First up, an apology to everyone who’s been waiting far too long for this article to arrive. Poppy and I have actually been back in the UK for nearly two months now. Catching up with friends and family and volunteering at various beer festivals around the country has meant we’ve been a little distracted. But fear not! The last few articles about Romania and Moldova will be coming soon, starting with this one…
Romania so far had been a wonderful surprise in terms of the range and quality of craft beer. Having tried a variety of different breweries from smaller cities like Sibiu and Timișoara, we were very excited to see what the country’s capital would have in store. As it turns out, there are currently about 15 breweries and gypsy brewers based here; plenty to keep us entertained for a few days! We spent our time in Bucharest wandering around the city, keeping an eye out for as many different beers as we could find.
Ground Zero were one of the very first craft breweries in Romania, so it seemed fitting to start with them. Their beers can be found in all of Bucharest’s best beer bars, but we decided to try them at the source. They recently moved to new premises a short metro ride out of town, near the business district. Hangar Gastropub, formerly a warehouse, now boasts 18 taps as well as fresh food made on site. When we visited on a Monday lunchtime half of the taps were sadly out of action. However, what was on offer was admittedly pretty good. We enjoyed a couple of IPAs, Morning Glory (6%) and Split the Pot (7%).
Another of Romania’s craft pioneers was Sikaru, founded in 2015 by a Frenchman living in Bucharest. Much of their beer is sold in bottle form, and can actually now be found in quite a few supermarkets. Finding them on draught can be a little harder, but earlier this year the brewery opened their first tap room right in the heart of the Old Town. Craft și Draft offers around 7 or 8 Sikaru beers on tap, plus one or two guests. There’s also an extensive bottle list featuring brewers from all around Romania.
One brewery on said bottle list was Oriel. The brewery owners are two locals, but they exclusively create Belgian-style ales. Inspired by classic Trappist beers such as Rochefort, La Trappe and Westmalle, their dubbels, tripels and quads are a pretty good match for the originals. Poppy had loved one of their beers back in Timișoara, and here in Bucharest we found the biggest range at The Beer Institute. Inconspicuously located inside a Carrefour supermarket, this bottle shop sold craft beers from all over Romania. All the big names were there of course, but there were also offerings from smaller names like Anagram and Dead Men Hops.
Both of the above breweries are gypsy brewers; brewers without their own kit who therefore need to borrow somebody else’s. As it turns out, both Anagram and Dead Men Hops borrow from the same one: Three Happy Brewers. The three aforementioned cheerful brewers are one Belgian and two Italians who took up brewing in Bucharest back in 2017. Last year, the brewery hosted a beer garden where drinkers could enjoy their wares. Unfortunately this has been closed during 2019, so we had to look elsewhere.
In the end, we actually found their beers quite by accident in a Parisian-style rôtisserie restaurant. As well as delicious chicken baguettes, Galli, just off the Piața Amzei, offered a small range of locally-brewed craft beers. I sampled the Three Happy Brewers Carioca (5%), a delightfully hazy, juicy pale ale. When we came across them again in The Hop, Poppy tried their Belgian Enkel (4.8%), a light, refreshing Belgian blonde.
The Hop is one of four craft bars next door to each other in the Old Town on Strada Gabroveni. One of these, Bere și Bere, turned out to be by far and away our favourite pub in Bucharest. The friendly owner was passionate about craft beer and the bottle list stretched to almost a small book. It’s safe to say that our daily budget took a bit of a hit as we treated ourselves to all sorts of beers from around the country. It was also one of the few places in Romania we found British craft beers such as Cloudwater. One local brewery the owner personally recommended was Perfektum, a small producer specialising in IPAs.
By now, we only had a handful of Bucharest breweries left to find, one of which was White Collar Brewing. I’d read online that they provided the house beer for Zeppelin Pub, so that’s where we headed next. When we arrived we found the draught beer was unfortunately off. Despite this disappointment, the pub was actually one of my favourites. The fridge featured maybe the largest selection of Hop Hooligans beers you’d find anywhere, with all the classics such as Crowd Control (6% IPA) alongside the seasonal specials. (OK, they’re not technically from Bucharest as they’re based just outside the city limits, but it seemed remiss of me to leave out probably Romania’s most well-known brewery.) The pub itself was comfortable and warm too, but I don’t think Poppy was overly fond of the resident cats!
We did eventually find some White Collar beers on tap in The Beers. With no fewer than 30 beers on the taps, this was a great place to tick off some more smaller gypsy brewers too including Mystic Mash, another brewery borrowing the Three Happy Brewers’ kit, and Zburătorul, who brew at Ground Zero. Not far from here on Calea Victoriei, we visited our final pub of Bucharest, Romanian Craft Beer.
The bar is owned by Zăganu, a brewery based about 100km from Bucharest in Măneciu, but as the name suggests they offer beer from all around the country. These included many of the names we’d already seen, but also one more Bucharest brewery which had so far eluded us, Amon-Ra. This tiny 50 hectolitre brewery has recently started contract brewing at De Molen in the Netherlands, and could be one to watch.
Suffice to say, Bucharest did not disappoint on the beer front. The Romanian beer scene really is something to keep an eye on, with so many breweries doing good things. As we sat in Romanian Craft Beer, bags packed ready for our 10-hour night bus ride to Chișinău, we started to wonder what Moldovan craft beer might be like. Or indeed, whether we would find any at all! Only one way to find out…