Bulgarian beer. TOP 5 breweries
What kind of beer is made in Bulgaria? Overview of beer manufacturers and brands produced by Bulgarian breweries. Beer prices in shops and restaurants.
In Bulgaria, beer is sold in every store, restaurant, cafe, fast-food place, including international fast-food chains, at gas stations, and sometimes even in coffee houses and pastry shops. You can find the largest assortment of beer brands in large supermarkets. There you can choose the packaging format: in glass bottles, cans, plastic bottles with a volume of 0.5 l, 1 l, 2 l, 2.5 l and 3 l.
Almost all 0.5 l glass bottles are returnable containers, they are accepted back in stores, that's why a beer in a 0.5 l bottle may be cheaper than the same one in a 0.33 l bottle or 0.5 l tin can. The cost of an empty bottle varies from 10 to 25 stotinki, depending on the store.
What are the local beer prices in Bulgaria? In stores, the price for a standard 0.5 l is 1-1,5lv. depending on the brand. Manufacturers quite often arrange various promotions and sales, as a result of which the price of a particular brand of beer can drop to 75-80 stotinki per 0.5 l. International brands are slightly more expensive than the local ones, from 1,3 to 2,3 lv..
The price in restaurants and bars is about 2-2.5 times higher than the price in a supermarket. The restaurants serve both draft and bottled beer at about the same price. Only a true beer fan can spot the difference in quality between draft and bottled beer.
In this review we will tell you which brands produced by local breweries you can try in Bulgaria. The information in brackets is given for those who, in addition to the taste of beer, are interested in its alcohol content.
"Bolyarka VT", Veliko Tarnovo, founded in 1892
Beer brands produced:
- Вolyarka (4.3% / 10 ° P)
- Bolyarka dark (5% / 11.7 ° P)
- Bolyarka unpasteurized (4.3% / 10 ° P)
- Bolyarka Radler - a mixture of light beer with lemonade (2.1% / 5.3 ° P)
- Balkansko (4.1% / 9 ° P)
- Diana (3.0% / 7 ° P)
- Zhiva Bira / Draft beer (5% / 11.6 ° P)
- Kaltenberg, licensed / Germany (3.7% / 11 ° P)
The main brand's name of the Bolyarka beer factory means “noblewoman”.
The manufacturing complex has a long history. At the end of the 19th century, the factory was built and equipped with German and Czech equipment by a family from Veliko Tarnovo - the Hadzheslavchev brothers. The company was named after the founders and kept it's name until 1948. Then, as a result of nationalization, the factory became state-owned and was first renamed to “Balkan”, and then in 1992 - to “Velikotarnovsky Beer”. In 1960-70s, the factory underwent a major reconstruction of production facilities and infrastructure. After 1996, the city-owned brewery was included in the privatization process and by year 2000 became a joint stock company with the new name “Bolyarka VT”, whose main shareholder (90% of the shares) was the Bulgarian company Mel Invest Holding.
In the first decade of the 21st century, investments in the company exceeded 40 million euros. The factory is equipped with the latest European-made equipment. The material used is German hops, which grows in the Hallertau region near Munich. The yeast for the brewery is cutivated at the Weinstefan German Institute of Brewing. “Bolyarka VT” is the largest enterprise in the industry owned by Bulgarian owners.
"Britos", Veliko Tarnovo, founded in 2012
Beer brands produced:
- Britos (4.5% / 10.1 ° P)
- Britos Opushena - “smoked” beer (5.5% / 13 ° P)
- Britos Hoppy Blond - unfiltered (5% / 12 ° P)
The name "Britos" is a Thracian word, this is what beer was called in the ancient times.
The Britos brewery, built in 2012, is the youngest in the industry, with annual output of 20 million liters. The factory is equipped with ultramodern and technologically advanced German, Belgian and Swiss equipment. The factory's crew consists of only 30 people. Britos beer brand's recipe has been developed with the involvement of specialists from the Berlin Brewing Institute. The owner of the company is a private individual.
"Zagorka", Stara Zagora, founded in 1902
Beer brands produced:
- Zagorka Special (5.0% / 11.4 ° P)
- Zagorka IPA (4.8%)
- Zagorka non-alcoholic (0.0%)
- Zagorka Retro (4.5%)
- Ariana (4.5% / 10 ° P)
- Ariana Dark (5.5% / 13 ° P)
- Ariana Radler - a mixture of beer with fruit juice (1.8%)
- Stolichno Bock (6.5% / 16 ° P)
- Stolichno Weiss unfiltered (4.2% / 11.8 ° P)
- Stolichno Pale Ale (5.5% / 12.7 ° P)
- Stolichno Amber Pils (6% / 14.2 ° P)
- Heineken licensed / Netherlands (5%)
- Amstel licensed / Netherlands (5%)
The name "Zagorka" comes from an old name of the area in central Bulgaria - Zagora (Zagore, Zagorie, Zagoria). The word literally translates to “a place behind mountains”.
Ariana beer was named after an old pub at the entrance to the Borisova Gradina park in Sofia - the favorite place of the capital's inhabitants.
The brewery in Stara Zagora began its history in 1902. The very first production was not successful and went bankrupt several years after the opening. In 1918, the brewery was restored at the initiative of Zlatov brothers. The company turned into a joint-stock company and was named “Trakia”.
The reconstruction was carried out at the factory, thanks to which it was possible to brew high-quality beer, which was successfully sold throughout southern Bulgaria. However, the factory's prosperity didn't last long. In 1925, the brewery was closed, all equipment was sold, and for a long time the huge building was used as a storage warehouse.
Only in 1954, the Bulgarian government decided to revive the beer production in Stara Zagora. A new factory was built on the site of the old brewery, which was called “Zagorka” and began its work in 1958. "Zagorka" is the first company in the industry that was privatized in 1994. 80% of the company was bought by the Greek company Brewinvest, which was formed by Heineken and Coca-Cola branches.
A few years later, the same investor acquired the "Ariana" brewery in Sofia, which traces its history to the brewery of the legendary Prošek brothers, Czechs by origin, who made a huge contribution to the development of the capital city. In 2001, "Ariana" became a part of "Zagorka".
By 2006, more than 90 million euros had been invested in production. Currently, "Zagorka" joint stock company is one of the largest beer producers in the country with a market share of 35%.
"Kamenitsa", Plovdiv and Haskovo, founded in 1881
Beer brands produced:
- Kamenitsa 1881 (4.4% / 10.2 ° P)
- Kamenitsa Dark (6% / 13.5 ° P)
- Kamenitsa non-alcoholic (0.3%)
- Kamenitsa Fresh - a mixture of beer with fruit juices (2%)
- Astika (4.5% / 10.3 ° P)
- Burgasko (4.4% / 10.2 ° P)
- Slavena (3.4% / 9.8 ° P)
- Beck’s, licensed / Germany (5%)
- Beck’s non-alcoholic, licensed / Germany (0.3%)
- Stella Artois, licensed / Belgium (5%)
- Staropramen, licensed / Czech Republic (5%)
- Staropramen Dark, licensed / Czech Republic (4.4% / 11.25 ° P)
The name “Kamenitsa” comes from an old name of one of Plovdiv's districts, a hill with a Turkish name “Alta Tepe”, called “Petritsa”, in Greek and “Kamenitsa” in Bulgarian, where the brewery was built. As a result of construction, the hill was destroyed, and the stones that formed its foundation were used as building material.
The name "Astika" comes from the name of the Thracian tribe "Asti", which inhabited the valleys in the vicinity of the current town of Haskovo.
The company currently produces beer in two breweries - in Plovdiv and in Haskovo. Kamenitsa Brewery was established in 1881 by two foreigners - Swiss entrepreneurs of German origin, Rudolf Frick and Friedrich Sulzer. Initially, the company's productivity did not exceed 100 liters per day. Over the time, production gradually expanded and developed, and by the beginning of nationalization in 1947, the factory had 3 brands of beer and produced 5 million liters annually. The nationalized enterprise received the new name “Rodopi”, but it didn't stick, and already in 1952 the old famous name was returned to the factory.
The first large-scale modernization was made in the brewery in the late 50s. As a result, the volume of production increased several times. After the expansion and reconstruction in 1960-70s, the range of beer produced increased significantly, and productivity grew from year to year. By 1990, it had reached 60 million liters per year.
By 1995, the factory was privatized and the company became a joint stock company. The Belgian company Interbrew S.A. bought 70% of the shares, paying almost 5 million US dollars for them. Later, the same investor bought up controlling stakes in the breweries in Burgas (Burgasko beer) and in Haskovo (Astika beer). And in 2002 Kamenitsa merged with “Pleven beer” - a brewery in Pleven. After that, the factories in Burgas and Pleven were closed.
Now the company is owned by the American company Molson Coors Brewing Company, which has become the main shareholder as a result of a global merge of the world's largest beer producers.
"Carlsberg Bulgaria", Shumen and Blagoevgrad, the year of foundation 1882
Beer brands produced:
- Shumensko (4.8%)
- Shumensko Belgian style (5.6%)
- Shumensko Czech style (5.4%)
- Shumensko Special (5.2% / 12˚P)
- Shumensko Dark (5.5%)
- Pirinsko (4.4% / 10 ˚P)
- Pirinsko Mlado beer - unpasteurized (4.4%)
- Pirinsko Ledeno (4.4%)
- Tuborg, licensed / Denmark (4.6%)
- Carlsberg, licensed / Denmark (4.6%)
Beer "Shumensko" is named after the city of Shumen, in which the factory is located.
“Pirinsko” was named after the Pirin mountains in western Bulgaria.
The brewery in Shumen was built in 1882 as the initiative of a group of Shumen entrepreneurs who organized a partnership and invited Franz Milde, a Czech brewer who worked at a small brewery in Ruse, as their shareholder. The Czech master took control of the production in Shumen and soon developed the Shumensko beer recipe, which began production in 1883. Later, Milde headed the company, which merged with the Haberman brewery in Ruse. After the brewer's death in 1924, the company worked under the guidance of his two sons and was successful and prosperous until the start of nationalization in 1947.
At the end of 1950s, production volume approached 10 million liters per year. The shumen beer was the hallmark of socialist Bulgaria; it was served on Bulgarian plane flights and in the hotels where foreigners stayed.
In 1999, during the privatization process, the company was acquired by a Turkish investor, and then in 2002 by the Danish beer concern Carlsberg Brewery. In 2004, the owner also acquired the Pirinsko beer beer factory in Blagoevgrad, after which the two enterprises were merged into one company, which currently operates under the name Сarlsberg Bulgaria JSC.
The five companies described above produce about 80% of beer in Bulgaria.
To the craft beer lovers we recommend our article “Craft beer in Bulgaria - a worthy alternative to wine?”
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