White Stork Beer Co. is one of Bulgaria's pioneering craft beer companies having launched one of the first commercial craft beers – the Original Pale ale in 2013.
Since then White Stork has come a long way in the still narrow segment of the market for special beers in Bulgaria with different brews and styles to establishing a solid portfolio of high-end products that uncompromisingly follow the philosophy of the brand. After conquering the palates of craft beer lovers with their base series in the country and abroad, it was time for collaboration with breweries in Serbia, Romania, Portugal, Russia, The Netherlands, Hungary and Poland, reinforcing White Stork's position as a trendsetter in the Bulgarian craft beer scene.
We met up with White Stork's craft beer culture evangelist, Karel Röell, at their recently opened tap room, the White Stork Republic to discuss the latest trends in this field.
What defines craft beer for the White Stork label?
Craft beer has many definitions and myths so I usually look at in a different way. There are the macro beer producers that mostly brew lager, the traditional beer producers from historical countries such as Germany, Belgium and the UK where brewing is engrained in society, and craft brewing.
I see the craft beer sector as small to medium sized breweries that make creative beer styles from high quality and natural ingredients. To take it to a higher step, I see craft brewers as the rock bands shaking up the musical world and shocking staid parents stuck in their old ways in the late 1950s or in my personal case, punk rock bands with their DIY philosophy!
Brewing gives you many creative options with the multiple beer styles from across the world from Pilsners to Weizen, from Pale Ales to India Pale Ales, Porters to Stouts, Lambieks to Berliner Weisse Sours and Barleywine to Eisbock. Throw in the 60 or more different malts, the hundreds (and growing) hop breeds, many different yeast cultures available to us and then add some interesting fruits, and you will have plenty of material to come up with a unique beer. This has actually happened in the last decade with brewers developing new beer styles thanks also to new technology, new hop breeds and equipment – for example New England India Pale Ales a hazier version of IPAs and Brut India Pale Ales dry as a bone IPAs did not exist when we started off our own project.
What are your most popular beers?
Our Original Pale Ale is still a best seller followed closely by our expanding range of pilsners, notably Kinky Afro and Hop Along. We have also had huge success with one of our more creative IPAs, the Tropikalia, which is a hybrid New England/Milkshake IPA infused with hibiscus flowers producing a tropical ice cream in liquid form. Cosmic Debris turns out to be also an awesome West Coast IPA. As far as our collaboration brews are concerned, we have gained many fans with Caravanserai, smoked tea infused Imperial Stout, Supersonic, an IPA with lime and coconut, and Take Me Somewhere Nice, a sour IPA with passion fruit.
Which are the most exciting new craft beer developments, in your opinion?
This sector is in constant flux of creativity so things move really fast. In the US last year, it was all about Hard Selzer which is alcoholic sparkling water with fruit flavouring, usually fermented from sugar cane or even malted barley. In Europe, 0% alcohol beer has seen huge growth and we are still seeing a lot of exciting hazy New England IPAs and interesting Fruit Sours being released on the market. As far as Bulgaria is concerned, I would expect lower alcohol beers like micro IPA's and highly hopped pilsners to become a trend as people would like to enjoy more hoppy beers for lower prices. I also believe more local Bulgarian craft breweries should open their own tap room as we did last year with White Stork Republic.