Discover Slavonian Beer Heritage: 5000 Year-Old Passionate Beer Story

Total Croatia News

Tibor Kainz

Did you know that the art of brewing dates back 5,000 years in Croatia? A historical tour through Slavonia’s considerable beer heritage on April 17, 2017. 

First of all, I have to tell you I am not an expert on (industrial) beer, craft beer or breweries. But I am thrilled by the story about it, especially in Slavonia! I used to drink beer once or twice a year with a pizza during sthe ummer. I was never interested in beer nor even planned to be. Well, as these kind of stories usually go, my plans changed. I guess life just loves humans like me, unenlightened but curious, so I get all these new worlds to discover. Lucky me.

I have to admit, my beer story started just a year ago when, out of the blue, I decided to try Tomislav, dark beer produced by Zagrebačka Pivovara. That was the moment I realized that beer is not just a beer and started to be curious. As my job is all about discovering interesting facts and stories that I convert into tourism products afterwards, this research started in Slavonia and took me 5000 years back to Vučedol culture.


Prehistoric beer or forerunner of ale beer

Once upon a time, in the time of the early settlements of Troy, there was Vučedol, today one of the most significant archeological sites in Europe, located some 5 km downstream from the town of Vukovar. Vučedol reached its peak during the period of the prehistoric Vučedol Culture (3,000 – 2,500 B.C.). The culture originates from this area and later covered 14 of today’s European countries. Vučedol people were the first in serial production of metal and bronze production in the world and had the oldest Indo – European calendar based on observing the winter sky. They were hunters and fishermen, but also grew crops, bred animals and were masters in pottery. With various types of wheat, rye and oat bread they also prepared a version of beer from barley in large pots using straws for drinking to avoid grain bits from the bottom and chaff on the top of the pot. The Vučedol Culture Museum has a fascinating collection of exhibits of ancient pottery and it would be pretty cool to see how beer mugs and brewing pots might look like thousands years ago.


Beer – drink of the Barbarians and Roman Emperor

Before the Romans, Illyrians used barley, for food, as animal fodder, and as a base malt for beer. St. Jerome, a Dalmatian by birth, wrote that term of beer in the provinces of Pannonia and Dalmatia was in a „barbarian language“, sabaia. „Barbarian language“ was some sort of simple version of Latin from Pannonia and north Italy. Beer was not popular among the Romans. It was considered a beverage for the poor, and drinking it wasn’t noble enough, actually it was considered uncivilized. But in Roman Pannonia, however, beer was very popular. Historian Ammianus Marcellinus noted that the Emperor Valens, born in Cibalae – Vinkovci today, loved the beer so much that he was called sabaiarius (beer drinker or beer belly).

Dare to say – First brewing in Croatia

The first breweries appeared in the city of Osijek in the 17th century, probably due to the Germans who were moving to Slavonia at that that. The first documented proof of brewing is linked to Osijek and a certain Mr. Bauer, who brewed beer in 1664. Thanks to the tax books we also know that there were three brewers of Osijek – Joseph Hamerle, Johan Conrad Steer and Vitus Casper in 1694. The first registered breweries were placed in Upper Varoš (Town) and Tvrđavica on the other side of the Drava River in 1697. The biggest beer fans and consumers were the soldiers placed in the part of the city called Tvrđa (fort). „ The First Slavonian Steam Brewery and Ice Factory“ was founded by Caetano Šeper in 1856 who learned his brewing trade in the Czech Republic and Austria. The factory was very modern then and with its ups and downs through time became Osječka pivovara we know today.

The rebirth of Slavonian Beer: Craft Breweries in Slavonia Today

There are several artisan microbreweries in Slavonia, and they all started their business out of the love towards craft beer: VALENS from Vinkovci, BOŠNJAK from Nova Gradiška, LEGIONAR and BLACK HAT from Osijek, HEPBURN from Županja and SLAWONER from Požega

Craft Beer Trail in Slavonia: Beer Tasting and Craft Beer Pubs

As I said at the beginning, I am not an expert in craft beer, just started to learn about it. But, the point is not to talk too much anyway, just go and get your own experience. Either you are already „sabaiarius“ as Roman emperor Valens was, or you do not have a clue about beer, come to Osijek and learn something new, discover new tastes and have a great time in the company of the Slavonians, very well known for their hospitality and cheerful spirits. If you ever wondered how your pint is made and how it ended up in the glass in front of you and other interesting stuff about craft beer, you can find out on beer tasting at „Gajba“. Tibor will give you a great introduction about brewering, craft beer and beer tasting. You simply must go through 6 brew samples of „kušalica“ and enjoy the story.


„General Von Beckers“ pub placed in the old town Tvrđa with their own brewed Becker’s Pale Ale, and two more pubs Runda and Beertija placed in the city center are a great reason to come and enjoy a beer day in Osijek. There are also two grill and beer bars American Bar Dollar and Fabrique to complete the beer story with food. I also recommend you to come and stay several days in Slavonia, follow the beer trail around this part of Croatia and stop for a pint in pubs like Novi Orion Pub in Vinkovci, Pivska kuća Slavonski Brod, Beer Garden in Našice, Pivnica Slawoner in Požega and other.

Beer festivals

Slavonia is home to several beer festivals. Thanks to Tibor from Gajba, Osijek had its first craft beer festival last year and it will have another one this year on the 6th of May. Other beer events in Slavonia are held in Slavonski Brod such as abeer festival and the beer marathon. Several other beer days are organized throughout the region.

Alice may have been lost in the Wonderland and I have plans to lose myself in Slavonian Beerland. Cheers!


To learn more about tourism in Slavonia, click here.


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