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Bulgaria’s first brewery was named after a saint

And more stories with a whiff of hops

Photo: BGNES

Bulgaria is not the first country of choice for the dedicated beer lover. Compared to countries with over 1,000 years of brewing tradition like Germany and Belgium, or to world renowned producers such as the Netherlands and the Czech Republic, this country’s industrial beer production has a relatively short history.

A Czech master brewer was invited to work for the first Bulgarian commercial brewery shortly before or after 1877-1878 (the country’s fight for liberation from Ottoman rule) in the Northern town of Ruse. The factory was named after a well-loved local female saint - Saint Petka. In 1882 though the “St Petka” brewery was taken over by the bigger Austrian company “Johann Habermann's”.

Non-commercial attempts at brewing had been made even earlier by the world-known Hungarian exile Lajos Kossuth, who settled in Shumen after the Hungarian Revolution of 1848. Since then home-brewing has become a tradition in parts of Bulgaria, despite all the difficulties that go with obtaining some of the essential ingredients. This tradition was not only preserved, it has flourished in the last 15 years.

By theend of 2021 there were 37 beer producers registered in Bulgaria. Three of them are large companies, 8 are medium-sized breweries and there are 26 small businesses. The growing demand for types of beer, other than lager, has compelled the brewers in the country to diversify their production, and now they also offer ale, pale ale, indian pale ale, stout, porter and other types of the frothy drink.

The wider choice of beers prompted retailers and bar and restaurant owners to offer a wider range of the beverage to consumers. Some of these places became attractiveand cozy gathering points for both beer enthusiasts and connoisseurs. No wonder a new "Society of Collectors of Beer Items in Bulgaria" has emerged. Its members are people for whom drinking a beer is not just an occasion to meet, but also to learn something new about their favorite drink, evidence of which are a number of pricelessprivate collections of beer bottle labels, pads, cups, promotional gifts, etc. One such collector is Ognyan Asparuhov, a teacher who owns beermats from around the globe:

„I cannot remember which was the first beermat I ever kept. I remember I started collecting them in 2007-8. Since beverage coasters and advertising materials are quite common at beer bars and pubs abroad, and so is taking them home, I started to collect them. If I pick out any of my mats today, I will immediately remember where I got it from, ”Asparuhov said in an interview with BNR.

The mats from Bulgaria were actually the most difficult to find. The reason - wine and Bulgarian brandy – rakia – were much more popular back in the years when brewing in this country was not so well developed.

Lyubomir Angelov and Ognyan Asparuhov

Another member of the beer lovers’ Society has a number of peculiar collectibles. Lyubomir Angelov collects only beer bottle labels from Bulgaria. So far he has over 3,500 of them:

"For me, it all started by accident," Angelov remembers. “It was 1994, I had left a few bottles to cool in a basin full of cold water." Their labels peeled off and I decided to start collecting them. The most important thing about them is the design – that’s what makes a label special. The dream label is the oneassociated with a precious memory.“

Editing by Yoan Kolev

Translated from Bulgarian Elizabeth Radkova

Photos: Facebook/ Общество на колекционерите на бирени артикули в България (Society of Collectors of Beer Items in Bulgaria)
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