Brewery: Zagorka Brewery, Stara Zagora, Bulgaria
|Interesting: Bulgaria uses the cyrillic alphabet (what you otherwise might recognize as the Russian alphabet), but we don't see that on Zagorka's bottle. Clearly this one is marketed as an export.|
A few years ago, finding a beer from Bulgaria in the United States probably would have been difficult. There isn’t a big Bulgarian diaspora here—for instance, in 2000 about 55,000 Americans identified themselves as Bulgarian, while Serbia, with a similar population to Bulgaria, was the ancestral home to 140,000 Americans. Most Americans probably couldn’t even conjure up a mildly offensive stereotype about Bulgaria, let alone find it one the map.
|It's right here, dummy! This stuff is made in Stara Zagora, and, like every other Eastern European beer, the name Zagorka is a derivative of the name of the city in which it is made.|
While other former Iron Curtain shut-ins were seeing an influx of tourists and investment dollars—think the Czech Republic—Bulgaria's economy advanced more slowly. Its economy is still largely based on agriculture, and growing grain at that (Bulgaria and bulgur share an etymology), and a heavy dependence on agriculture usually goes hand-in-hand with a developing economy. Nevertheless, by 2007 Bulgaria had done enough to merit a seat at the grown-up table of the European Union. Five years later a lot of the prestige of being a member of the EU has eroded, but at the very least Bulgaria’s inclusion allowed it to more easily export stuff to the EU’s trade partners. Like us!
|The crown and the lions aren't just for showing off: they evoke the actual Bulgarian coat of arms. The red, white, and green color scheme is also appropriate.|
And thus, as the geopolitical and economic stars aligned, the universe enabled me to quaff a big bottle of something called Zagorka, “The Taste of Bulgaria.” It was pretty good: a nicely hopped standard pilsner. However, someone should tell the fine, hard-working folks at the Zagorka Brewery that the Taste of Bulgaria is awfully similar to the taste of Croatia, the taste of Ghana, and the taste of the Netherlands.
|Skip the brewery tour. Here's how it's done.|
That’s because Zagorka is now owned by Heineken, as are seemingly half the world’s beers. They all taste mostly fine, but I’m not convinced that they’re not all made using the exact same recipe. If anyone would like to help me organize an international blind taste test of pilsners in green bottles, perhaps we can get
to the bottom of this.