Yuriy Zastavnyi: “There is a craft brewing movement in the country”


If you illustrate 4 years in numbers, for Beer Theatre “Pravda”, which marked the fourth birthday in the middle of December, they look like this: 14 medals in world beer competitions, more than 2 million guests, over 1200 concerts of Pravda Orchestra, more than 2.5 million of litres of “true” beer, which influenced the self-esteem of countless people. Yuriy Zastavnyi and 187 of his like-minded fellows stand behind it.

We talked with the founder of “Pravda” about the passing year, plans of a brewery for 2019, the entrance to the world market, the team, about beer and sports, and what could accelerate the craft movement in Ukraine.

Yuriy, the coming New Year is usually the time to sum up. What was 2018 like for “Pravda”? What achievements are you proud of? Have you fulfilled all the goals you set for yourself?

–  As every year, it has been a year of growth. We transferred the brewery of “Pravda” from Rynok Square to the venue of our “Craft Beer & Vinyl Music Festival”, which is 2.5 km away from the centre. This gives us the opportunity to add power and to facilitate the work of the production team – it’s not easy to work when almost a thousand people in the restaurant are having fun. In addition, the logistics in a new place is much easier. Previously, each visit of officials meant closing the centre of Lviv, which made it impossible to bring the ingredients. The bottling line was moved together with the brewery. But in the centre, there are 10 cylindroconical vessels, in which we bring the wort, and the beer goes through the cold stage (fermentation and maturation) in place. After that, the ready beer is pumped in pressure storage banks and fed to the outlets.

This year we decided to pause our participation in the contests. The only place where we sent our beer was European Beer Star in Germany (the sour “Zamkova Gora” and the classical Hefeweizen “Citadel”), but we didn’t win anything. Meanwhile, Italy, Spain, Sweden, and France were added to our export list.

What are your plans for the coming year in relation to brewing and the line of beer brands?

– We are planning to add a few fermenters in 2019, to reconstruct the main brewing (add boiling tank), to finish constructing a small but professional 100-liter brewing for beginners, to send our chief brewer for a six-month training in Berlin, to brew 10-15 new brands of beer, to start a small barrel program, to do several internships at leading breweries in Europe and to develop our own lab.

It has already become a good tradition to present guest beer on the shelves of “Pravda”. Next to the imported craft, “Varvar” and “Kumpel” appeared, as well as “Male” and SD Brewery. Who chooses brewers and brands which are invited and what are the principles of selection?

– We offer different brands of guest beer when we don’t have enough of our own beer – that is, for 2 years in a row. Although it can really become a tradition – to show to the people of Lviv that there is a craft brewing movement in the country, everywhere, from east to west and from north to south. I personally sample all brands. I already know some from the festivals, some are recommended by colleagues. The first test is for purity, without any short expiry periods. The second one tests defects. The third one checks the balance. In other words, I make sure there is no thoughtless amateur bitterness or sickening sweetness.

Today “Pravda” is exported to 10 countries. What is important for you in getting to the European (world) market? How is Ukrainian craft taken abroad? For which countries are you planning to open “Pravda”?

– At this stage, it is a matter of principle, and not business. It is important to have evidence that our beer is at the same level with the best American, Japanese, and Swedish craft brands. We are now exporting to 12 countries and the export is growing. The United States, Asia and Central America will be next.

At the stage when the craft culture of Ukraine was originating, one of the biggest brewers’ problems was the problem of consumers’ poor understanding of the “new beer”. What issues are most acute for brewers today?

– There are several things that slow down the development of the craft. Brewers do not go around the world to look at other productions. What’s more, people still have the Soviet-time perception that “short expiry term = live = fresh = natural.” Even more important, there is no layer of knowledgeable beer fans who can unhurriedly comment on brands, carry out educational work, and engage others. But these things are not critical. Yes, they slow down the process, but do not block the development of quality beer. Anyway, there will be a flood of experience from Europe and the US to us, consumers – not all, but more and more – will gradually understand what is wrong with short terms, and coach experts will be replaced by traveling beer geeks who will have enough knowledge so that their “gems” will not be massively quoted. Progress is evident and it will persist, this is an irreversible process.

This year “Pravda” was included in TOP-10 Taprooms of Europe. I think it’s the merit of the entire team. What is its strength?

– It was a nice, but secondary news. Like any subjective prize or rating, this is the choice of rating author. Obviously, for the sake of justice it was good to insert into the rating someone from Eastern Europe, so we got there. Nevertheless, the question was about the team, and here I have something to say. “Pravda” has practically an ideal team for its period of life. Firstly, these are emotionally charged people. Secondly, in the multidimensional world of “Pravda”, where there is a production, a shop, a restaurant on 5 levels of the house, and warehouses, the team communicates effectively and interacts with each other. Thirdly, it is a team that for the most part generates ideas itself and, importantly, embodies the ideas of development. My role is not to disturb.

Many consider beer “non-sporty” drink. You, like nobody else, can briefly and convincingly dispel this myth…

There are no “sporty” or “non-sporty” drinks, but there is a question what, when and how much. For example, a cola will not be called useful, but for many, including athletes, cola is a perfect drink during the competition. Beer, like everything else in the world, can be useful in expedient situations and quantities, and be harmful in others. There are athletes who do not drink alcohol at all, but there are those who drink beer as a means to quickly fill up carbohydrates or reduce stress. For more in-depth thoughts on this subject, there are many studies, more and less scientific.

You dedicated “Breakfast for Champions” beer to the great sumo wrestler of the Ukrainian origin Ivan Boryshko. To what other little-known or unfairly forgotten Ukrainians would you like to dedicate a beer to draw attention to their story?

– Since the label is one of the methods to express one’s opinion, we use it to tell about prominent Ukrainians, about the events of our history or about the politicians of the world, which in one way or another affect the course of events in Ukraine. At this time, we do not have a definite figure, but with our history, there are a lot of such figures – for hundreds and thousands of labels.


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