The Beer Gatherer

Blogging about Israeli beer in general and Israeli craft beer in particular, following 1001 Beers You Must Try Before You Die and other beer musings.

Archive for the tag “pubs in Romania”

Romanian Beer Adventures Pt. III: Craft Beer Bars in Bucharest

What's the time? Why, it's Beer O'clock!

What’s the time? Why, it’s Beer O’clock!

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.

My fave spot on the bar - behind the taps.

My fave spot on the bar – behind the taps.

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.

A fridge to die for

A fridge to die for

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!

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Romanian Beer Adventures Pt. II: Bear Hug

When Family Agent decided to tour Romania, I wrote down a small to-do list of stuff I wanna do, other than seeing where Papa Agent is from. The list contained three chapters that basically summed up everything I knew about the country:

  • Visit the Merry Cemetery
  • Buy bras in Marks & Spencer
  • Drink Ursus Black

I ticked all three: we drove all the way to Săpânţa in the northernmost corner of the country and immersed ourselves in stories of locals’  lives and deaths; I spent an hour at one of Bucharest’s malls and treated myself to some quality underwear; we drank Ursus Black, twice. In the land of cheap pale lager, this Schwarzbier shines above all, at least that’s what the editors of 1001 Beers You Must Try Before You Die think.

I wanna be buried in a merry cemetery

I wanna be buried in a merry cemetery

We drank it twice. First in Berăria Ursus in Cluj Napoca, Romania’s second largest city and until 2010, home of Ursus Brewery. The historic building was demolished around the time of our visit and production moved to other parts of the country. However, a brewery-owned pub is an interesting addition to this university town. Is this a brewpub we’re talking about? I dunno. On one hand, there is no brewery around. One the other hand, the menu’s preface states that the place is owned by the brewery. Also – let’s pretend I’m an octopus and add another hand – other than Ursus taps – black, premium (pale lager), unfiltered and (bottled) pils – the place offers MORE light lagers: Grolsch and Pilsner Urquell. Guest taps are common sight in brewpubs but these feel like permanent residents…

douchebag-friendly advertising board.

douchebag-friendly advertising board.

Berăria Ursus is a pretty neat place – located in a historical building in the city center, split to halls and corridors, has non-smoking area (not something to be taken for granted in Romania, we learned) and an extensive menu with several vegan options that looked inviting but the waiters were slow, we were on a rush and thus had to cancel our vegan pizza and soup order.
pretty on the outside.

pretty on the outside.

We focused on beer: Ursus Nefiltratã was our favourite and Ursus Black was the major disappointment: awfully, awfully buttery taste! Something was definitely wrong with this beer. The Secret Agent thinks it must be dirty pipes or something. Diacetyl took over the rather aromatic fruit and the little roastyness we felt. We decided not to judge the country’s flagship beer based on this poor experience and drink it elsewhere. Worst case we’d buy a tall boy at the gas stop or something, we said. However, in the end we opted for the best case. Enter La Caru Cu Bere, probably Bucharest’s most famous restaurant and beer house, located in the heart of Old Town and caters to hundreds of  tourists who gush all over the painted glass windows, heavy wooden panels, golden panels and general exuberance daily.

so so pretty too!

so so pretty too!

[A] true living legend and also one of the oldest beerhouse in Bucharest, was opened for the first time in 1879 in the old Zlatari inn and, after 20 years it moved to Stavropoleos Street, where it can be found even today“, serves contract-brewed house beer and Ursus Black on better-maintained taps than the previous establishment. There we could enjoy the beer and justify its appearance in the book: malty, caramel, bittersweet chocolate aroma, roasty, sweet chocolate taste. Medium body, smooth texture, long, sweet and a little roasty finish.

Tasting and testing.

Tasting and testing.

We recommend visit both places. the pub in Cluj is the better of the two in the main square. If the taps and pipes were cleaned and you have the time to sit and enjoy a meal, this is a lively, casual place for hanging out.  Caru Cu Bere is simply too beautiful to skip. It’s touristy, priced accordingly and feels very impersonal but being a city landmark, it’s worth spending 20 RON and 30 minutes over there.
And of course, Ursus Black is beer #256 I Must Try Before I Die. Two more Romania-related entries to fo..

Romanian Beer Adventures Pt. I: Beer Hall Putsch

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…

the abandoned casino, before sleazy development ruins it.

the abandoned casino, before sleazy development ruins it.

…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.

a bit too tidy to be authentic, isn't it?

a bit too tidy to be authentic, isn’t it?

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).

IMG_3443

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.

look at the blue-and-white checkers - Oktoberfest in March :)

look at the blue-and-white checkers – Oktoberfest in March 🙂

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.

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