A home-brewing obsessive hooked on a mission to find the best pale-ale recipe in the world, Andrej Čapka launched his Zmajska pivovara (‘Dragon Brewery’) business in September 2014. Zmajska pivovara’s dragon-logo bottles were an immediate cult hit in Zagreb’s more beer-friendly bars. By early 2015 users of the Ratebeer website had voted Zmajska’s pale ale the ninth best new craft beer in the world.
Almost simultaneously, award-winning home-brewers Miroslav Šuvak and Marko Filipin launched their own American-style pale ales under the label Nova Runda (‘Another Round’). Such has been their success that they have already opened a newer, bigger brewery in Zaprešić in order to meet growing demand.
The boutique-brewery phenomenon is not entirely new. Zagreb’s Medvedgrad brewery has already been brewing its own lagers, wheat beers and porters for 20 years, and currently runs four pub-restaurants at various locations in the city. If Medvedgrad had one weakness it was that it looked too much like a restaurant chain, and not enough like a pub. When Medvedgrad’s Mali Medo branch on Tkalčićeva extended its outdoor terrace last summer, however, it quickly turned itself into one of the most popular outdoor-drinking spots in the city.
Zagreb’s brewing revolution shows no signs of letting up. Latest to join the throng is Varionica, started up by Matija Mrazek and Davor Simičić in early 2015 and already squeezing its way into a number of Zagreb bars.
Joker in the craft-beer pack is Visibaba, who produce beers like John Lemon (wheat beer with a twist of lemon), or Janis Hoplin (American-style pale ale). Such silly names shouldn’t obscure Visibaba’s serious intent – indeed their Bob Barley porter is already the talk of the city.
And it’s by no means just a Zagreb phenomenon. The Buje-based San Servolo brewery opened up in 2013 with the express aim of providing Istria, already known for its wines and gourmet cuisine, with a suitably upmarket beer. An unfiltered beer that continues to ferment in the bottle, San Servolo became a national sensation in no time, and there’s nowadays hardly a single self-respecting stylish bar that doesn’t have it on the shelves.