Beer writer, educator and Varvar Ambassador, Lana Svitankova, introduces us to the driving force behind one of Ukraine’s most internationally celebrated breweries
Saturday 04 June 2022
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Restore Our Earth
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Varvar Brew was established in Kyiv, Ukraine in 2015, and was envisioned as a small, neighbourhood brewery, with its home and taproom being a former sawmill in an industrial area of the Ukrainian capital. However, the success of the team and their beer outgrew these initial plans very quickly. Fuelled by a passion for innovation, love for the local community, and a joy of exploring techniques and ingredients both old and new, the brewery became one of the trailblazers of the emerging Ukrainian scene. The brewery now has a team of approximately 50 people, 2 brewhouses (2000 litres for main production and 500 litres for sours and experimentation), a barrel-ageing program, four venues around the country, and a dedicated following.
“Varvar” means “barbarian” in Ukrainian, and the logo features a Viking with a hop cone beard. Varvar and the Viking represent the shared history of the Scandinavian and Kievan Rus people, and also reflect the love that co-founder Vasyl Mikulin has for the contemporary Nordic beer scene. A barbarian mentality runs through Varvar, with the team’s can-do attitude breaking down the wall of boring beer, and showing people the way to never-ending horizons of styles and flavours.
Some of our beers have had some unusual ingredients—tomato, gherkin, horseradish, beetroot, birch sap, seaweed —but they are always pounced upon by our fans. While showing this exciting world of beer to our compatriots, we also take pride in representing Ukraine internationally in competitions, at festivals, and in collabs; wherever we can, we want to break the wall in both directions, showing the world that Ukraine has much beery goodness in store and we are eager to share.
Being a part of this project with Garden and Beer52 is such an exciting and humbling experience. The opportunity to connect with a young, ambitious brewery in a country with a developing beer scene immediately creates a special sort of kinship. Representing our country on such a huge scale and giving back again to some fantastic initiatives is just the icing on the cake; it fits perfectly with our own objectives and aspirations.
Beyond brewing, we also look to give back to and take care of our community, whether they are beer drinkers or not. Varvar has collaborated with small, local businesses and supported numerous social initiatives, creating delicious beers along the way. Last year, in collaboration with a local donation centre, we brewed I AM A+, a beer that became part of a wider campaign to raise awareness of the importance of blood donations, and several of the team donated blood too! In another charity collaboration we donated money raised from a special release beer, Neverending Story, to a local dog and cat shelter.
This would have been our sixth year running the initiative, if Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had not intervened
At Varvar, we are also strong believers that brewing and beer are for everybody, and we want everyone to be welcomed in our community, so for the last five consecutive years we’ve opened up the brewhouse to a number of local female fans to brew a special beer. Last year it was a collaboration for International Women’s Day (8 March) together with International Women’s Collaboration Brew Day (IWDCB) and GLOW (Global Ladies of Wort). This would have been our sixth year running the initiative, if Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had not intervened.
The brewery isn’t fully operational at the moment. Our team is doing lots of volunteering jobs, brewing international collabs, and attending events to raise funds for good causes. Two of the team have joined the armed forces. But everyone cannot wait to get back on track in the peaceful and independent country.
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