The popularity of craft beer - progressive beers produced by small-scale breweries - has well and truly exploded in Zagreb. Fans of bold, flavorsome beers are rejoicing. After years of market dominance from behemoth brewers Ožujsko and Karlovačko, the craft beer revolution has taken hold, and Zagreb's bars and restaurants are fully waking up to the trend. Craft aficionados have even more reasons to be be beerful with this year's arrival of The Garden Brewery, and dedicated tap-rooms Hop In and Craft Room, which have bubbled in popularity since their recent inception. Happy drinking!
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The newly opened Garden Brewery is a unique contribution to Croatia’s emerging craft beer scene. Housed in an old red brick factory in Zagreb's industrial east, it's a lively, characterful venue for both club nights and family-friendly events. The lovingly-brewed beers on tap include a zesty pale ale and a stout to please the most discerning drinker. For food, the Garden team have drafted in Submarine. Their gourmet burgers are the best in Zagreb, and - paired with a beer brewed on sight - make for an insuperably delicious dinner. Every weekend the brewery throws an open-armed party - head there on Saturdays for DJ-led club nights, and go back on Sunday with the kids; their family friendly Sunday Sessions are a brilliant mixture of live music, gastro street food, and the finest beer in town.
Is Zagreb finally getting the craft beer scene it deserves? The recent popularity of Craft Room would imply so. This elegantly styled boozer stocks progressive beers from near and far – and it’s always packed with punters. The vibe is more gastro-pubby than your standard Zagreb café-cum-bar. This theme is accentuated by a modern day hunting lodge aesthetic, and food here tends towards the classic, pairing beer with brew-tavern favorites like burgers, chips and stew. Make this your first stop for new releases from regional breweries. There are 12 beers on tap – around half of these are local, with one or two from the UK and Germany. If these don’t take your fancy, there are over 150 bottled options. The atmosphere gets a bit headier on weekends. A DJ plays from a catalogue of funk, blues and rock and roll, and the place fills up quickly. Phone ahead to reserve if you’d prefer not to jostle for a table.
Lauded by craft beer fanatics as one of the best artisan boozers in the capital, this new-ish bar offers eight local beers on tap and a good selection of bottles. It's location, on the back-streets of Zagreb's main bus station, and its modern, unpretentious decor make clear this is a bar that puts beer before all - bolstered by staff who really know their stuff.
Opened in autumn 2012, the Beertija was one of the winning courtyard terrace locations of the 2013 outdoor drinking season. While the terrace sits behind trees and shrubs protected from the busy road, main body of the bar itself is in a neighbouring basement. Decked out in a mixture of red-brick and grey, it’s pretty post-industrial – there’s a glass-wall smoking tank in one corner for days when it’s too cold or wet to light up outside. As the name suggests (Beertija is a play on words based on the term ‘birtija’, a kind of Balkan pub), the accent is on amber liquids, with a simply mind-boggling choice of local and imported ales. This is probably the only place in town where both Newcastle Brown and cult Montnegrin Nikšićko pivo crop up on the same menu, alongside all manner of heady dark liquids dreamt up by crafty Belgian monks. There’s also a list of beer snacks that run from garlic bread to smoked pork hock, and a rock/alternative soundtrack that seems to go perfectly with this kind of food and drink.
A much-vaunted addition to Zagreb's craft beer scene, All In is a trendy modern bar stocked with a great cast of craft beers from Croatia and beyond. There's a few local favourites like Zmajska on tap - around 18kn each, with a comprehensive list of bottled beer, stouts and ales. The bar screens live football in the spacious seating area, meaning you'll never miss a kick.
An early adopter of American-style craft beers, as well as cask ale imports and local Croatian favourites, Tolkein's House has been on the progressive beer and ale trail for years now. It's name would suggests a full on fantasy theme, but could disappoint Tolkein geeks hoping for a quirky bar-cum-attraction. This isn't really a hobbit-house but a local's pub, with a few Tolkein-themed knick-knacks on the walls. It's a lively place, especially during weekends, head there early to guarantee a table.
Very much the new kid on the block when it comes to ultra-cool but ultra-comfortable interiors, Noel Bar is arguably Zagreb's most aesthetically pleasing place in which to enjoy a relaxing daytime brew. Designed by local architecture studio Penezić and Rogina, it's a great example of how to make the most of a small space, with a glass-cube bar area enfolded by a tiny L-shaped lounge with room for three or four tables. Wall-hugging green couches provide a simple and effective sense of comfort. An outdoor terrace with decking, sofas and potted plants has the feel of a small urban garden, and is deservedly popular with local drinkers on languorous summer evenings.
The boutique-brewery phenomenon is not entirely new - Zagreb’s Medvedgrad brewery has been brewing its own lagers, wheat beers and porters for 20 years, and currently runs four pub-restaurants at various locations in the city. The Mali Medo branch on Tkalčićeva has an extensive outdoor terrace, turning itself into one of the most popular outdoor-drinking spots in the city.
Tucked away on the pastoral hinterland between Tkalčićeva and Dolac Market, Broom Bar provides exemplary craft beers - and a cosy environment in which to enjoy them. There's a solid selection of local brews on tap and a plenty of international artisan beer in bottles. It can be a bit empty, but the newly established Broom Bar are still finding their feet - expect plenty more to come from this compact yet commendable craft beer bar.
It's a bit of a mission from the centre, but O'Hara is worth it. Routinely topping foodie lists as one of the best pizza joints in Zagreb, this faux-Irish-pub-cum-Italian-trattoria succeeds on many levels. Forget it's location (a no-man's land in the western surburbs of Zagreb) this place sells the best pizza for miles around, matched by a beer menu that matters - there's over 100 bottled varieties and stout and craft beer on tap.