C roatian craft beer is hereeee! It’s finally warming up and nothing does it in this heat wave like a cold glass of beer (speaking to the pro-beer population of course). While I’ve never been much for beer unless you count the cheap stuff during college party beer pong games, I couldn’t help but get sucked into the Croatian craft beer movement. And really it’s because within a minute of talking to dedicated brewers at Rijeka’s BEERanje craft beer festival last Saturday, it’s clear that they’re driven by genuine passion for their art. Not to sound cheesy, but this passion definitely comes across in the taste of the craft beers.
Croatia’s never been a “beer country” even though its full of beer aficionados. Up until 2013, most of them relied on drinking the imported craft beer, while a dedicated few took up home-brewing as a hobby.
But then three-ish years ago, San Servolo, then Zmajska Pivovara and Nova Runda broke through the commercialized beer market with their meticulously concocted pale ales. In a few short years, backyard brewers have turned their passions into businesses, making Croatia a worthy player in the craft beer scene.
If I—someone who didn’t know an ale from a lager—can hop on the craft beer bandwagon, then there’s a high chance Croatian Craft Beer will be your new favorite thing too. So read on about the rising Croatian craft beer brands and where to get ‘em.
Notable Croatian Craft Beer Brands
These trendsetters arguably started the Croatian craft beer movement. RateBeer ranked Zmasjka at 9 (out of 3,800 registries) on its annual list of best new breweries in the world!
Notable beers: Pale Ale, Porter, IPA
Air Craft Brewery
New craft brewery opened in 2015 by dedicated home brewers (and pilots)! They made Red Baron, red ale beer and you can find it all over Croatia.
Notable beer: Red Baron amber ale
Black Hat Craft Brewery
In the 6 months they’ve been open, Black Hat has attracted many beer lovers for their top notch, hoppy beers. Non-filtered & no additives.
Notable beers: Black IPA, Amarillo APA
Try it at: Kušaonica piva Gajba, Stella Beer to Go
Sićice in Vrbje region
This growing brand is high in demand and known for smooth refreshing taste.
Notable beers: Pale ale
Try it at: Beertija café, Zagreb and Slavonija region restaurants near its brewery
One of few craft breweries in the Istria region; these brewers make detail-oriented flavor containing no additives or preservatives.
Notable beer: IPA (Istrian pale ale), Redsand Amber ale,
Split’s first craft brewery opened early this year by a guy passionate about expanding Croatian craft beer to the Dalmatia region.
Notable beers: Single hop IPA, coffee stout
Try it at: To Je To Caffe Bar
Currently only produced on tap in Rijeka’s pub Flumen, this craft beer has organic flavor and no filters or additives!
Notable beers: Pale lager
Try it at: Flumen Caffe & Pub in Rijeka
Kučan Marof near Varaždin
Kahli is a pizzeria that brews their own organic craft beer because nothing pairs quite like pizza and beer!
Notable beer: Pale ale
Try it at: Their pizzeria, “Pizza I Pivo Kahli” , Pulfer pale ale can also be tried here.
Kosmaj region, Serbia
Okay so they’re not Croatian, but Serbia’s first craft brewery reaches the entire Balkan audience and has awesome brand art too.
Notable beers: Suoernova, citra single hop IPA..and many more flavors can be found on their website
They have top Croatian craft beer made in the traditional German brewing principles with water, year, malt, and hops. It isn’t filtered and has no preservatives.
Notable beer: Baltazar pale lager, Fakin IPA
Try it at: The four Medvedgrad pubs in Zagreb and Wok by Matija restaurant in Zagreb
Jastrebarsko, between Zagreb and Karlovac.
A more intimate craft brewery that hit the ground in 2013. Run by two guys dedicated inspired by Western craft beer.
Notable beers: APA
Pivionica Craft Brewery
Started in 2013 by home brewers whose friends simply demanded more of their beer! This craft brewery has taken off quite tremendously since then,
Notable beers: Fulir pale lager
Try it at: Pubs and shops in Zagreb (website lists all locations, props to them for being thorough)
Newest on the scene, opened 2 months ago. Contains “water and yeast as essential ingredients, four types of barley malt and three top American hop varieties”—their site.
Notable beer: Pale ale, upcoming IPA
First craft brewery in the Istrian region. Follows the traditional 15th century German method
Notable beers: APA, IPA
Try it at: Yellow Submarine restaurant in Zagreb and Buje area bars and restaurant.
Vinkovci, Vukovar region
This craft beer is brewed at Valentinijan microbrewery. It’s more low key but definitely on the rise because of its rich citrusy tasting ales.
Notable beer: APA
Longtime basement brewers who joined the scene with high quality beer that’s currently made in small amount allowing customers to taste the fresh citrus and rich pine flavors.
Notable beer: Pale ale
Brewed at Kabinet Brewery, Zagreb
Probably the most uniue craft brewery—Belgian craft beer Notable Belgian craft beer manufacturers that because of their unique music inspired branding and of course, high quality taste.
Notable beer: “Janis Hoplin” IPA, “Bob Barley” porter, “John Lemon” wheatbeer
The first craft beer in Hvar made in a quaint home brewery. These brewers don’t strictly follow traditional purity laws, but are diligent in creating the most aromatic and fresh taste incorporating herbs found on the island of Hvar.
Notable beers: Dark stout, wheat beer American style, Black IPA, and for herb lovers, “Hvarska medicina”
Unique craft beer produced by traditional brewing methods following the Bavarian Beer Law 1516 in Daruvarska brewery. This brewery is one of the oldest breweries in Croatia, and fun fact: 5th Element’s name comes from the four elements: water, earth, air, fire and the fifth element is the brewer’s love for the beer
Notable beer: ABA, Baltic porter, LeLa (combo of pale ale and lager)
Where to Try and Buy Croatian Craft Beers
Planning for next summer?
• Craft Beer Festival in Zagreb, early April (the largest craft beer festival in Croatia)
• Brewtal Craft Beer Festival in Lopar on Paradise beach, Mid June
• BEERanje – Rijeka in late June