(The image on this page is from a recent well attended tasting event held in Moldavia. Our 'Nomad Brewer' was present to offer samples of his own brews)
4 - Is homebrewing a big hobby in Eastern Europe, and if so how would you say product and ingredient availability and price compares to Canada?
Homebrewing is becoming quite popular in the region, for sure, though the rate of catching on differs a lot from country to country. For example, Bulgaria has an official homebrewing association with yearly contests and a lot of members. Romania, just across the border and with at least twice as many people, on the other hand, has a very small homebrewing community that pales in comparison with their southern neighbour. So it differs a lot, though the tendency for more people getting into this hobby is quite evident.
As for the product and ingredient availability, there’s definitely a difference in pricing depending on where the ingredients come from. There are plenty of good maltsters in Europe, so getting all kinds of malts and malt extracts is not a problem, and the prices are quite competitive. Same goes for European hop varieties and dry yeast, as there are plenty of hop growers and laboratories specialized in dry yeast production. However, when it comes to sourcing American, New Zealand or Australian hops things get pricey, and it’s quite common to have the most popular varieties out of stock due to high demand. Same goes for liquid yeast, as the major labs producing homebrew format vials are located in the USA, and it’s quite risky and costly to ship the yeast overseas.
5 - What is your favourite beer to brew and to drink and why?
Oh, it totally depends on season and mood. In general, I love brewing flavourful, intense beers that challenge the palate in one way or another. Being a fan of dark beers, though, I find myself thinking of Stouts and Porters most of the time since I’m in a mood to drink a nice full-bodied Porter even on a hot summer day. But this doesn’t mean that I don’t brew hop bombs or experiment with other flavours. Yet, regardless of whether I’m brewing a Belgian Dubbel, English IPA, Scotch Ale, or a White Stout, I always strive for balance in my beers, so they would be both flavourful and enjoyable to drink at the same time. It’s the balance that makes a beer great in my book regardless of beer style.
6 - What is the 1 most important piece of advice that you would give to novice brewers?
Never be afraid to experiment. Even if it means brewing an ordinary Czech Pilsner with Australian hops. Beer is such a diverse drink made from a variety of ingredients that you can play around with like a building kit, that it’s virtually impossible to run out of possible permutations and combinations even if you’re brewing beers on a daily basis. It’s this sense of wonder and accomplishment when you come up with an idea for a beer and then execute it that makes homebrewing so exciting and rewarding. And sure, you get mostly good beer to drink with your friends as a result. A win-win!
We are still looking for more homebrewers or small craft breweries that would be interested in being interviewed for our 'Beaver Tales'? Contact me BarleyBeaver@gmail.com and place 'Beaver Tales Interview' in the subject line, and we can make arrangements to feature you and/or your brewery in one of our upcoming posts.