The day after the Bulgarian homebrew competition, we piled into the car to drive to Pazardzhik to attend the after party at Rhombus Craft Brewery. We were actually in pretty decent shape considering the amount of beers we had drank thus far on our trip and the drive was a nice and easy one, about an hour or so outside of Sofia.
Temelko Pampov is the organizer for the competition and his son Stoycho is the head brewer at Rhombus. They’re an excellent brewery and highly recommended.
“You’re not drunk if you can lie on the floor without holding on.”Dean Martin
The Pampov family invited us out for this and was kind enough to cover our hotel, which they booked for us. We first headed to the brewery to meet up with them and then Stoycho got us checked into the hotel and drove us back for the party. Our good friends from Slovakia and Romania also joined the party.
When we arrived, we saw them inspecting the pig that they had deboned and had in a smoker. The pig had spent many hours in that smoker. This would be our lunch, and a fine lunch it was. The meat was tender and juicy and packed with flavor and not overly smokey as it would seem could possibly be the case. Very tasty. Temelko also stuffed the pig with some sausages and those cooked inside of the pig.
Stoycho gave us an English language tour of the brewery. It’s a pretty small brewery but they really did an excellent job of utilizing the space. Some of the open fermenters were old dairy equipment that they had repurposed. They had a tiny counter pressure bottle filler that Stoycho had custom made himself. He’s a capable man who is good with his hands, good with do-it-yourself projects around the brewery and knows how to do some welding as well. And he’s a damned fine brewer. Not a one of their beers has a single off flavor. They are all finely crafted beers that are a pleasure to drink across the entire product line. They also have a few barrels to age their Imperial Porter in, which is the best beer I have had in the entire region. Also pouring at the party was his English Porter and his Pale Ale. We drank this excellent beer off of the tap all day, alternating between styles.
At the brewery, they had a pretty steady stream of local people coming in to purchase tap beer to go. They have installed a counter pressure filler on the tap and evacuate each bottle with CO2, then fill it. People take this fresh tap beer home to drink. We saw people of all ages coming in to buy beer to take home. One old lady drives every week from a village 50 km away to buy her weekly supply of Rhombus beer.
For entertainment at the party, Temelko hired some traditional Bulgarian folk dancers. They got the stereo set up and blasted some proper Balkan music and the dancers danced for us. Lots of fun to watch.
We spent the warm, sunny day alternating between outside in back of the brewery and inside the brewery at the bar, pouring beer and hanging out. We were made to feel very welcome and shared good humor and good company with our hosts and our friends who had also been invited. Temelko broke out a large piece of meat that is their local version of prosciutto, a meat called Elenski but. This was homemade cured pork from the town of Elena and was quite tasty. Andrej cut it very thin and we ate mouthful after mouthful. Yum!
We enjoyed drinking and having fun until eventually it was time to go back to the hotel. At the hotel,
we had adjoining rooms with a shared balcony and we broke out a few bottles of the beer we had bought in Sofia in the morning and drank some more beer together, as if we had not already had enough beer to drink.
In the morning, the neighboring church awoke us with their bells and we arose and went in search of breakfast. The bottom floor of the hotel had a restaurant and we sat down. When the waitress came over, Matija said to her, in English, “we’d like to order some breakfast.” She frowned and walked away without a word. We joked that it’d be funny if we saw her walk out, get in her car and speed off, fleeing the foreigners. But she did return with a menu and we had a pretty decent breakfast to fuel our upcoming drive.
We stopped by the brewery for one little tiny half glass of their beer and grabbed some bottles which Stoycho was kind enough to give to us, then hit the road for the long drive ahead.
I took the first shift and the drive was uneventful except for one run in with Bulgarian cops which I can tell you about in person if we’re sharing a pint at some point. We stopped for lunch in Niš, Serbia and ordered a large platter of meat and feasted then hit the road again to continue on, eventually arriving home in Croatia late at night. I crawled into bed and went to sleep and dreamt of smoked pig and tasty Bulgarian craft beer.
Rhombus Craft Brewery will also host a homebrew competition the weekend after ours, on the 10th of June. Whoever wins the contest gets to brew their beer at Rhombus with Stoycho and crew. The beer that won last year was a Star Anise Stout and was really fantastic. We drank some from bottles and brought some home.
Below you can see a gallery from last year’s competition.
You can find information about this year’s competition here.
The photos on this page were taken by Gabriela Staykova and me. Thanks so much for the use of your pictures, Gabriela!
A huge, massive, gigantic thanks goes out to Temelko, Stoycho, Gabriela and family for inviting us and taking such great care of us. The after party was our favorite part of the whole trip. Cheers from all of us! See you next year!
End of this story. I recommend you go to Bulgaria to see for yourself!
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