An introduction of sorts:
In March 2013 the different branches of Family Agent went on a heritage tour in Romania, where Papa Agent is from. 12 days, 8 family members and one resourceful driver, one minibus, great (vegan) food, beautiful landscape and and opportunity to drink new beers. Other than learning about the availability of vegan food in the country, The Secret Agent and I had nothing to take care of; accommodation, itinerary and schedule were all set-up for us. All we asked was some free time to taste and drink beer (two completely different things, as any Ratebeerian can tell you). Relying on google and Ratebeer we mapped beer destinations in the country. Most of the beer places that caught our attention were located in Bucharest, Romania’s capital city, but it was as clear as a glass full pale lager that we’re gonna spend an evening in Constanta’s Bier Haus.
Romania’s popular Black Sea resort town was the last sight Papa Agent saw before getting on board of the ship that sailed him and his parents to Israel, back in the early 1950’s. In late March it didn’t look much different than other beach towns we visited off-season, be it Antalya’s city center, Cyprus’ Larnaca or places like Nahariya and Bat Yam at home: a little backward, a little neglected, somewhat deserted. Potential ruined by poor development. A deserted casino by the sea, Roman ruins filled with pop cans and plastic bags, a poorly-curated museum…
…and a place called Bier-Haus Constanta.
We’ve all been let down by deceiving resort pub names. Our Metal-head cousin is still traumatized by the English Pub in Cancun that served Corona, and only Corona and we still laugh about the English Pub we bumped into in our honeymoon in Agia Napa, that served canned KEO and you probably have your own horror tourist pub stories. Alas, Bier-Haus Constanta is as real as it gets east of the Bundesrepublik. Ceilings are a little low for conducting a proper putsch if you ask me, but we were served by lederhosen-clad waiters, the menu consisted of traditional Bavarian dishes along with Romanian grub, and the decor was quite proper – antlers, wood and even locked mugs, though they look unused.
Most important, this Black Sea Beer Pearl actually pours German beer – Hofbräuhaus Traunstein‘s creations. I have no idea how the 401 years-old South-Bavarian brewery made it to this godforsaken Romanian town, but why ask questions when one can simply enjoy 5 different brews on tap? Helles, Dunkel, Weissbier, Weissbier Dunkel and the crown jewel, 1612 Zwickelbier that I was happy to discover is in the 1001 book. This traditional zwickel/ keller beer that’s named after the brewery’s birth year, poured hazy golden in colour with white head and lace. The dominant aroma was smoky, but this has nothing to do with the beer but rather with the cigarette smoke that filled the air and everybody’s lungs (instead of souvenirs and big-name scotch they should sell Avastin at the airport or just ban smoking from public places).
We somehow managed to neutralize the stench and smelled malt and minerals. Taste was bitter, filled with German hops. I read that HB Traunstein grows its own hops which is pretty cool. Light body, light carbonation and a delicate bitter finish makes it a nice summer drink. In late March we were fully dressed with coats and sweaters (that every night were aired on the windowsill in attempt to get rid of the ashtray stink), but Constanta gets really hot in the summer and the 1612 is a decent alternative to the local pale lagers.
All the five beers we shared in Bier-Haus Constanta were good, but my favourite was the Dunkel that smelled of raisins and tasted woody and roasty. Before writing this entry The Secret Agent and I visited HB Traunstein’s website, watched the too long yet so sweet promotional video that made us want to visit the town and the brewery when we finally make it to Austria (Traunstein is only 30 km. away from Salzburg). They celebrate Oktoberfest in Traunstein too, and there must be a band that plays oom-pah music. There was a musical trio playing in Bier-Haus Constanta when we visited, but the music they were playing would have been banned had the Germans won the war.
Alas, the Germans lost and this wonder was recorded in Bavaria, West Germany.
Hofbräuhaus Traunstein 1612 Zwickelbier is beer #221 I must Try Before I Die. We drank around 40 beers in this non-beer trip and quite a few of them are in the book. More about this trip soon.