Cans Across Bulgaria (A Brews & Chews Travel Round-up)

This week, I’m doing something a little different. I had quite a few beers on the snowboard holiday to Bansko, Bulgaria so I’ll do little quick breakdowns on each. For the most part, we were drinking wines and spirits but I had a few beers here and there. The place was mostly geared towards western tourists so there wasn’t a whole pile of craft beer knocking about, it was either the standard big name beers like snarlsberg, umbrella or shmruinness haunting the bars or the odd bulgarian brew. Let’s get stuck in.

The first draft beer I had was Каменица or Kamenitza which is a Bulgarian lager style brew. I found myself having a few of these throughout the week and it was grand, it’s a really easily drank lager and if you’re a wee boarder looking for that nice cool down pint after a day on the slopes, this will do you rightly! It’s a 4.5% ABV and is served in stein style glasses mostly which I always love. ‘A good ol’ glass o’ grog’, you’d exclaim in the tavern. On the nose, it’s got that standard beery smell and doesn’t give too much away about itself so I just lash into the first sip. It’s beer. Yes, this is definitely a beer. No more, no less! If you’re looking to drink a standard beer, this is your guy. It has a moderate to light carbonation to it which makes it quite refreshing and with that cool, crisp air coming in from the mountains, it’s a pleasant wee tipple for sure.

So, the score then? I’d go 3.1 Yetis out of 5.

Next up, I had the Ariana Lager from Zagorka Brewery. Which, turns out, was bought by Heineken back in 1997 as it happens. I had a couple of these at dinner and they paired with the food really well. We had traditional Bulgarian dishes called a Skara which was chargrilled chicken, pork, peppers, onions and potatoes thrown in as well. Not only did it taste great, it arrived with a little fire underneath the hot plate which added a bit of drama to the whole thing. So that was craic! The Ariana lager comes in 500ml bottles and you can nab it on draft in some places too, it’s 5% so it’s a nice one to have with dinner if you want to start the party but stay on the level at the same time. On the nose, it’s very light smelling and has the odour of dried out hay so I’m guessing that this is going to be a dry malty number. I have a sip anyway and sure enough, it’s quite dry and almost likens itself to a wheat beer in the way it settles. There’s a nice malt to it and it’s lightly carbonated so you’re able to sup away whilst you eat your dinner. It’s a grand old beer for sure and I’d recommend you have it with any grilled meats as they seem to pair nicely.

I’d give this Ariana 3.2 Grandes out of 5.

There’s me there, happy as Larry w/ fire, food and drink.

But of course, it’s not always good times on the beer front. I went against my better judgement and broke one of my traveling rules. I’ve always been firmly against drinking a pint of Guinness abroad. Simply being that nowhere else in the world can pour it as it should be poured and being all over the place, I’ve watched some crimes against Ireland come out of those taps. BUT! And there is a BUT. I decided ‘You know what? Give it a go. Why not, just go for it. What’s the worst that could happen? So, we go to this Irish pub. Which as you know, there’s Irish themed pubs all over the world and we hit this wee one in Bulgaria which was in the basement of some apartment block. I decide it’s time to have a Guinness and the bar tender goes to pour it, I watch intently. ‘Nice angle on the glass tip’ I thought and look, the glass has been left with space at the top to settle before going back to finish it off. This was all quite promising so far as all the standard processes had been followed. The pint is finished and sat in front of me so now, it’s up to me to do my bit which is nothing yet, be calm and let it finish settling. The black stuff finally settles fully and I head in for a drink. It drinks bland, tasteless and of blatant disregard for Ireland and her people’s history. I keep drinking anyway because I’m that stubborn that I won’t just leave a pint. I’ve paid for this, I’ve made my bed and now I’m going to sleep in it. Halfway down the glass, I notice there’s absolutely no cling and the glass is clean which suggests too much cleaning fluid in the lines if I remember reading correctly. What did the people of Ireland do to the world to deserve this liquid slagging? As much as we slag off the behemoth company that is deflaggio, there’s a point of pride in a well poured pint of Guinness. For me, the best pint of Guinness I’ve ever had was Sandinos in Derry, Summer ’14 I’m gonna say, the year is irrelevant. This was the worst pint of Guinness I’ve ever had by far but I won’t judge Bulgaria for it. We’ll still go back there for sure but next time, we’ll stick to the spirits, wines and other draft. G’luck, Seán

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