Dan-Mihai Toader, Head of Craft at Bârlog/UrsusBreweries, is the second guest of #RomanianThrivers, a section of The Alternative School blog exploring the success stories behind memorable local projects developing during the pandemic, against all odds. As the mastermind behind Bârlog, Dan shares insights into the artisanal beer world, what makes Bârlog a unique experience, and future plans in this wonderful journey.
What motivated the creation of Bârlog and what has been the biggest challenge so far?
The motivation and the main challenge are one and the same. It’s the goal of making craft beer approachable for more people in Romania. Everything started from an obvious opportunity to grow the craft beer segment and to bring the craft universe closer to a wider audience. Passionate about beer, challenged by the craft, supported by the company, our team put together a challenging plan in 2018, and then we set off on this adventure called Bârlog. Based in the heart of Cluj-Napoca, brewing a lot of different beers for a lot of different tastes.
We started with this goal in mind and it makes us go further. We have a lot of work to do.
Artisanal breweries and craft beers have really been making headlines in Romania lately. What do you think differentiates Barlog from this sea of brands?
First, let me express my enthusiasm about what you said before: „Artisanal breweries and craft beers have really been making headlines in Romania lately.” This is something we were really looking forward to see in the past few years and we are glad to live in these times when craft beer and beer artisans are getting a voice in Romania. Looking up to what we’ll all achieve in the next years.
The main differentiator for Barlog is its origin. We are the first craft beer brand in Romania developed by an industrial brewer. This has been a highly debated topic and a popular headline since we launched the brand and the brewery. We are the first and only „industrial craft” in the Romanian beer universe so far. To complete the circle, we are truly different because we have this set-up, of an industrial craft, but we create the beers, from recipe to delivery, like a genuine small crafter: our team brainstorms for new beer ideas, we do a lot of trial and error, we taste the beers and decide as a team on every step we make, both in the brewery and outside the brewery.
Could you tell us more about the process, the behind-the-scenes production of Barlog products?
This is the best part. You should come visit us and see how things happen here. We are a team of 28 people and most of us are here, on the production site in Cluj. We spend a lot of time together, creating new recipes, analyzing the trends, tasting the beers. The last part is worth all the effort. And this is something that brings us all together, the brewing team and the commercial and administrative team. We are lucky enough to have some of the best brewers, technologists, and even one dedicated beer sommelier in the team. And there are not many specialists with this set of skills in our country yet. Also, we have partnerships with local craft brewers that help us develop new projects and beers, ready to conquer even the tastes of the aficionados. It takes a few months from the idea of a new beer to the first bottle that leaves the factory, but we managed to launch already, in our first year, 5 different beers, 2 improved or updated versions of some of the existing beers, and one limited edition for the Christmas season. We are satisfied with our process so far.
What are your near-future goals for Bârlog? Do you plan to expand your product selection?
Well, this is the core objective of Barlog: to create a lot of different beers for a lot of different tastes. So yeah, our plan is to walk the talk and move on making more and more types of beers, watch them get their fans, collect the feedback, improve the recipes, satisfying thousands of people with thousands of tastes. We already have some plans in place for 2022 regarding the new products we’ll launch, but I’m not going to reveal more now. Stay close!
If you could recommend one product to try first from Barlog, which one would it be and why?
I like this question a lot, because it finds us always prepared. This is why we love the idea of creating a lot of beers for a lot of tastes. It means that we also have them matching a lot of different consumption moments. So chances are you can match at least one of our beers with any moment, mood, place, or dish. In the summer, our Wheat Ale, Cosmarul lui Baiazid, might be your first choice. In December 2021 we launched A Doua Enigma a lui Negru Voda – porter black with vanilla and it went very well with the Christmas deserts. The IPA, Palosul lui Stefan is the most popular and best seller, so looks like the Romanian consumer is being conquered by the India Pale Ale assortment. We also have a Red Ale – Teapa lui Vlad, a Lager – Legenda lui Matei, and a classic Porter Black – Enigma lui Negru Voda. All of them have their fans and all of them can be matched with a specific mood or moment. So the answer here is: choose the beer that matches your moment. And tell us what you think after you taste it.
As a Romanian Thriver, what would you say is the best statement of Romanian humor?
I am a big fan of self-humor. I was told once that this is a good sign 😊. Joke aside, I love telling funny stories about „ardeleni”; as I am born and raised in Cluj, no harm here.
If Romanian creativity should be known for one thing, what would that be?
Finding a way out, seeking a solution, making it work. And this is a blessing and a curse at the same time. It lifted us up and helped us survive in harsh times but at the same time it prevents us from excelling sometimes. We, as Romanians, will make it to the top if we will be able to put structure behind this blessing and understand, as a nation, that talent is not enough.
What is your advice for international headhunters, related to Romanian creatives?
One selfish piece of advice: go home! We have a lot of work to do here with these creative minds. Jokes aside, our young creatives are getting better and better in the industry and I think we are already witnessing an export of creatives from our country. Looking forward to hearing more and more Romanian names on the biggest industry prizes worldwide. And hope this will be a motivator for the next generations. Also hope to see more Romanian brands going abroad. Bârlog might be one of them.
Bârlog is the first craft beer brand in the portfolio of Ursus Breweries, part of the international group Asahi Europe & International.
Bârlog was born in Cluj, in the new factory that bears their name, built on the site of the former Ursus brewery, which was built there more than a century ago. They carry their heritage with pride, in a place full of tradition in brewing, with a mixed team of brewers, technologists, sommeliers, and product people, pillars on which they rely with confidence in everything they create. Bârlog operates according to an intrapreneurial business model, in which both the strategy and the implementation, but also the agility with which they do things are in the hands of their team of professionals passionate about beer.
In the first half of the year, they launched 4 varieties of beer: The legend of Matei Corvin – Cluj Craft Lager, The Enigma of Black Water – Porter Black, Stefan’s Paloș – India Pale Ale and Vlad’s Spike – Red Ale. These are just the first of many different beers for thousands of different people that they set out to make with passion in Cluj.
ABOUT DAN-MIHAI TOADER
Dan-Mihai Toader is having the time of his life while building the Bârlog business in Cluj with a team of 25+ colleagues and friends, as the Head of Craft. Considering his 20+ yrs experience in Finance and Commercial roles in Ursus Breweries, he definitely knows what he’s doing, covering areas along the way as: Finance and Controls, Business Risk, Strategy, Revenue Management, Project Management, Internal Audit, Credit, Commercial Finance. His passion is contagious, sharing his insights as the Associate Lecturer in Risk Management at “Babes-Bolyai” University, Faculty of Economic Sciences and Business Management.
We are proud to mention him as a previous speaker for the Autumn Semester of 2021, at The Alternative School for Creative Thinking.
This is the second episode of our #RomanianThrivers series. Who else would you like to see featured on our platform? Leave us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org and stay tuned for more!