In December 1989, when the communist regime collapsed in Romania, there were 125 brewing factories in the country, which produced over 200 types of beer. Rahova, Silva, Azuga, Haţegana, Gambrinus, Basarab, Măgura and Zimbru are only some examples of local beers which were produced in almost all big cities across Romania. At present, only 11 of these are still brewed under licence, by four multinational companies, which together hold nearly 90% of the Romanian brewing market. But, some of the big international brewers which dominate the Romanian market try to revitalise the Romanian local brewing industry, which was once flourishing in Romania.
An increasing number of new craft breweries or microbreweries, as they are called, have emerged in Romania too, indicating that Romania is following the trend set by western countries, where craft beers hold a 10-20% market share. With a modest brewing capacity, but relying on novelty and authenticity, small craft brewers start playing a more prominent role on the market, consumers being attracted by this type of beer, thanks to innovation and the quality of Romanian beer. As compared to industrially produced beer, craft beer is made observing traditional methods. There are already over 10 such brewers in Romania which produce some 10,000 hectolitres per year, accounting for less than 0.1% of the total beer output. Experts say investment in a microbrewery varies between 150,000 and millions of Euros, depending on technology and production capacity.
Laurenţiu Bănescu and Alexandru Geamănu are two young entrepreneurs, who, after leaving their jobs in Bucharest, started a business in the field. They wanted to bring locally brewed beer back on the market, being more interested in quality than in quantity and making profit. Alexandru Geamănu has more on this story:
“Together with a friend, I started from a rather simple idea. We wanted to start a business of our own, because we had long been employees, for some 16 years. We also wanted to revitalise the brewing industry. It seemed a very good idea to me to create a Romanian, truly authentic Romanian beer brand, entirely brewed and designed in Romania. Four years ago, we drafted the first business plan from scratch. We found an abandoned factory that we took over at first, then it was very difficult for us to find a brand name to be equally Romanian and resounding.”
“Fabrica de Bere Bună” (the Good Beer Factory) belonging to the two entrepreneurs is located at the foot of the Zaganu Massif in the Southern Carpathians, in the village of Măneciu-Ungureni (Prahova County) and produces four types of beer. As it is not pasteurised, this beer has a short expiry date, ranging between 40 and 60 days. For this reason, the beer produced by the two entrepreneurs is bottled exclusively upon request, depending on the order received from partner bars and shops. Once the order is received, the beer is bottled overnight and the next day it reaches the destination. The factory has a capacity of some 4,000 hectolitres per year, with the brewing market in Romania being evaluated at 15-16 million hectolitres per year. The two entrepreneurs would like all those interested in different, fresh and flavoured beer to have the possibility to taste the beer brewed in Maneciu. Alexandru Geamănu:
“Craft beer has a rather simple definition. It is brewed according to a specific recipe, in rather small quantities, with the human factor still playing an important role in the brewing process. We have hired people, who weigh the malt, which add the hop, monitor such processes as brewing, fermentation and maturation, which actually turn the raw material into the final product. In general, we sell our beer to bars and restaurants, but we have also started delivering it to some supermarket chains. Sales are looking up, as we’ve had a steady increase in the past three and a half years since we actually started to sell our beer. Last year we sold some 4,000 hectolitres of beer. When drafting the business plan, we hoped to recover the money we invested in the business in seven years’ time. Three and a half years on, we are within the limits we set four years ago. The initial investment stood at 200,000 Euros. We always followed an upward trend, registering an increase every year, without making efforts, so we think it’s best for us to have a steady increase”.
The shelf price of a half-a-litre bottle of craft beer is some 2 euros. But the two entrepreneurs intend to try new recipes and expand their production, stocking and beer maturation capacity, to take this beer brand on the foreign markets, too.
“We want to continue to brew good-quality beer, just like we’ve done so far, as it is very much appreciated by our consumers. We pay special heed to beer quality and to our recipe. Secondly, we think about expanding our business in the following 3-5 years, this is our plan”.
The competition on this niche market is rather low in Romania. According to data issued by Romania’s Brewers, the association of the main brewers in Romania, Romania is lagging behind in this sector. Romania still has a young brewing market, beer being “adopted” by Romanians as late as the 18th century. Setting up an association of small producers and importers of craft beer would be necessary, to consolidate and promote their interests, experts in the field also say. There are over 1,400 craft brewers in Great Britain, some 700 in Germany and 60 in Hungary. (Translated by D. Vijeu)