Four years ago, the craft beer production seemed like an impossible dream in Croatia. Although Croats like to drink beer and are among the top beer consumers in Europe, until four years ago they mostly drank corporate-produced beers. Offering a non-corporate product that would compete on the market meant going against the companies with virtually unlimited resources, loyal buyers and huge profits. However, Croatia’s craft beer revolution was about to start, reports Večernji List on November 25, 2018.
Varionica was one such producer. It was one of the first small breweries to offer its products to the Croatian market. At the time, their beers could be bought at just three venues in Zagreb and two on the Adriatic coast. The brand was launched by Matija Mrazek and Davor Simičić. “It was not difficult for me to leave a well-paid job and start brewing beer. That was inevitable when I decided to start this business since the administrative demands in Croatia regarding beer production are terribly burdensome. It took us two years to do all the paperwork to start the production,” said Davor.
At the time, they produced their American pale ale-style beer in Donji Vidovac. The facility which could produce 8,000 liters of beer a month was expected to return their 300,000 kuna investment. Now they plan to move much closer to home, to Pisarovina near Zagreb.
“Pisarovina is a very small municipality in comparison to Zagreb and it knows what it means to open five or ten new jobs. The industrial zone is geographically well positioned. Access to the highway exists, and another fast road is being constructed. Also, all the infrastructure is new, which provides a certain amount of safety and security for us. In addition, Mayor Tomo Kovačić has provided us with support and all the paperwork has been done very easily,” the founders explained.
“We plan to become operational in 2019, hopefully by late summer, but it is difficult to plan exactly what will happen. We have to do all the construction from scratch, after that comes equipping, obtaining all the permits, a challenging period is ahead of us. The whole project took us many years to implement. For a full year, we worked on making sure that we had everything needed to apply for EU cohesion and development funds. Another year passed until we received an answer that we received the funds, and then another year to find a bank willing to issue us a loan. But, now that period is behind us and the construction is about to start,” Matija and Davor said.
In the meantime, Varionica has created its recognizable visual identity. They have also launched cooperation with German craft beer producers Munich Brew Mafia and Pelicon Brewery from Slovenia. “The grants amount to about 4.8 million kuna, while the rest of the investment is a commercial loan and our own funds,” Davor said.
The brewery currently employs five people, and plans are to hire another five next year. Everything after that will depend on the production growth. And in order to grow, it is necessary to sell the beer. “I think we can finally talk about having a wide selection of beers in our market. Four years ago, there was an absolute lack of choice. Now there is a choice, in a short time and without great effort, you can taste a huge variety of beer styles. In the past few years, we have visited Europe’s brewery festivals, and our industry is not lagging. Our market offers top-quality locally produced beers. As things stand now, we will not be the only small brewery to open a new plant in 2019, and that is good news,” Matija and Davor concluded.
For more on Croatia’s beer industry, click here.
Translated from Večernji List (reported by Zoran Vitas).