10 Questions for Zăganu Craft Brewery Founder Laurențiu Bănescu

1. Please tell us about who you are and what you do.

I am Laurențiu Bănescu, one of the founders of Zăganu Craft Brewery, founded in 2013 and a pioneer of craft beer in Romania since. We produce in Măneciu-Ungureni locally crafted, naturally fermented, fresh, unpasteurized beers.

2. Share your backstory with us. How did your business or organisation come about and what was it that switched you on to this area in the first place?

I worked for 11 years in several FMCG multi-national companies, while Alexandru, my associate, has worked in the advertising business for 13 years, when in 2012, we got together at a friend’s birthday and decided to start owr own business. 

Our mission became to create a 100% authentic, Romanian, craft beer brand. The switch was the need to be independent on one hand and partly the frustration that there were no local craft beers on the market. We wanted to revitalise the craft beers in Romania.

So, in 2013, we decided to buy an old, abandoned microbrewery and contribute to revitalize this long-forgotten sector. After a few months of investments, Fabrica de Bere Buna started producing the Zăganu beer brand was – an independent, 100% Romanian, “uni-national” craft beer brand, with a proud production of only 0,0049 million hectoliters of good beer per year. 

Our beer brand comes from Zăganu-the bearded eagle in Romanian and a nearby mountain peak. Zăganul is a majestic bird that has been hunted down to extinction over 80 years ago. 

We found the story similar to the over 100 small breweries that were producing in the 90’s that have shut down due to pressure from the multi-national companies. We wanted to bring back Zăganu and the tradition of locally crafted beers.

3. What do you think or hope the future has in store for you and your business? Where do you see yourself or your organisation five years from now?

I hope due to our efforts of constantly promoting craft beer in Romania, the future is bright. The market looks completely different form 7 years ago, when we started. The consumers are changing from dull, industrial beers to more aromatic, fresh, unpasteurized craft beers produced by local passionate entrepreneurs. I hope the market will reach at least 1.0-1.5% in 3-5 years and from there continue to increase its share, supported by the micro-brewers community.

4. How has lockdown been for you and for your business and what have you done that has helped you personally and professionally?

I have to say we are living interesting times that were not predictable at all. First of all, we tried to secure our business, keep it alive and take care of our people in these harsh times. 

Personally, I think it has been also a test of character for most of us, also a chance to get to know better ourselves and the other around. I took a chance to read quite a few books, go biking, watch movies, make a few getaways in nature when possible, while keeping away from all the negative vibes, fake news and paranoia that has surrounded us.

5. What’s your take on Bucharest and Romania. What are the highs and the lows in your opinion? 

I am an optimist; I think despite the slow developments we are moving forward, and I also believe it’s our duty to push forward in any way we can. 

I love Bucharest, I think it’s such an eclectic and interesting place that it will soon be a favorite touristic destination soon, as it has so much to offer form food, bars, entertainment, parks, etc.

6. What is your must do/must visit/favorite thing to do or show off to visitors here in Bucharest and Romania at large?

Experience everything about the local flavors: food, craft beers, wines. Visit our beautiful mountains and countryside, stay at local homestays and pensions.

7. What is your number 1 recommendation now for a book/film/series/app/ or gadget?

Stanley Kubrick and Gaspar Noe movies. The Subtle Art of Not giving a F*ck by Mark Manson.

9. Sum up your business in one sentence, what it is and why should people engage with it.

Authentic Romanian craft beer made by the people, for the people.

10. Describe your Romania in one word

Surprising.

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