Keeping it local in Sibiu

Our first foray into Romanian craft beer in Timișoara had been a revelation; we’d discovered some great local breweries like Bereta, plus some national names such as Hop Hooligans. We’d heard, however, that we might want to lower our expectations a little for our next stop in Sibiu. Just like in the rest of Romania, the beer scene has really started to kick off around here, but although a few small breweries have popped up in Sibiu recently, none of them have gained much of a reputation just yet. To us though, this seemed like the perfect reason to go and give them a try.

As well as the opportunity for new beers, we were looking forward to visiting Sibiu as we had our first visitor for a while, Poppy’s dad. Poppy definitely gets her love of lager from him, though he isn’t quite as big on craft beer – yet anyway! It also turned out that the weekend we were there everything was happening: a street food festival, a photography exhibition and a huge free concert in the main square. Despite all this going on, we did manage to find some time to sample the local beer offerings too.

Sibiu is one of Transylvania’s seven ancient cities.

There were three main local breweries to look out for while we were in town: Nembeer, Urban and Bere Sibiu (usually known as SB). Having lined our stomachs at the street food festival, we headed off in search of some of them. Looking online, it seemed there was a distinct lack of pubs in Sibiu, with a couple of exceptions. Of the few we visited, St Andrew’s Scottish Pub was probably the highlight.

The pub may be Scottish in name, but its beer selection was a decidedly international affair. Alongside the German lagers and English bitters there was a small-ish selection of local beers, including both Urban and SB. It was fully my intention to try one of these but I must admit that another beer caught my eye. There were no regrets about opting for the Hop Hooligans Crowd Control (6.0%), a delicious, hazy New England IPA.

Local beer in St Andrew’s Scottish pub – apparently barely-legible chalkboards have made their way to Romania too!

So the search for local beer continued, but the lack of pubs meant different tactics were needed. The next day we headed to Hochmeister restaurant for some lunch. I wasn’t expecting restaurants to be the best place to find local craft beer; in many places we’ve visited the restaurants have only served the big national brands. It was a pleasant surprise then to see the whole Nembeer range on offer to enjoy alongside my braised duck leg.

Nembeer may be based in Sibiu, but the brewery was actually founded by an Italian and their beers have a heavy international influence. The selection included American IPAs and German pilsners but I went for Draculina, a 6.6% Belgian-style saison. It had the yeasty aroma you might expect from a saison, although the colour was a little darker than expected. On drinking it was very dry, which I liked, however the malt overpowered much of the flavour, which was a shame. Overall, a decent effort but I left hoping Sibiu’s best was still to come.

Local beer and folk dancing at the Astra Museum.

After visiting a couple more places with no local beer in sight, I started to wonder whether bottle shops might be the answer. We found a nearby shop online, Eco Zen Boutique, but unfortunately it was only open Monday to Friday. However, we discovered that they had recently opened a stall at the Astra Museum. Luckily enough, we’d already planned to visit for the folk festival that was taking place – ideal!

Ethnographic museums aren’t usually where you might look for decent beer, but this one was surprisingly good. Alongside the usual Hop Hooligans and Bereta, we spotted a couple of bottles from Urban Brewery hiding in the fridge. Urban started brewing in 2017 and their range currently includes three beers; a hoppy IPA (6.0%), a Belgian Dubbel (6.0%) and an Oktoberfest-style Märzen (5.5%). With festival season almost upon us, I opted for the latter. It offered a nice balance of sweet malt and a mild hop bitterness, not a groundbreaking beer but a solid accompaniment to the folk music and dancing.

We finally found the elusive SB at Lili’s Café.

Now there was just one brewery left to find, SB. I was just starting to lose hope when another restaurant came to the rescue. We headed to Lili’s Café for a Romanian feast of soups, cured meats, bread and cheese, and there on the drinks menu we spotted the elusive SB. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity and went for the Brunetă, a 6.0% dark lager. With its roasted malt bitterness and medium carbonation, it complemented the rich food nicely. We finished up and headed off to enjoy the concert in the main square. I can now safely say that Romanian music isn’t really for me… the beer on the other hand I am very much getting on board with!

I’m in Sibiu for the day, where should I visit? It’s not often you get to combine beer and history, especially not good beer. The Astra Museum was well worth a visit for the interesting buildings alone, but the craft beer stall made it unique.

Brewery to look out for? Of the local breweries, Nembeer had probably the most interesting and varied range. However, I preferred the Urban Märzen and will be keeping an eye out for the rest of the Urban beers.

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