“We recommend our beers to those who take care of the health of groundwater and habitats together with their own health.” – interview with Zoltán Szemerey, owner of the Pécsi Brewery
In the autumn of 2019, the Pécsi Brewery appeared on the pavilion line of the Organic Park. Back then, they sold two types of canned beers but the supply has now expanded. Hungarian beer consumption is declining in the colder seasons, but here is the summer, the grill season, the beach season and the heatwave, it is time to taste the organic beers.
In our interview this week, we talk to Zoltán Szemerey.
You have joined the Organic market last fall. What products do you offer to customers in the market?
We came up with 3 organic beers. One is a gluten-free lager, I’m telling you that it has the largest market. The other is a wheat beer called Weissbier, and we also have a top-fermented Pale Ale beer. All of them are available in cans, but one of them, the gluten-free lager, is also available in half-liter glass bottles.
How long have the organic products existed?
We started brewing organic beer 2-3 years ago. Organic is what is made from bio-certified raw materials, according to the requirements of the certification body. Last year, we managed to solve the most difficult detail to make beer from domestic organic malt. This was also a logistical issue for us, as there are organic-certified barley, wheat and malt in Europe, but we usually have to transport them from afar, and we didn’t want that. Eventually, a domestic company undertook to carry out the malting according to the regulations of organic production. This solved the most critical part of raw material production, as malt is the raw material used in the highest amount. Another difficulty was obtaining the hop varieties prescribed in the recipes.
For the sake of less informed customers, could you say a few words about the brewing process? What is malting and what is the role of hops?
Malt provides the carbohydrate needed for the fermentation process and the natural enzyme supply. Hops are the spice for beer, but they also provide shelf life, not to mention many other beneficial physiological effects.
Is the production process different from the production of conventional beer, except that organic raw materials are used?
No. Our brewery has been operating according to the German Purity Law for 3 years. This law also binds the hands of those who make traditional beer, and we are happy to follow these standards because nothing better has been invented yet. This legal regulation means that we do not use adjuncts or chemicals. Only pure hops, malt, brewer’s yeast and water get into beers. Brewer’s yeast must also be organic, so yeasts used in conventional brewing should not be transferred to organic brewing. Yeast is propagated separately by breweries and there must be a separate organic culture for organic brewing. It is also important to mention that certain special malts are required, e.g. coloring and caramel malt, which must also come from organic farming, we were able to obtain these from Germany.
So then, conventional and organic beers are not brewed in two different breweries?
This is not a criterion, but there is an extremely serious cleaning procedure in brewing anyway, disinfection is done with hot alkali, acid, steam, so contamination cannot occur. However, it is important to know that when we came out with the 3 organic beers, we thought that our lager should also be gluten-free at the same time, following the production rules of a gluten-free beer. It also has a separate certification process, but it is not done by Biokontroll.
Who do you recommend organic beer? Do you have a specific target group?
We recommend our beers to those who take care of the health of groundwater and habitats together with their own health. It means a lot, even for cereals that receive relatively few chemicals compared to other field crops, that synthetic pesticides or fertilizers are not used either. Within beer consumption, organic is a healthier version. There is nothing wrong with beers if consumed in moderation. They are healthy, because fermented products are useful for the human body, they contain various vitamins and minerals. In my opinion, organic farming is just as important for spirits, wine and beer as in case of bread, because we consume a lot of these over the years.
What foods or events do you recommend drinking beer for?
In Hungary, the peak of beer consumption is connected to summer, garden grilling and chilling in heat. In other countries this is not the case, it is more evenly distributed and beer consumption is more significant. Hungary is one of the average beer consumers, a Hungarian consumes about 60 liters a year. With this data, we are larger beer consumers than Italians or Spanish, but e.g. the Czechs drink a lot more than we do.
Is organic beer brewing a family initiative?
The same Pécsi Sörfőzde Zrt. is behind organic beers as in the case of non-organic products. We own this with my brother, Tamás.
Thank you for the conversation!