Craft beer brewing has been on the rise for the past couple of years with many independent brands emerging in Europe. Along with the classic beer destinations, a number of young brewers from the Balkans have managed to put their name on the ‘beer map.’ Through experimenting, a creative approach and an entrepreneurial spirit, the following seven Balkan beer brands combine unique tastes with distinctive designs. Here are our best picks of craft beers you have to try.
Despite not being the most popular destination for beer tourism in Europe, Bulgaria has a long tradition in beer brewing, dating back to the 19th century. It is therefore no surprise that three of the recommended brands are Bulgarian.
This brand was founded by Rory Miller, a young American who settled in Bulgaria, where he found the inspiration and ingredients to start his own brewing business. Although the beers are brewed in Belgium, the recipes and design for Ah! are sourced locally. Mint, Mursala tea (a local herb), and Bulgarian hops are used to create the unique flavors. And it’s not only the taste of the beer that’s inventive, but its look and its name too. The names for the beers were inspired by the number of the recipe they were prepared by. In addition, Bulgarian artists and illustrators have contributed to the packaging design. You can find Ah! beers at selected shops in Bulgaria. For more information visit their Facebook page.
A brewing duo is behind this new label, which can only be found at special events and exhibitions for the moment. Joro and Plami, a couple of young entrepreneurs, are working together on the project. ‘Ailyak’ is a slang word which stands for laid-back and chilled, which represents the taste and outlook of this brand perfectly. Joro Hristov, who is responsible for the brewing process, experiments with unusual flavors such as amarillo and echinacea. The packaging design is also daring, with vibrant colors and catchy typography. The beer is brewed locally in Sofia, and the founders are looking for a suitable facility to start producing commercially. For now Ailyak’s beers can be tasted only at industry-specific events such as the Expo Milano 2015, or at local bars. For updates, you can follow their Facebook page.
Bulgaria is well known for its rose oil and rose water production. The name Rosebrew already hints at the main ingredient for their beers – rosewater. Ivailo Penev, co-founder of the brand, came up with the idea to start using organic rosewater for his brew after long years of culinary experimentation, and the rising demand for craft beers in Europe. Additionally, notes of hibiscus, coriander and chocolate contribute to the outstanding taste of Rosebrew’s produce. All beers are organic and suitable for vegans. Those interested in purchasing a bottle or two can do so from Rosebrew’s website.
According to a study conducted by the World Health Organization in 2010, Romanians are actually among the heaviest beer drinkers in the world. Beer brewing has a long tradition in Romania, having its origins in the Transylvanian and Moldavian regions. Nowadays, Romania prides itself on a number of microbreweries producing high quality craft beers.
Zaganu is a brand manufactured at an independent micro-brewery in the Romanian district of Măneciu-Ungureni. The beer is crafted, bottled and labeled by hand. The production is carried out by a small team of locals from the village of Maneciu, under the expert lead of the master brewer, Ms. Ileana. Currently, the brewery produces two beers; ‘Blonda’ (blond) and ‘Bruna’ (dark beer). Both are naturally fermented for at least 21 or 30 days, then bottled, with a shelf life of 45 days. The relatively short shelf life of the beers is also the reason for them being bottled on request. Zaganu is sold mostly locally and at specialized shops or events.
Bere Sara is a non-filtered, homemade brew. The entire production process is carried out by hand, using selected ingredients and spring water straight from the heart of the Carpathian mountains. The beer carries the emblem of the Banat region, as an entirely local produce. Due to the manual production, each bottle has its own unique taste. Anyone wishing to try Bere Sara can order it online or find it at the Pension ‘Sara‘ in the picturesque village of Valiug.
Beer is an extremely popular drink within the Serbian borders, with many Serbs consuming it as often as coffee. However, outside of these national borders, the Serbian pivo (beer) is not very well known. Yet, this is slowly changing, with independent Serbian breweries making their way into the European market.
Kabinet beers are produced in Nemenikuće, at the foot of the Kosmaja mountain. The man behind the brand is Branimir Melentijević, who strives to create an entire experience when drinking beer. The brewery experiments with both local and exotic tastes and ingredients, such as lemon balm, honey, hemp, orange and mandarin, to mention only a few. In addition to distinctive flavors, the Kabinet beers stand out for their artistic packaging design; a result of the collaboration with different artists, from visual artists, to photographers, to illustrators and graphic designers. Kabinet beers can be purchased at specialized shops, as well as online.
Beer consumption in Greece dates back to ancient Greek times, where blonde imported beer was highly sought-after. However, the first beer breweries in Greece were only opened up at the end of the 19th century. Nowadays locally brewed beer is gaining in popularity not only among Greeks, but also on the international market.
Voreia’s beers are produced at the Siris Microbrewery, based in Serres, Greece. Greek barley and distinctive coffee and caramel flavors are Voreia’s trademarks. The brewery prides itself on being the first micro-facility of its kind in northern Greece. The beers are, of course, unpasteurized, with four different varieties – IPA, Pilsener, Wit and Stout. Voreia can be found in specialized shops.