The brewing tradition
“The old Szeklers used to call brewing ‘beer breeding’. They didn’t brew, they ‘bred’ the beer. This is indeed true because barley has to be germinated, matured in malt, marc and then fermented to become beer. It has to be grown and nurtured like a child until it is ready for market. Our ancestors knew neither brewers nor beer producers, only breeders,” writes László Szathmári in his book The Past of Hungarian Brewing. He continues: ‘Beer breeding’ is an old Hungarian craft, which we brought with us as a special process, competing with the hitherto customary brewing of barley (zythum).”
Written records of brewing
One of the earliest written records of brewing dates back to 1152. In her will, Mrs Gyöngy ordered a beer feast to be held after her death. In 1226, the palatine Miklós ordered the taxes on St Martin’s Day. According to him, each village belonging to the monastery was obliged to donate a bucket of beer to the monastery in Pannonhalma.
Thereafter, records of brewing were common, especially in the accounting records of towns, Szathmáry writes: “In this period, beer was brewed in almost all large towns (…). In the Pannonian Plain, among the Hungarians – and even more so among the Kuni – it was brewed in the boza.”
The first written mention of brewing in Ciuc dates back to 1548, in the paper called Transylvania written by the Jesuit monk Antonio Possevino della Compagnia di Gesù, published in 1584:
“All these (the priests of Ciuc) indulge in drunkenness, where normal drinking is confined to beer, are so ignorant that they cannot even spell their names correctly.”
“The historian Szőcs János történész found an entry from 1659: “I, the craftsman Cik Szeki Menash(a)ghi, a pupil of St. Mihali Miclos, boiled a potion and with it, I made Ferencz and Szebeni Peter drunk.”
According to Katalin Szabó’s paper called Visszajátszás, a tax census from 1713 mentions the names of three brewery owners: István Biró, Lőrinczet Gecző and Gábor Bartos. Inventory of the Csíksomlyó monastery brewery from 1727: “Drip vat 1, Viricses vat 6, Viricses tray, measuring pail 3, bathing vat 2, grain box with lock 1, salt grater 1″.
St. Anthony's Chapel mentions local brewers
Katalin Szabó also writes: “In 1733, seven people were already paying taxes for the brewery: Gábor Bartos, Mártonné Dániel, József Jakab, Ferenc György, Tamás Márton and the church servant Péter Deák. Johann Konrad’s map of 1735 also shows a brewery near Mikó Castle and there are also records that after the Austrian army moved into the castle, they set up not only stables but also a brewery. Shortly afterwards, in 1779, the protocol of St. Anthony’s Chapel mentions local brewers.
In 1781, the authorities issued a special decree concerning breweries and limiting the price of beer. After 1850, the name of Oppelt Antal, a soldier and brewer serving in the Czech Republic, appears several times in the tax census, and a man named Jancsó Illés is registered in 1858. In January 1871, the newlyweds include the son of brewer Romfeld Antal, brewer Romfeld Félix, who marries Leicht Juliánna.
The Romfeld Brewery must have been in the vicinity of Mikó Castle. Tivai Nagy Imre wrote: “On the site of the present hospital building, at the outer edge of the fortress moat, facing north, a wooden house with a porch belonged to Pál Sprencz, and part of the land belonged to the Romfeld Brewery, where there was a bowling alley and old mother Romfeld served with a glass of stirred cvagli beer.” The Romfelds’ beer was selling well, and soon a new brewery was built.
According to Szabó Katalin, her great-granddaughter, László Klára tells that in the Romfeld family memories, Leicht Juliánna was a successful businesswoman.
“She took care of the factory’s affairs, and not just anyhow: she raised her daughters in stately conditions, they went to school in Pest and later helped them a lot. Her husband, Romfeld Félix, died early. The widow kept the factory for a while, and in 1905 she rented it, selling it to Gál Ferenc in 1910.”
“MODERN ERA” – Gál’s brewery
Gál Ferenc, whose name can still be read on the original brewery building in Miercurea Ciuc, came from a merchant family in Delnița. After completing his lower secondary education in Șumuleu, he entered the trade, working for three years as Gál János’s assistant in Odorheiu Secuiesc, then in 1905, he rented the Romfeld brewery, which he soon modernised.
A beer bottle with a broken neck from this period is in the museum in Miercurea Ciuc: it is 5.5 decimetres, with thicker glass than today’s bottles, and the fact that it was made for the brewery is proven by the fact that Gál Ferenc’s name and the inscription Miercurea Ciuc are moulded into the bottle.
The merchant bought the brewery in 1910, but in 1919 he sold it to the Czellék family from Brasov.
”Igazi Csíki Sör”
The Czell Brewery operated until the end of the war when it was nationalised. Szabó Katalin writes about the next stage of brewing in Ciuc: “The brewery in Ciuc, which has become famous nowadays, was founded in the early 1970s as a socialist achievement and is not a continuation of the traditions of the previous breweries in Miercurea Ciuc”. The brewery was privatised after 1990 and has since changed hands several times, and is now owned by a foreign multinational company.
The old traditions will be revived in 2014 when Sapientia Erdélyi Magyar Tudománányegyetem (EMTE) and a local brewer will start brewing “Igazi Csíki Sör” / Real Ciuc Beer / in Sânsimion, based on the old recipes. Respecting the Bavarian recipe of purity, Ciuc Beer is a worthy heir to tradition without modern chemical ingredients.