Colours

Top 100 See - - Contents - By Pe­tar Galev, Per­cep­tica

Per­cep­tica (www.per­cep­tica.com) is a team of pro­fes­sion­als spe­cialised in cre­at­ing in­no­va­tive in-depth re­ports based on on­line me­dia an­a­lyt­ics. Map­ping brand per­cep­tions among cus­tomers pro­vides valu­able in­sights for help­ing brands, in­di­vid­u­als and or­gan­i­sa­tions thrive.

The re­port looks into the on­line im­age of SEE craft beers – in terms of both sheer pop­u­lar­ity and users’ and ex­perts’ opin­ion of their qual­ity. Each mar­ket has been ex­am­ined on its own, while beers were as­sessed us­ing a sin­gle method­ol­ogy (thus, the best per­form­ers from the re­gion have the high­est score). Each brew­ery was rep­re­sented by one prod­uct only (usu­ally their most pop­u­lar one). The only ex­cep­tion to the rule was made for coun­tries that sim­ply do not have that many brew­ers that are at least known on­line.

The scor­ing sys­tem goes on a scale from 1 to 100 (with 100 ac­count­ing for the per­fect beer). 20% of the score takes into ac­count the beer’s pop­u­lar­ity on­line – the num­ber of com­ments and on­line men­tions. The opin­ion of users and ex­perts (whether they liked the beer or cer­tain as­pects of it) ac­counts for 40% of the score each. Thus, each coun­try is rep­re­sented by the five beers (if that many were avail­able) with the high­est score.

Craft brew­ing has been gain­ing pop­u­lar­ity in South­east Europe over the last cou­ple of years. De­mand for lo­cally-brewed, high­qual­ity ale led to the emer­gence of a num­ber of mi­cro­brew­eries around the re­gion, in­spired by Western brew­ers and some­times even founded by Western­ers. Although not par­tic­u­larly fa­mous for its beers, the re­gion turns out to be home to a sur­pris­ing va­ri­ety of craft beers, some of them even com­pet­ing with the very best in terms of taste and cre­ativ­ity.

Slove­nia

Slove­nia has by far the best de­vel­oped craft beer mar­ket in the re­gion. In fact, with its huge num­ber of brew­eries and im­pres­sive beer qual­ity, the coun­try seems more Western than South­east Euro­pean. Over 55 lo­cal brew­eries have re­ceived on­line com­ments – a num­ber far greater than that of any other coun­try in­cluded in the re­port.

The lo­cal mar­ket seems to have reached a ma­ture state where the qual­ity of prod­ucts sat­is­fies the cri­te­ria of both con­nois­seurs and reg­u­lar con­sumers. Lo­cal craft beers lack the on­line pop­u­lar­ity they have in other coun­tries (most no­tably Croa­tia) where craft brew­ing is just be­gin­ning to boom. There are very few lo­cal crafts of sub-par qual­ity con­tribut­ing to Slove­nia's im­pres­sive per­for­mance in terms of con­sumer and ex­pert opin­ion. Nev­er­the­less, the coun­try does lack a brew­ery that has the sheer amount of va­ri­ety of­fered by Ser­bia's Kabi­net.

A num­ber of top qual­ity craft beers vied for the top spot in Slove­nia. Although the Peli­con 3rd Pill has been de­scribed as a world-beater and also seems to be the more pop­u­lar lo­cal brand, Reser­voir Dogs Star­va­tion gath­ered the high­est to­tal num­ber of points, en­tirely thanks to its su­pe­rior qual­ity.

The beer re­ceived praise from Bel­gian, Dutch, Ger­man, Bri­tish, Ital­ian, Bul­gar­ian, Scan­di­na­vian, and even the ever so crit­i­cal Rus­sian on­line con­nois­seurs. Reser­voir Dogs Star­va­tion is a Black IPA (stand­ing for In­dian-style pale ale) and one of the world's top 50 rep­re­sen­ta­tives of this par­tic­u­lar beer style. It is dark brown in colour and it is de­scribed as hav­ing a char­ac­ter­is­tic some­what bit­ter taste. Users de­scribe it as tast­ing like roasted malts, choco­late, resin, wood, smoke, pep­pers, nesquick, cof­fee, citrus, caramel, and even pine. Slove­nia also show­cases the cre­ativ­ity of mi-

cro­brew­ers – both in terms of the brew­ing process and of the nam­ing of their prod­ucts. While Hu­manFish Com­bat Wom­bat is a good ex­am­ple of that nam­ing con­ven­tion, Reser­voir Dogs have taken an even more un­ortho­dox ap­proach. They name their beers af­ter the Four Horse­men of the Apoca­lypse, such as the Grim Reaper (Death) and Star­va­tion (Famine), or demons – In­cubo (in­cubus) and Su­cubo (suc­cubus).

Croa­tia

In re­cent years, Croa­tia has ex­pe­ri­enced a self-pro­claimed Beerev­o­lu­tion, with rapid growth of de­mand for lo­cal craft beers and a cor­re­spond­ing in­crease in the num­ber of brew­eries. The pop­u­lar­ity of lo­cally-brewed va­ri­eties has never been higher and it prom­ises to re­main this way for the fore­see­able fu­ture. Both the num­ber of brew­eries and the va­ri­ety of prod­ucts they of­fer should con­tinue to grow in the com­ing years. What is more, con­sumers seem more than happy with the qual­ity of the beer at of­fer. Ex­perts are also con­tent, although, judg­ing by their opin­ion, there is even more to be de­sired from the lo­cal craft scene as a whole.

Za­greb-based Zma­jska Pivo­vara is not only the first craft brew­ery in Croa­tia, but also the most pop­u­lar one (and by some mar­gin). Its beers are a great com­mer­cial suc­cess and could be seen in a va­ri­ety of restau­rants, pubs, and even su­per­mar­kets in Croa­tia, Slove­nia, Ser­bia, Bos­nia, and even Slo­vakia. Quite pre­dictably, Croa­tia's top craft beer is part of Zma­jska's port­fo­lio and its Pale Ale in par­tic­u­lar.

As its name sug­gests, the beer is a Pale Ale – an Amer­i­can-style pale ale (or APA). A com­bi­na­tion of four dis­tinct U.S. hop va­ri­eties are used in the brew­ing process, giv­ing it a unique cit­rusy taste. Ex­perts also have a good word for what they de­scribe as a proper bit­ter af­ter­taste. The Zma­jska pale ale also re­ceives praises for its looks. Users de­scribe it as clear, al­beit slightly hazy, and orange am­ber in colour.

With Croa­tia be­ing a pop­u­lar tourist des­ti­na­tion, many for­eign­ers have also had their say on the beer. Find­ing such high-qual­ity ale in Croa­tia has sur­prised many for­eign­ers. A proper pale ale is not easy to make, a fact of­ten men­tioned by on­line users sign­ing their praise for the Zma­jsko.

Ser­bia

Ser­bia is an­other SEE coun­try where the craft beer ma­nia is start­ing to se­cure a firm grip. Lo­cal mi­cro­brew­eries are in­creas­ing in num­ber, as is the va­ri­ety of beers they pro­duce. Ser­bia is, in fact, the coun­try that of­fers the best va­ri­ety of craft beers in the re­gion. This is mainly thanks to the Kabi­net brew­ery which of­fers over 20 dif­fer­ent types of beer. In­ter­est in craft brew­ing is yet to reach its peak, as it al­ready did in Croa­tia. Given that con­sumers hold lo­cal craft beers in re­ally high re­gard, the num­ber of brew­eries could be ex­pected to in­crease, along­side the pop­u­lar­ity of beers. Ex­perts' opin­ion puts Ser­bian crafts just be­hind Croa­t­ian ones in terms of qual­ity. Given its dom­i­nance on the lo­cal mar­ket, it is hardly a sur­prise that Ser­bia's top craft beer comes from the Kabi­net brew­ery. Kabi­net SUPERNOVA is yet an­other pale ale - IPA. The style seems to be a sort of spe­cialty for Balkan brew­ers. Once again its taste is de­scribed as cit­rusy, with some users re­fer­ring to a taste of grass, spices, grapes, and even cat piss. The af­ter­taste is bit­ter as be­fits the style.

Kabi­net is also noted for its col­lab­o­ra­tion with brew­eries from neigh­bour­ing coun­tries. The joint ef­fort with Bulgaria's White Stork led to a very in­ter­est­ing re­sult in the Kabi­net/White Stork Pop My Višnja sour-cherry-fla­vored ale.

While it could be ar­gued that Kabi­net SUPERNOVA made the top spot its own thanks to its sheer pop­u­lar­ity, the beer also re­ceives a lot of praise from ex­perts and con­sumers. How­ever, this is noth­ing com­pared to the rat­ings of the Dogma Hop­to­pod IPA. In terms of con­sumer sen­ti­ment alone, this is the best beer in the re­gion. It is an­other IPА de­scribed by its brew­ers as a “real hoppy mon­ster”.

Ro­ma­nia

Ro­ma­nia is the largest coun­try in­cluded in the re­port. Nev­er­the­less, its craft beer mar­ket lags be­hind smaller coun­tries, such as Croa­tia and Slove­nia. That said, the lo­cal mar­ket has a huge po­ten­tial and has an ad­di­tional ad­van­tage in lo­cal Ger­man brew­ers

who have al­ready kick­started their brew­ing busi­ness. There is still lots of space for new play­ers who face an ad­di­tional chal­lenge in di­ver­si­fy­ing the mar­ket.

As was the case with other coun­tries in the re­gion, con­sumers re­ally en­joy lo­cal craft va­ri­eties. How­ever, their opin­ion se­ri­ously dif­fers to that of ex­perts who see the av­er­age beer as medi­ocre. Still, Ro­ma­nia is home to at least one brand pop­u­lar through­out the en­tire re­gion.

Ground Zero's Morn­ing Glory is far ahead of the com­pe­ti­tion in terms of both qual­ity and pop­u­lar­ity. Not only that, but Ground Zero has also oc­cu­pied the se­cond spot with its col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Hop Hooli­gans brew­ery. Just like Kabi­net, Ground Zero has al­ready made a cou­ple of very suc­cess­ful col­lab­o­ra­tions, in­clud­ing one with Bulgaria's White Stork brew­ery. Yet an­other col­lab­o­ra­tion with Bulgaria re­sulted in the KANAAL Ses­sion IPA – the beer with which a Bul­gar­ian pub cel­e­brated its fourth an­niver­sary.

The Morn­ing Glory it­self is also an IPA – again one with a cit­rusy, but also flo­ral, taste, and a bit­ter af­ter­taste. While it is mostly of­fered in Bucharest, it also re­ceives plenty of pos­i­tive words from Bul­gar­ian users.

Leav­ing qual­ity and taste aside, users seem re­ally im­pressed with the ale's la­bel. The text and vis­ual of the la­bel per­fectly sum up the brewer's idea of “break­ing all rules and burn­ing all bound­aries in craft­ing beer”.

Bulgaria

Bulgaria is an­other coun­try with an emerg­ing craft beer mar­ket. It re­sem­bles the Ro­ma­nian one to a large ex­tent. The dif­fer­ences be­tween the two come in con­sumer opin­ion, which is rather higher when Ro­ma­nian ales are dis­cussed, and va­ri­ety – Bul­gar­ian brew­eries of­fer a more di­verse choice of ales, al­beit still medi­ocre when com­pared to Slove­nia and Ser­bia.

Bulgaria still has about 10 mi­cro­brew­eries, a num­ber that in­cludes ales brewed and of­fered only by pubs. Nev­er­the­less, the coun­try al­ready hosts events ded­i­cated to craft beers and has no­table bars that of­fer ales from around the world.

Bulgaria is a cu­ri­ous case where smaller brew­ers like Ailyak and Blek Pine re­ceived bet­ter scores than the more commercially suc­cess­ful White Stork, Divo Pivo, and Ah! Ale. The lat­ter three have found a place in su­per­mar­kets and reg­u­lar stores, while still re­main­ing true to the craft beer spirit. Nev­er­the­less, the most pop­u­lar Bul­gar­ian craft beer – Glarus – failed to make it into the top 5 due to its low rat­ing among ex­perts.

Ailyak is yet an­other IPA with a rather cu­ri­ous name. The word “Ailyak” stands for a chilled and laid­back per­son and at­ti­tude to life that the beer aims to repli­cate. It is as­so­ci­ated with the se­cond-largest Bul­gar­ian city of Plov­div, which fools on­line con­sumers into think­ing it is brewed there. In fact, it comes from the cap­i­tal Sofia. While re­main­ing largely un­der­ground, Ailyak at­tained its high score (sixth high­est amongst all beers in­cluded in the re­port) thanks to its qual­ity and ex­tremely good user rat­ings (78% of com­ments were pos­i­tive).

Bos­nia and Herze­gov­ina

Most peo­ple think of Bos­nia and Herze­gov­ina as a war-torn, pre­dom­i­nantly Mus­lim coun­try whose peo­ple hardly have time to pur­sue any hob­bies that have any­thing to do with al­co­hol. Few could imag­ine that Bos­nia, too, has a small, but vi­brant craft beer mar­ket. While lo­cal mi­cro­brew­ers are not amongst ex­perts' fa­vorites, they still of­fer a va­ri­ety of craft ales far greater than that in Bulgaria, for ex­am­ple.

Sim­i­lar to Ser­bia's Kabi­net, Old­bridz is Bos­nia's lead­ing craft brew­ery by some mar­gin. The name of the brew­ery refers to the fa­mous his­tor­i­cal land­mark in the town of

Mostar. Most of­ten than not men­tions of the beer are ac­com­pa­nied by a pic­ture in­clud­ing a pint and the Ot­toman-era bridge.

The Old­bridz brew­ery of­fers no less than 13 dif­fer­ent ales, the most pop­u­lar of which is the Pale Ale - a cloudy, col­or­ful ale with the tra­di­tional cit­rusy taste. It has been crit­i­cized, how­ever, for its sour­ness and high car­bon­a­tion. On­line users were more pos­i­tive to­wards the likes of the Sem­izburg Karan­doloz and the Cas­trom Gruit. De­spite their good re­views those beers re­main largely un­no­ticed on­line.

Moldova

Moldova's mar­ket is one of the smallest in the re­gion. While the coun­try has a dis­tinct lack of lo­cal craft brew­eries, users' en­thu­si­asm for lo­cally-brewed ales sug­gests that

a boom could be ex­pected in the near fu­ture. While ex­perts do not think much of Moldovan crafts, it could be ar­gued that the coun­try of­fers a great va­ri­ety for its size.

Once again, a pale ale makes it to the top of a coun­try list. And this de­spite the fact that the Chisinau-based Li­tra brew­ery has tried its hands on a num­ber of dif­fer­ent beer styles, in­clud­ing Bo­hemian Pils, Choco­late Porter, He­feweiss­bier, Vi­enna Lager etc.

The Li­tra Pale Ale is de­scribed as hav­ing a pleasant flow­ery aroma. It has a moderately bit­ter af­ter­taste and a fruity taste rang­ing from lemon all the way to pineap­ple. The big­gest fac­tor for the ale's pop­u­lar­ity is the Bu­dapest Hopa­holic Bar where users from around the world got their hands on the Mol­da­vian craft beer.

Mon­tene­gro

Mon­tene­gro is the coun­try with the smallest pop­u­la­tion amongst those in­cluded in the re­port. This fact is re­flected in the gen­eral lack of brew­eries and the lim­ited va­ri­ety of lo­cal crafts. Nev­er­the­less, the pos­i­tive re­views, com­ing mostly from tourists vis­it­ing the coun­try, leave some hope that the Mon­tene­grin mar­ket could fol­low the lead of the likes of Croa­tia and Slove­nia.

The Red Cat Brew­ery Wheat IPA rep­re­sents an in­ter­est­ing case of a craft beer made by a so-called con­tract brewer. It is, in fact, made in Slove­nia at Pivo­varna Vizir, but sold un­der the la­bel of the Mon­tene­gro based beer firm Red Cat Brew­ery. On­line users men­tion a Rus­sian in­flu­ence in the beer's cre­ation which could ex­plain the fact that the ma­jor­ity of com­ments come from Rus­sian tourists in Mon­tene­gro. It is de­scribed as cit­ric and very fruity with a flo­ral (some­times even too flo­ral) aroma.

The se­cond-placed FIT Svetlo is one of the rare lagers that get into the top 5 craft beers of a given coun­try. Per­haps even more cu­ri­ously, it is brewed in a Chi­nese restau­rant lo­cated in Pod­gor­ica.

Albania

Albania is an­other small, un­der-de­vel­oped craft beer mar­ket. The bulk of brew­eries are, in fact, lo­cal pubs that also make their own beer. Nev­er­the­less, there is some va­ri­ety in the ales at of­fer as well as a qual­ity that did not es­cape the eyes of ex­perts. It is hardly a sur­prise that 3 of the top 4 craft beers in Albania are brewed by pubs. The only ac­tual lo­cal mi­cro­brew­ery - Sho­qe­ria Pi­cana – is re­spon­si­ble for num­ber two on the list – the Birra King Pils.

The Brauhaus Ger­man restau­rant at Ti­rana makes ar­guably the best craft beer in Albania. The Dark Brau (as its name in Ger­man sug­gests) is a dark brown ale with a bit­ter­sweet taste of choco­late or toast. While shar­ing their Dark Brau-drink­ing ex­pe­ri­ence did spark jeal­ousy in some users' friends, most com­ments de­scribed it as sim­ply okay or good for an Al­ba­nian ale.

Mace­do­nia

Mace­do­nia has a sin­gle craft brewer and this is the Te­mov Old Town Pub. Nev­er­the­less, the pub/brew­ery does come up with no less than 10 dif­fer­ent craft ales which do re­ceive some nods from ex­perts in the field. This is the first craft brew­ery in the coun­try and has al­ready se­cured the in­ter­est of some lo­cals.

There was not much sep­a­rat­ing the top three beers of­fered by the Te­mov pub. What is in­ter­est­ing is that the brewer has de­cided to name a beer not only af­ter Gotse Delchev (a rev­o­lu­tion­ary con­sid­ered a na­tional hero in Mace­do­nia), but also af­ter the leg­endary Al­ba­nian leader Skan­der­beg.

The top beer it­self – Te­mov Kal­drma – is a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Smoked Helles style. It is made from part smoked and part caramelised bar­ley. The Kal­drma is de­scribed as light and suit­able for the hot sum­mer days.

Kosovo

Just as it was with Bos­nia and Herze­gov­ina, many peo­ple are sur­prised to find out that Kosovo has any (no mat­ter how small) craft beer scene. It turns out that while the craft beer mar­ket is the least de­vel­oped out of all coun­tries in the re­gion, Kosovo does have one more brew­ery than its neigh­bour­ing Mace­do­nia. Fur­ther­more, Kosovo boasts with a beer that has a rat­ing higher than the best that the likes of Moldova and Bos­nia and Herze­gov­ina have to of­fer. The Sabaja IPA is the first of its kind for the coun­try and is re­ceived warmly by no less than 70% of on­line users. The fact that it is avail­able in a num­ber of lo­ca­tions in the cap­i­tal Pristina and the city of Prizren also helped it gain pop­u­lar­ity. Ex­perts have also signed their praises for its sparkling ap­pear­ance and mildly bit­ter af­ter­taste. Neg­a­tive re­views men­tion the lack of suf­fi­cient fruiti­ness.

The Sabaja brew­ery is so far ahead of the com­pe­ti­tion that even its se­cond-best – the Smoked Porter – is far bet­ter than the prod­ucts of its only com­peti­tor. As was the case with other brew­eries in the re­gion, Sabaja was founded by a U.S. en­tre­pre­neur and his lo­cal friends.

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