This summer I’ve reviewed several of Jersey Shore’s best microbreweries, and now it’s time for the beer connoisseur to go international and write the first reviews of foreign craft beers. As I traveled to Romania, I had the opportunity to try out the young local craft beer scene. I have to say I was really impressed, especially when you consider that 2-3 years ago there were almost no such brews. Here are my thoughts, with reviews of the beers I tested.
It’s still not easy to find craft (or “artisanal” as they’re usually called in Romania) beers when going out. Even if there’s an outdoor bar almost on every street corner and you have Bucharest’s Old City with over a hundred bars (plus similar concentrations in the main squares of most other towns), they usually offer a few plain Romanian drafts and some local and European staples (mostly lagers and pilsners). If you’re lucky you might find some Belgian ales and, surprise! an IPA, but the Romanian beers are poorly represented.
Since I spent most of my time in the capital city of Bucharest, there are four places I’d like to recommend:
- The Beer Institute – this is The Source, the place, the one and only store in the country where you can find a wide variety of Romanian craft beers. It just opened in the summer of 2018 and from what I’ve seen it’s not very popular yet, because the locals are used to cheap light plain beers. Bottle prices are comparable to the American market, and most people there earn a fraction of what American workers do. But the Beer Institute is amazing… I only discovered it in the second part of my trip and I bought a varied selection so I can try out the Romanian breweries. It’s on Calea Dorobantilor, next to a Carrefour near ASE.
- Fabrica de Bere Buna (Good Beer Factory) is a small bar on Calea Victoriei, close the Athenee Palace, which seems to be the only place in town that does tasting flights. The bar is an outlet for the Zaganu brewery but they also offer beers from other Romanian breweries! The beers I tried were decent, especially the IPA, but they also had a blonde lager, a dark beer, a red Belgian ale and a pale ale.
- Beer O’clock is a bar in the Old City which serves over a hundred different beers from around the world, including many Romanian varieties. It’s a fun place if you also want to grab a quick bite while trying out some good brews.
And now let’s get down to the nitty-gritty and let me take a closer look at some of the best Romanian craft beers I tested:
- Zaganu IPA: A classic IPA with a strong taste and a good mix of hops (including Cascade and Citra).
- Ground Zero Morning Glory IPA: Has an interesting hop mix with a slight New England flavor, but the taste is a bit too saison-ish for me. Still, a nice one.
- Capra Noastra IPA: Coming from Iasi, it has rather Belgian-style flavors at 6.2%, and I thought it was very good.
- Oriel Blonde: Belgian blonde ale, which is very smooth and feels light (in a good way) for its 7%.
- Oriel Dubbel: Very good Romanian version of a Belgian dubbel ale, a strong 8%.
- Hophead Opium IPA: Coming from Cluj, it will first give you a strong Citra flavor and overall it has a strong, great feeling of hoppiness with its 6.5% alcohol.
- Hophead Trouble Gum: Made in colaboration with Hop Hooligans, it’s a nice Belgian-style IPA. It has El Dorado and other hops as well as Belgian yeast for that light Belgian flavor. At 6.5% it’s one of best Belgian-style IPAs I’ve had.
- Hop Hooligans Crowd Control IPA: Made in Jilava near Bucharest, this is one of the best known Romanian craft beers and I recommend it wherever you find it (I’ve seen it in several bars). Very good West Coast-style IPA with full bodied flavors, made with several hops including Citra, Mosaic and Simcoe. Yet at 6% it feels easy, almost like a session beer.
- Hop Hooligans Fist Fight: This is their actual Session IPA, very refreshing with soft flavors.
- Patos IPA: A hoppy beer from Snagov, containing Cascade, Citra, Mosaic and other hops. It’s a light beer at 5.7%, maybe too bitter to be a Session IPA but you can still enjoy several bottles on a hot day.
- Bereta “Ai Pi Iei”: This 6.3% beer from Timis wins the creative name award (it’s the phonetic form of I.P.A. in Romanian). It’s hoppy, it’s flavorful and it’s very good.
- Kutuma Neuron Double IPA: This is one of the rare double IPAs I’ve found in Romania. It’s pretty good, it has 8% alcohol and it’s coming from Cluj.
- 1717 Red Ale: A nice 5.4% light ale coming from Sibiu which almost feels like an abbey beer.
- Sikaru Summer Ale: Light and refreshing due to the Citra hops, 5.2%.
Besides these craft beers, I need to mention two more, which are made by mainstream breweries but don’t have the standard plain Romanian lager taste:
- Silva Romanian Pale Ale is light and tasty, and you can find it in many bars in Bucharest, sometimes in other cities as well. In many places it’s refreshing as the only drinkable Romanian option.
- Ciuc Weizen is even more common and it’s a decent Weiss beer which usually comes in 500ml drafts.