From Festivals to Breweries, the Ultimate Beer Garden Comes to Croatia

Total Croatia News

All photos from The Garden Brewery Facebook page by Domagoj Kunic

There were the pioneers of festival tourism in Croatia before many people had heard of one of Europe’s hottest destinations, and now the team from Garden have turned their attention to Croatian craft beer, pushing the boundaries a little further. TCN was an impressed spectator at the launch of The Garden Brewery in the industrial eastern zone of Zagreb on June 11, 2016.

I am honestly not sure what to write. For someone living on a Croatian island full-time since 2003, Saturday night was a surreal blur, and it had nothing to do with the alcohol – which, by the way, was excellent.

Having moved to one of Europe’s hippest tourist destinations long before it had become cool – indeed, I was castigated by friends back home for feeding my war junkie needs by buying a house in the ‘war zone’ of Croatia’s premier island of Hvar back in 2002 – i took a retrospective distance with a rather pleasant pint of Croatia’s latest stunning addtion to the craft beer scene, a rather deligthful and emminently drinkable Adriatic Pale Ale, and found myself drinking to the Brummie couple who like me had stuck through the 13 years of good times – and bad – and produced yet one more fabulous addition to the Croatian party scene, moving boundaries yet further in a country where boundaries mean bureaucracy and lack of progress.  

Welome to The Garden Project, a world which defies the modern Croatian reality.  

Croatia is now well established as one of Europe’s leading festival destinations, but it was not always the case, and indeed it took one opportunistic couple from Birmingham back in 2003 to see an opportunity for a bar in Zadar, which was then expanded into the infamous Garden Festival, to start the journey to put Croatia on the world festival map. Ultra Europe may grab the headlines for festival tourism these days, but it would not be possible without the pioneers. 

The closest I had come to meeting the man with the plan, Nick Colgan, was when he rented a friend’s house in Hvar Town a few years back, but even though there are relatively few Brits who have been here since 2003, our paths had never crossed until Saturday night, when I accepted an invitation to the opening of his latest – and typically boundary-breaking – venture, The Garden Brewery, set in an industrial zone in eastern Zagreb.

I can do no better to describe the concept than the official press release: 

“The Garden Brewery 

The new craft brewery opens its doors on June 11th
The opening weekend continues on June 12th with Sunday Sessions

This Saturday marks an exciting chapter for The Garden. The Croatian capital of Zagreb is the new home of The Garden Brewery, and their interpretation of the craft beer experience.

The visionary team behind the now-legendary Garden Festival, Garden Resort Tisno, Barbarella’s Discotheque and The Garden Lounge, have been working behind the scenes on their next venture. Blending ten-years of event experience with their knowledge of the industry, they’ve constructed a new brewery, with a distinctive Garden twist.

The Garden Brewery is a craft beer production facility with a difference. Combining progressive beers, delicious street food, brewery tours and tastings alongside special events, it’s a unique contribution to Croatia’s emerging craft beer scene.

Rooted in the industrial east part of Zagreb, at Slavonska avenija 22F, Žitnjak, The Garden aims to breath some life back into this once-staid backwater, with large-scale investment, employment of Croatian staff and a year round-operation. And, it’s the only brewery in the world with gigantic 6ft glitter ball.

The official opening takes place on Saturday, June 11th.

Ten years of Adriatic experience are distilled into a range of new beers – served just as you like it: chilled, relaxed and tasty. There’s the juicy Adriatic Pale Ale bursting with sunny flavours, the gorgeously light and laid-back Session Ale with floral overtones, as well as the Styrian Stout, a creamy beer seasoned with coffee, dark chocolate and bourbon back notes; and the Kettle Sour, full of rustic, fruity flavours, it evokes crisp, tarty fruit and scenes of a vineyard farmhouse. Naturally, all beers are made from organic ingredients.

The beers from our production facility are also available to buy wholesale, or for export. In the brewery, they’re served alongside gourmet burgers by Submarine, one of Zagreb’s cult beer and burger bistros.

The opening weekend extends to Sunday, June 12 from 12-18 pm with the first edition of Sunday Sessions, a family-friendly day event where beer, gourmet food and music take centre-stage. Respected tune-spinners Jogarde, Bobby Beige and Nick Colgan provide the perfect musical backdrop.

The Garden Brewery will be open every day, seven days a week, with beer flowing from the tap and the gourmet kitchen. Expect first-class music events, the family-friendly Sunday Sessions, brewery tours and tastings, live and unplugged music, market and street food stalls as well as kids entertainment – with plenty more to come.

And, with a large soundsystem and professional event lighting, The Garden Brewery is also available to hire for corporate and private events throughout the year. Did we mention there’s a giant mirror ball?” 

I really wasn’t sure what to expect, but curiosity got the better of me and I headed out into this hitherto undiscovered part of Zagreb, keen to see how the team famous for pushing the boundaries of entertainment in Croatia, despite the bureaucracy (my first question – What the hell are you still doing here? Honestly, we stayed mostly because of the kids), were once again setting the pace with the next big thing in Croatian hospitality – Croatian craft beers.

Whisper it quietly, but while many are raving about the rise of Croatian wine – and quite rightly – there is a quiet revolution going on in the Croatian craft beer scene, with micro-brewery after micro-brewery popping up all over the country.  

What I found was one of the most down-to-earth couples I have met in my time here, dedicated to hard work, with a spark of creative genius, and – after 13 weary years of experience – a knowledge of how to work with the system.

While there are plenty of events and things happening at The Garden Brewery by day and night – and with no neighbours to complain about the noise, I can imagine this quickly becoming a cult place on the Zagreb nightlife scene – the primary function is to produce beer. Lots of it. There were three beers on offer, and apologies for the lack of research by this correspondent, but so taken was I with the Adriatic Pale Ale, that I got no further.  A rather pleasant pint that required several refills before the night was over, and while I sadly had to leave early for my overnight train to Split, I was impressed at the turnout, especially as the opening night clashed with England v Russia on the telly. 

I would like to return to take a second look after the opening night, but first impressions were extremely positive – a unique concept for Zagreb, and the latest addition to the capital’s night scene. And having watched The Garden project from afar all these years, I have no doubt that this will be a roaring success, just as their other ventures have been. And boy, do they deserve it – anyone who pushes the boundaries consistently in Croatia over a decade, and continues to set the pace, deserves to succeed.

And did I mention the Adriatic Pale Ale?

For more photos from the event and to follow The Garden Brewery this summer, visit their Facebook page. To view more of Domagoj Kunic’s photography, visit his official website. For more about the entire Garden Project in Croatia, click here

Nick and his charming wife Charlotte and I had a good chat, but the obligations of the night sadly took precedent, but an interview with them both, about their latest project and their experiences in Croatia, will appear on TCN shortly.

I genuinely wish them every success – I predict that The Garden Brewery will be a smash hit.  

























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