(Photo credit Slobodna Dalmacija)
Whisper it quietly, but there is a craft beer revolution taking place in Croatia.
A casual visitor to Croatia might think that the country’s beer scene consists of only Ožujsko and Karlovačko, plus the inevitable import brands. The good news is that is very far from the truth, although a little effort may be needed.
I was encouraged by a recent article in Slobodna Dalmacija talking about a surge in garage beermaking. Homebrewing has been a long tradition in the UK and some other countries, but in Croatia home winemaking and distilling of rakija tended to be more usual. However, this is no longer the case, with homebrewing enjoying rapid growth, and also a number of small (and not so small) craft breweries producing quality beers and ales. Slobodna recently also published an article about independent breweries, complete with their Ratebeer.com ratings.
We were delighted to be able to visit the Vunetovo microbrewery in Hvar. The only brewery on an Adriatic Island, Vunetovo produces lovely restrained ales and stouts, some with a delightful island twist. Learn more about it on the Go Hvar blog. Their Hvarska Medicina, brewed with several Hvar herbs, got the silver medal at the Croatian Homebrew Championships in Zagreb.
(Author Zdravko, left, with Anna and Joško from Vunetovo on Hvar)
Other independent breweries whose beer we have been able to try lately include San Servolo (Buje, Istria) and Medvedgrad Brewery (Zagreb). San Servolo run a restaurant at their brewery in Istria, and Medvedgrad have several brewpub/restaurants in Zagreb.
The brewing tradition in Croatia goes back a long way, even the Celts and Romans brewed beer here. More recently the Osijek brewery was founded in the 17th century and claims the title of the oldest Croatian brewery.
Possibily the newest craft breweries are Zmajska and Nova Runda. Both started in Zagreb and are already winning awards. Zmajska recently was listed by ratebeer.com in the top 10 new brews in the world, amongst some 3800 candidates. The wonderful folks at Taste of Croatia published an article on Zmajska and Nova Runda recently.
Recently there has been an explosion of craft beer festivals, both local and regional. For example the first Croatian Craft Beer fest was held in Zagreb this April, followed by the national home brew festival, followed by several more local events. The enthusiasm is spreading to the neighbouring states with both Slovenija and Bosnia and Herzegovina also holding national festivals.
So look for something else than the “standard” brands in the supermarkets. Ask for the craft beers. Visit the beer bars (“pivnice”) that stock the craft beers and help encourage the trend. We look forward to tasting more of them ourselves!