Sorry I haven’t a Cluj

My previous visit to Cluj Napoca was in November 2017, when my research found little of interest beerwise (both in Romania in general, and especially in Cluj) and on arrival became even less as the one independent brewpub was closed for repairs! Return flights procured for under £20 (out from L**ds, back to Liverpool, both with Wizz and as it turned out both with the same plane), and a decent enough ‘pension’ booked for around £35 for the Saturday night made for a cheap weekend. My research this time (including Dom’s ‘Hopping Around’ report in this august publication) yielded much better results including breweries and multitap bars. I won’t repeat the bars Dom reported but I found two others which proved well worth a visit.

First call was Beer Wall Cafe, a small bar next to a stream, featuring around 8 draught beers and four large fridges of cans and bottles. If you’d told me in 2017 that I’d be drinking wild sours with grapes in Cluj I’d have laughed, but what I had to start in the form of Red My Mind from Addictive brewery, followed by Threesome (fnarr) fruit sour from One Two, and various IPAs.

I then turned to the smallpack… it was like a kid in a sweetshop, I restricted myself to ‘only’ 11 cans and bottles to take away, oblivious to the fact I’d need to drink them before a lunchtime flight home next day.

Later I visited Brewhouse, another small bar in the old town, with 16 draught lines and a small fridge selection. A couple of beers were repeats of ones in Beer Wall, but mostly different. The bar is associated with Blackout brewery and naturally featured several of their beers, including Infochemicals Double NEIPA and Enter Vim West Coast IPA. I also tried their Ragequit chocolate porter, and several guests including Bere a la Cluj Rosetta raspberry hefeweizen, Acan E01 wild farmhouse ale and Ultima Here for the Hype fruit sour. I finished on the 10% Dystopian Future (not sure if it’s named after the current state of the UK…) imperial dessert stout collab from One Two & Metanoia.

By this stage I realised I’d missed the last tram back, as all public transport pretty much stops at around 2300, so a walk back to my pension and a nightcap of two of my cans purchased earlier.

In both bars smaller measures are available with Beer Wall offering 0.5l, 0.4l and 0.33l for most beers and Brewhouse offering 0.4l and 0.2l. The former unfortunately has ‘ticker tax’ with 0.33l being c80% of the 0.5l price, while the latter is more linear with only around 20p surcharge for the smaller glass… it’s not often I wish to see UK culture abroad, but I really wish everywhere correctly pro-rated smaller measures like here!

The staff in both bars spoke excellent English and were happy to talk about the various beers on offer, as well as craft beer in Romania in general.

Next morning I had a bit of a wander, drank a couple of my cans, then caught a train to Cluj Napoca Est and walked the mile to the airport rather than walk to get the airport bus… at least now you can pay for buses and trams on board by tapping a contactless card, previously you had to traipse round looking for a stop with a ticket machine or a shop selling them.

I then had five beers to drink at the airport(!) before I could go through security, I’ll be very glad when the new scanners are rolled out and the pathetic ban on liquids in hand luggage is lifted! Uneventful flight to Liverpool then a ridiculous train-train-train-bus journey home taking 4 hours instead of under 2 thanks to engineering work on the Hope(less) Valley line and a CBA attitude from certain train companies.

Never did get round to trying the brewpub I’d been denied in 2017…

Dave Szwejkowski

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