Romanian Beer Adventures Pt. III: Craft Beer Bars in Bucharest
Our good friend Shmupi is an avid Foursquare user. He is also a big fan of Belgian blond ales. And he is Romanian – born, raised and with grandparents in the homeland. His Facebook updates from Beer O’clock answered the first question we asked ourselves when Family Agent started planning the trip to Romania, which is, of course – the state of craft beer in the nation. Besides following Shmupi’s check-ins we visited Ratebeer.com and thus built a short but sweet beer itinerary for Bucharest: Beer O’clock, Beer O’clock 2 and La 100 de Beri. 3 bars, conveniently located within a few meters of each other, in the city’s old town, some 1o minutes walk from our hotel. The latter prides itself with 100 beers on the menu. The former’s website counts 165. Way more modest number than Delirium Cafe’s menu, much more extensive than any bar in Israel. We figured we’d find plenty of new things to drink there without being overwhelmed. Moreover, these places focused on being beer bars and not tourist attractions, or so it seemed from Shmupi’s check-ins and the reviews we read – suit us just fine.
The first bar we visited was La 100 de Beri. Just like everywhere else in Romania, the place is smokers-friendly and breathers’ enemy. No proper ventilation, but there’s a spacier room in the back that has more air and is more tolerable. Several beers on tap, including hand-pumped English ales and German and Czech representatives. The inventory does not necessarily corresponds with the menu – many beers were missing so after the 3rd attempt we just asked to look at the refrigerators, that stocked plenty of stuff that’s not on the menu, for example Engel Aloisius from Germany or Wychwood fruit beer. The staff is helpful and knowledgeable – they were nice enough to tolerate our beergeek idiosyncrasies: taking pictures, writing notes, peeling off labels and collecting caps. This is our favourite bar in Bucharest and after our initial visit on the first night of our trip we sat there twice more when we returned to Bucharest in the end of the trip. The staff recognized us on the third time; too bad we had to fly back just when we started to be regular customers. 3 visits, two heavy drinkers and one Californian Agent who joined us in our last session there – that means plenty of beer. In order to make this short and sweet, here are the beers that are listed in the 1001 book that we drank there:
Rychtar Premium 12 – a bottle of generic Czech pils; Stiegl Goldbrau – Austrian lager, fresh and bitter; Shepherd Neame Bishops Finger which was both beautiful and tasty; Orkney Dark Island – one of the few Orkney brews we sampled in the trip – robust, salty, roasty Old Ale with sausage, iodine and dried fruit taste; and König Ludwig Dunkel that obviously had gone bad (BB date April 2013) but tasted fine by me – grainy and chocolatey.
On the first night we headed to Beer O’clock after leaving La 100 de Beri. Bigger space, broader selection. The extensive menu includes rarities such as aged bottles of Trappist ales and Brewdog’s expensive editions such as Abstrakt and Tactical Nuclear Penguin. Despite the inviting menu we only stayed for one round: the place reeks of cigarette smoke in such a way that The Secret Agent’s eyes reddened and I had to go out to the cold street in order to smell my beer. I drank De Ranke XX Bitter, a fine Belgian Ale that we enjoyed a couple of years ago in Belgium and were happy to drink again and enjoy its toffee and citrus notes. We bought a bunch of bottles to drink in the following days and take home and left.
After traveling all over – in pastoral villages, touristic cities, small towns where the family’s from – we returned to Bucharest. On the first afternoon The Secret Agent and I split from the family and checked out Beer O’clock II, which is located in a small alley, filled with cafe’s and shisha lounges. At 4 or 5 p.m. the door was closed but the place was just opening. Sleazy heavy metal in the background, same extensive menu but due to the early hour and the fact that we were the first customers – no smoke. This bar is smaller than the mother ship, with a bar on the first floor and tables in the gallery. Looks less shiny but we liked it better because of the cleaner air. We hung out for a few rounds and drank a couple of beers from the book: Oakham JHB from England, tropical hoppiness and bitter with nettle-like finish that I liked alot, liked enough to order Oakham Citra that didn’t disappoint either. La Caracole Nostradamus is a pretty good Belgian Strong Ale that is very fruity in the nose and and tastes sweet and spicy. We ordered a couple of German beers that we enjoyed and Primator Double 24, a nasty, 10.5% abv. Czech Doppelbock that I simply couldn’t finish; it tasted like overly sugared coffee and alcohol.
So, what have we got here, count-wise? The bold-marked ones are beers #270-#278 I Must Try Before I Die. Noroc!