Young Zagreb Brewer Mirko Drmic Launches Own Crnomerec Craft Brewery

Lauren Simmonds

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As Poslovni Dnevnik/Lucija Spiljak writes, Mirko Drmic is just 26 years old, and this young Zagreb brewer opened the Local Craft Brewery in Crnomerec in Mikulici last year, in the midst of the global pandemic, under the slogan “Think Globally, Drink locally!/Misli Globalno, Pij Lokalno!”.

Craft brewing has been gaining firm momentum in the last few years in the world and right here in Croatia. A large number of people have started producing beer for their own needs, but it takes a lot of courage and will to enter the increasingly competitive market with craft beer.

One of those who was encouraged by this move was Mirko Drmic, and the main stars of his small neighbourhood brewery are the hoppy red ale beer Drma (6% alcohol) and the summer refreshment of Tauk (4.5%) from the Session IPA category. In the autumn, he says, this collection will be joined by the new Purger beer, with which this young brewer plans to win over his neighbouhood, and this winter will be marked by his very first black beer.

But, where did this all start? After graduating from high school in economics, and then from the Faculty of Economics in Zagreb, Mirko Drmic was sure of one thing – he wanted to start doing something of his own.

He fell in love with craft brewing a few years ago, and he decided to turn that idea into reality back in 2017 when, as a student, he worked as a waiter in the USA through the Work & Travel programme. He returned two years later having earned enough money to open his own craft brewery.

“The goal was to make money to build my own brewery and start production. Thanks to the programme for self-employment through the CES, I received 75,000 kuna and additionally invested more than 130,000 kuna of my own money “, states Mirko.

The inspiration for the name of his first beer came, symbolically, from his surname, Drmic, ie the family nickname Drma, and Mirko’s father Ivan had the honour of being on the label of the first bottle designed by Mirko’s friend Duje Brecic.

“I knew Drma would be my first beer. I filled 20 0.33L samples and carried it to few cafes each to see if they’d like it. Everyone said they did, and that’s how the story started,” the young brewer explained.

The period when he worked in the USA and learned about craft brewing was the inspiration for the name and label of another beer. He worked in the small town of Montauk, or Tauk for short, where the small local craft brewery, Montauk Brewing Company, was located.

The Tauk label also includes a lighthouse, which is a symbol of this place and which is also the oldest lighthouse in the entire state of New York from the time of George Washington.

Admittedly, the time taken to start the company and present the beer was quite challenging for the determined Mirko Drmic despite his initial enthusiasm. It took place back at the beginning of March 2020, just before the first lockdown when restaurants put their keys in their locks for almost two whole months.

He had already produced Drma by then, but had to wait until the end of August 2020 just to make his first sale. It was challenging during the lockdown due to waiting for the suppliers of production equipment because, as Mirko explained, suppliers procure production material from Italy, which was the most affected country in terms of the pandemic at the time.

“I’d been waiting for equipment since March, but I used that time to see where I was and how I might organise some other things until everything came to life again. At the end of August, I sold my first barrel in Zagreb’s Harats Beer Boutique. It went well until the second lockdown came towards the end of the year,” recalled the brewer.

After Drma, he also introduced Hoptimus (American IPA) in March, a 500-litre special that quickly sold out, and then in the summer, Tauk arrived.

Currently, his beer can be found in a total of 25 stores and restaurants across Croatia, most of which are in Zagreb (Harats Beer Boutique, Beer & Snacks, Fakin Craft Bar and more) and thanks to distributors, Mirko Drmic’s craft beer can also be found in Rijeka, Djakovo, Zadar and Split.

He produces 1,000 litres of beer in a 40-square-metre office space inside his own family house in Mikulici in Crnomerec. The space in the first part consists of a kind of brewery where he brews and produces the beer, while in the second part, the beer matures in bottles and barrels.

“It takes about a month from brewing beer to it going into a bottle. I’m just focused on brewing and I want everything I’ve started to be taken to the next level. It’s all slowly starting to come to its own now. It’s been challenging because I had to start twice, after two lockdowns.

Beer requires a lot of investment. When you fill the beer in the bottle, it must also mature in the bottle and in the barrel. You have to do three batches to make sure you always have stock. By the way, the capacity is 2000 litres per month of Drma and Tauk, and now I’m at 1000. I hope that the market will demand more. Fortunately, Zagreb is a big city, and I’m still a small producer,” Mirko Drmic said.

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