By Robert Marshall
There was a time when it was possible to open a beer accompanied by satisfying noise of the cap easing of the glass rim of the bottle, swig the cold suds, sit back and enjoy. Beer appeared free of the verbosity that frequently flows when a bottle wine is uncorked. No aroma and flavour descriptors necessary for a drink that slakes the thirst of the working man. However, the times have changed and it is not uncommon for drinkers to smell, sip, and get into a serious debate over a beer’s body and balance.
The international craft beer movement is truly on the march falling in step with global trend towards more traditional, artisanal methods of production and locally brewed beers with a sense of provenance. Romania is no exception and has experienced a surge in the number of craft beer producers with more than 30 entering the market in the last 4 years, up from just 7 registered microbreweries in 2014. The growth in artisanal production is partly in reaction to the buyout of established Romanian labels by multinationals, which helped to create consolidated beer industry that operates on economies of scale – for example both your Guinness and Holsten, owned by Danish group Carlsberg are brewed, bottled or canned in Romania.
Most of the new generation of brewers are young and passionate entrepreneurs who, unhappy with the quality of Romanian commercial beers, began brewing at home and combined with a flair for design and marketing are gaining popularity on an increasingly diverse Romanian market. What differentiates these locally produced beers is not just the style – which embrace a range of different styles from light, refreshing pilsners to robust, full bodied stouts, but the brewing methods artisanal beers take from 12 to 48 days to brew.
5 beers to try and buy
HopHead – Pure C
This Cluj-based producer makes Pure C in the style of an IPA (Indian Pale Ale) and as the ‘HopHead’ name suggests you get a wonderful burst of hops, which impart bitter, zesty, and citric aromas and flavours. This is a beautiful amber coloured beer with a pleasant and refreshing balance of malt and bitterness on the palate with delicate floral notes.
Urban Brewery – Märzen
The big multinational breweries use enzymes to speed up the brewing process and make their beers in as little as a few days. Urban brewery beers are unfiltered, unpasteurized and are fermented over 23 days using 3 types of malted barley as well as hops. What you get in the bottle is delicious aromas freshly baked, wholemeal bread. Soft and smooth with a malty aftertaste that lingers in the mouth. From Sibiu, Urban Brewery is one of the newest microbreweries in Romania. Märzen refers to the style of beer that has its origins in Bavaria and is traditionally brewed in March (März).
ThreeHappyBrewers – AH si Szpunt Trojka
As well as the usual ingredients of malts and hops Szpunt is fermented with pomegranate so you might expect this beer to be vibrant pink with sticky, sweet grenadine flavours. In fact what you get is a beautiful, elegant beer; wonderfully easy to sip with an amber hue tinged with subtle salmon pink that shines through the glass. Three happy brewers is yet another new brewery, based in Crângași, București and makes a delicious range of different beers. Their philosophy is one that embraces recreating rare styles, reinterpretations of classic beers, and collaborations with other passionate brewers from around the world.
Ground Zero – Ticket to the stars
Ground Zero is one of the pioneers of the Romanian craft beer movement and often produces provocatively named beers with strong personalities
On the nose; sweet, rich and malty. On the palate; a nice, sweet balance, rich, round and robust with plenty of roasted coffee notes. At 12% ABV this Russian Imperial Stout is bitter and strong, and carries a higher price tag than your average beer. Aged for 6 months in used merlot wine barrels, from the Romanian winemaker Rotenberg, which gives this beer its deep colour and thick, long aftertaste
Hop hooligans – Sencha
As the attractively designed label suggests this beer is light and floral as drinking Japanese green tea. If you like exotic fruit aromas, but dryness on the palate then this is your kind of beer.
Hailing from Bucuresti, HopHooligans have replaced the usual ingredients of bitter hops with Sencha Tea Leaves to create this wonderfully refreshing beer. Served chilled, it is perfect meditation for a spring afternoon.
Robert Marshall is a Wine and Spirits consultant living and working in Romania since 2007.
Phography: Ioan Mitroi