A Collaboration with Varvar Brewery

A Collaboration with Varvar Brewery

At the end of March, we had Martin from Varvar brewery, based in Kyiv, Ukraine. A collaboration we had scheduled towards the end of 2021, suddenly took on a new meaning and outlook with the Russian invasion into Ukraine. The beer originally meant to showcase a style of beer that Varvar is looking to expand, now also incorporates our 'Stand with Ukraine' initiatives, with part of the proceeds being added to our other efforts in raising money for the Ukraine crisis.


Martin was able to leave Ukraine as a UK National, however, all of this work colleagues remain, doing everything they can to assist with the strong resistance Ukrainians are continuing to show. 

Below is a written introduction from Martin on the Ukrainian Golden Ale style, a brief history of the evolution of the beer, and a little of how things have been going since the war in Ukraine started.


"Think back to the UK craft beer scene in 2009. The craft beer tide was rising, but there was a dearth of choice compared to what is available today. In Ukraine there was one choice. And that was Hobson's choice: pale lager or nothing.

But at Yuzivska Brewery in the eastern reaches of the country, the owner and his head brewer were about to serve up something new: a homegrown Ukrainian beer. The golden hue was enticing. The smooth flavours were refreshing. The malty sweetness (maybe overly sweet at that stage!) suited the Ukrainian sweet tooth. The mighty 7% ABV did not diminish the drinkability. The locals could not get enough of it. This was the original Ukrainian Golden Ale.

When Donetsk fell to Russian occupation half a decade later, Yuzivska was lost. But craft beer had begun slowly trickling onto Ukrainian shores. Brewers began to experiment with the staple craft beer styles. IPA. Stout. Wheat. And, by some quirk, several also brewed their own version of Ukrainian Golden Ale. Notable among those are our erstwhile Yuzivska owner, Vasyl Mikulin (Varvar Brew in Kyiv) and head brewer, Dmitry Nekrasov (First Dnipro Brewery in Dnipro). To date there are at least 13 breweries brewing the style regularly, with fans consuming over 1.25 million litres in 2021. Ukrainian Golden Ale has become a surprising national success.

Now it is time to come back down to Earth. So, let me be completely honest with you. This is not a style that is going to knock your socks off. You will not gush about it. The flavours will not punch a hole through your tongue. You will not marvel at the wizardry required to make such a beer. Let me see... perhaps I am not selling it very well.

The style is hard to pin down because each brewery has interpreted it in a different way. Remember that this beer pre-dates the arrival of craft beer in Ukraine; it was a restaurant-brewery beer. The malty sweetness plays well with mellow fruity, floral or spicy notes. Interesting and flavourful without being complicated or distracting. A great stepping stone. A beer for those who want to drink, chat, and order another of the same. I think that is a fair description.

Ukrainian Golden Ale shares some characteristics with both Belgian Golden Strong and British Golden Ale, but does not fit neatly into either category. Mumblings among beer enthusiasts and within the fledgling Association of Independent Brewers of Ukraine pondered whether the BJCP might recognize it as an individual style. And might it also be possible to get it brewed internationally? We could only ask. Late in 2021 our friends at Full Circle answered. We knew that Full Circle are renowned for brewing solid and delicious beers in a variety of styles from traditional to on-trend. We also knew that they would put their own personal twist on the style (as seems to be the Ukrainian tradition). A perfect fit; together we would brew a remarkable collaboration beer. The stage was set.

But months of planning a series of brews with friends across the UK and the US was laid to waste one chilly February night when tanks started to roll over the border into Ukraine. I was there, in Kyiv, when it happened. I was there for a week before an opportunity arose for me to reach the border. It took me three days driving and 12 hours on foot queueing in freezing temperatures to cross into Poland. It was an unpleasant experience. But I consider myself extremely fortunate; many good friends are still there and unable to leave.

Nevertheless, determined to salvage some good from the chaos, the team at Varvar Brew decided that we should press on with the collabs that had been arranged. The very least we could do would be to highlight and raise money for good causes.

Full Circle have already been raising funds for the Ukraine crisis in their taproom, and through other initiatives, and we hope that our Ukrainian Golden Ale collaboration will bring more awareness and funds to help Ukraine in the now, and also in the future. 



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