Ivana Radomirova, CEO of Union of Brewers in Bulgaria, on the past, present and future of modern Bulgarian beer
Established in 1991, the Union of Brewers in Bulgaria has the main mission to promote the best practices of the sector, popularising the beer excellence and its responsible consumption. This makes Ivana Radomirova, CEO of the Union, one of the best professionals to talk to when Bulgarian beer is concerned.
What is 2020 for beer in Bulgaria?
The Covid-19 crisis had a significant impact on Bulgarian brewing industry. The closure of bars and restaurants and the lockdown caused estimated market losses of about 20%. We, however, are proud of the way the industry managed the crisis. Not a single person employed in Bulgarian brewing industry lost their job. Companies reorganised quickly their work process and continue to apply the strictest safety standards at their facilities.
Beer is very dependent on weather – the sunnier it is, the more people go out with friends and enjoy beer. So, we are cautious optimists for the rest of the summer if, however, people stick to the social distancing measures when they gather with friends. The latest results of our traditional survey on how often Bulgarians drink beer show that they continued to enjoy it an average of 10 times a month.
What does Bulgaria's beer culture look like?
Bulgarians traditionally underestimate their beer culture. In reality, archaeological finds suggest that beer in the Bulgarian lands predates that in Ancient Egypt. And as early as 1900, a Bulgarian brewery won a gold medal at Monde Selection expo at Brussels. Bulgarian breweries continued winning medals at this prestigious event during Communism. They do it also now, on a regular basis.
In the past decade the profile of the average Bulgarian beer drinker changed. What used to be a conservative drinker loyal to 2-3 beers morphed into a young enthusiast who eagerly seeks new tastes, styles and experiences. The Bulgarian beer drinker is also concerned about healthy lifestyle. That is why breweries are sticklers for displaying all the relevant information on their labels, as a part of the Proud To Be Clear movement. They also invest in making beers with improved nutritional qualities and alcohol-free beers.
Of course, we always underline that beer should be enjoyed responsibly by people over 18 years of age.
For whom is your Beer Academy?
The Beer Academy is a creative initiative to introduce in an engaging and entertaining way the wider public to detailed knowledge of what beer is. Journalists are introduced to the beer-making process and popular Bulgarians participate in videos that popularise beer and its benefits. During the lockdown we put significant effort on the Academy's online presence as a means not only to educate, but also to lift the spirit of Bulgarians stuck in their homes. This way of communication reflected perfectly the current notion about beer among Bulgarians – that this beverage might have 6,000 years of history, but that it is still a relevant, fashionable, and exciting product. Beer has immense potential for development, evolution and change, adjusting to the tastes of each generation. The industry recognises this and invests boldly both resources and creativity to make beers that enhance the drinker's experience, turning it into something memorable and pleasant.
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