valley beers in a trade. I didn’t really know what to expect but I knew their beers were really hyped in the States. They were specializing in “Sour IPAs”, not really a new thing, but they way they did it was unique. From the four beers I had, Demiurge was the most impressive, but all four were amazing. ‘Tiki-Style Sour DIPA with raw wheat, malted oat, milk sugar, blackstrap molasses, pineapple, lime puree, and almonds, hopped with Mosaic and Azacca.’ This is the beer’s official description. Sounds like a mess, but it wasn’t. All the flavors were in perfect harmony, combining into a cohesive drinking experience. It was a big influence on some of the beers we made later at Bereta, for example Safe Spot Landing, Guilt Trip and the recent Colors of Light.
So, for now, these are 6 beers I think were cornerstones for me. Probably it will take some time until something truly different will pop-up, but who knows, maybe it’s just around the corner. Cheers.