Craft Beer Invasion

There is no official universal definition, but in a nutshell, craft beer is traditionally produced beer made by a small and independent brewery which prefers flavour and quality over quantity.

Of course, this movement makes up only a small niche in the global beer market, but has an enthusiastic and devoted following. Not just another hipster trend, craft beer scene is strong in the USA and UK, and recently it has also been gaining popularity in continental Europe, in countries like Italy, Spain or France. Croatia used to have more than a few microbreweries, usually as part of a pub or restaurant, but most of them had to close their business. Luckily, there has always been a small army of passionate homebrewers, people who feel that making their own beer at home is a far better pastime than, let’s say, woodworking or gardening.

Craft beer in the making. Image credit: Zmajska pivovara


Just recently, a real craft beer scene, not just a handful of hobbyists, with widely available beers, as well as beer-related tourism, seemed like light years away from Zagreb. But everything we knew turned upside-down at the end of 2014. The stars aligned and a craft beer revolution hit us. A few of the more ambitious homebrewers decided it’s the right time to risk everything and start brewing big time. Today we have four new and promising craft breweries in Zagreb, and most of them went for the pale ale style as their weapon of choice. It’s something different and more flavourful than the omnipresent lagers, and yet not too weird to turn craft beer beginners off.

Miroslav and Marko from Nova runda brewery. Image credit: Nova runda


The pioneers who broke the ice are two friends, Marko Filipin and Miroslav Šuvak (the most adorable beer geek I have ever met) united in Nova runda brewery. Although they did not own their own plant at the time, their American pale ale was the first craft beer launched in summer 2014, in draught version only. Good news is they are not Gypsy brewers anymore, and when they settle in their home plant, we can surely expect more great things to come. Technically speaking, the first Croatian craft brewery is Zmajska pivovara, with their two bottled gems - Zmajsko Pale ale and Zmajsko Porter. The founder and owner is Andrej Čapka, one of the veterans and most notable figures of Croatian homebrewing scene. The expectations were set high, but Zmajsko is already a success story. With only two beers, presented less than a year ago, they entered’s Top 10 Best New Brewers in the whole world.


Zmajsko Pale ale. Image credit: Zmajska pivovara


The terrain was set and soon two new players appeared: Hold’em Brewery and Varionica Brewery. Again, the scenario was more or less the same, venturous beer-loving buddies following a dream. Varionica’s light and pleasantly bitter draught pale ale is available in several bars and restaurants, while Hold’em’s All In bottled pale ale can already be found in a number of bars in Zagreb. Speaking of good microbrewed beer, it would be unfair to neglect Medvedgrad, Zagreb’s popular microbrewery & restaurant chain with tradition since 1994. For over two decades, they have been making beer lovers happy with their classic five kinds of lager-style beer, including the first Croatian wheat beer, but recently they’ve been undergoing a renaissance, experimenting and trying out new stuff. Medvedgrad gave us the first Croatian sour cherry beer, the first Croatian stout, as well as some seasonal, work-in-progress treats like Indian pale ale, dark wheat beer or Christmas beer.

Agram stout, first Croatian stout beer produced by Medvedgrad. Image credit: Taste of Croatia


Rejoice, finicky beer enthusiasts and all you ordinary drinkers who want to try out something different! Spring/summer 2015 is our season and we will leave no thirsty man or woman behind. No one needs to spend a fortune anymore on imported craft beer in specialized shops, we finally got what we deserve. Viva La Revolucion!

Varionica Pale ale. Image credit:Taste of Croatia


Header image credit: Zmajska pivovara

Author: Morana Zibar / Taste of Croatia