If you haven’t been paying attention to the Slovenian craft beer scene over the last 18 or so months then there’s a lot for you to catch up on. There’s been an explosion, both in the number of producers and variety of brews released. The developments have been especially exciting for those drinkers who aren’t fans of IPAs, your correspondent included, with sours, saisons, wheatbeers, porters, radlers and ales of all varieties making their way into bottles, cans and glasses all over the country, and gaining increasing attention abroad.
But where can dedicated beer hunter, or casual drinker, go to learn more about the scene and sample interesting brews with likeminded folk in a non-bar setting, one that’s suitable for all the family? Or to quote Tim Earles, organiser of the Pure Craft Beer Festival: “There are a variety of events around Ljubljana where the craft brewers all come together, but the environment doesn’t always present the quality of the beers in the best light. The Open Air Museum in Rogatec is an undiscovered gem on the border between Slovenia and Croatia, which seemed like the perfect place to run a garden-party style event, where the smaller breweries could represent their beer in an atmosphere befitting their products.”
The Open Air Museum. Photo: Pure Craft
The festival will take place on Saturday 22 June (2019), and the breweries set to appear include Human Fish, Green Gold, Omnivar, Loo-Blah-Nah, Crazy Duck, Mali Grad, Maister, Barut, Lobik, Bevog, Haler, Old Franz, APE, and Clef. The event runs from 10:00 to 22:00, giving you enough time to sample many, if not all, of all the beers. What’s more, your adventures in liquid sunshine will be accompanied by gourmet delights, with a full culinary program from the highly recommended Gostišče Jurg.
The breweries and beers to enjoy
In addition to food and drink, including some wine and even non-alcoholic beverages, there’ll be entertainment suitable for the whole family. This includes museum workshops showcasing the skills of blacksmithing, bracelet making, basket weaving and bread making; pony riding and carriage rides; dance workshops; a supervised climbing wall; a giant art wall; laser maze, a slackline and more, such as free caricatures from Karikature Boris. Music will be provided by from Jeanette & Počeni Škafi, while true wonder will be brought to the festival by Magic Aleksander.
Tickets come with a Rogaška Crystal souvenir glass and cost €10 until 15th June, €15 thereafter, with the price including a museum tour. To keep things simple all the beers at the festival will be sold at the same price, €1 for a 150ml sample pour, a size that gives you a chance to safely enjoy all the brews on offer.
I’m a big fan of the Slovenian craft beer scene, especially now it’s moved on from hoppy IPAs to explore a fuller range of what’s possible. My personal favourites are sours – the perennial “next big thing” – and Bevog’s work in this area in particular, but I’m willing to give anything a try in the name of research.
However, with well over 100 brewers in the country a little guidance might be needed, and one rather surprising place to find it is Rampant Lion Reviews. Surprising because it’s a YouTube channel run by a Scottish guy in Skåne, Sweden, with a focus on beer, whisky and saké, and 1,640 videos posted as of typing, seemingly a new one every day.
Related: All out posts on craft beer are here
Among these are currently 21 reviews of Slovenian beers, from the standard Laško to more indie producers like Pelicon, Lobik, Reservoir Dogs, and Tektonik, as seen in the following playlist. Skål, slàinte and na zdravje!
Curious about how Pelicon's The Third Pill got it's name?
The team behind Open Kitchen (Odprta kuhna), who this year are bringing their open air food and drink markets to at least six locations around Slovenia (Ljubljana, Celje, Koper, Nova Gorica, Ptuj & Novo Mesto, as reported here), also run another, more focused event – the Pivo & Burger Fest in Ljubljana. These see the usual venue, Pogačarjev trg (the marketplace between the Cathedral and Plečnik’s Arcades) full of stalls selling craft beer, burgers, BBQ and other delights, the air full of the smells and sounds of grilled meat, along with music, conversation and laughter.
It’s a fine chance to catch up and sample what’s been happening in the world of Slovenian brewing and – if you haven’t been paying attention – then you could be in for some surprises. A few years ago the scene was still focused on IPAs, often of the ever hoppier variety, but now with well over 100 brewers in the country, from one room operations like Omnivar to (semi-Austrian) giants like Bevog, there’s been an explosion in variety. So alongside IPAs and lagers of all kinds you’ll find, among the more than 200 brews on offer at the festival, wheats, porters, ales, pales, reds, and many other types, including my current obsession – gose, or sour beer, a refreshing, fruity drink that’ll change the way you think about beer.
Indeed, the choice can be a little overwhelming, so it’s a good idea to walk around, see what’s on offer, and eat something to ensure you don’t get lost after the first few glasses. With regard to eating you’ll be able to choose from dozens of burgers, grilled in the square by big names and small, all tending to the gourmet variety, including vegetarian options, as well as pulled pork and other BBQ’d delights, in addition to some other food choices. What's more, the team at Open Kitchen have put together a series of food and beer pairings, which will be included in the catalogues you can pick up on the day, with the characteristics of different beers aligned with the foods on offer, whether savory or sweet, hot or cold.
The event runs over two days, the weekend of April 6 and 7, starting at 11:00 and ending 23:00, making it possible to enjoy burgers and beer for brunch, lunch, dinner and supper, with perhaps a few light snacks in between. It might not be the social event of the season, but for those of us for whom a burger and beer is the Platonic ideal of a weekend meal it’s a gathering not to be missed.
STA, 17 January 2019 - Slovenia will promote its growing brewery industry at the International Green Week (IGW) in Berlin, one of the biggest agricultural and food exhibitions in the world. Kicking off on Thursday, the 84th IGW will feature more than 1,700 exhibitors and will be accompanied by an agriculture ministerial attended by Slovenia's Aleksandra Pivec.
Aleksandra Pivec. Wikimedia: STA, CC-by-4.0
Slovenia's stall will feature micro breweries Vizir, Tektonik, Hopsbrew, Adam Ravbar, Maister, Ressel, Green Gold, Reservoir Gogs, Barut Brewing, Frizi Beer, Castra and Človeška Ribica, as well as the country's biggest brewery, the Heineken-owned Pivovarna Laško Union.
The stall will also feature hop-growing companies and associations from Slovenia, as well as three start-up companies: plant pot maker Urban Planty, aromatic salt maker Barba Sol and chili pepper grower Gorki Chili.
Photo: JL Flanner
Read our story on Gorki Chili here
Pivec will attend the opening on Thursday and will stay in Berlin until Sunday. On Friday, she will hold bilateral meetings, among others with Jose Graziano da Silva, the head of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
On Saturday, she will attend the agriculture ministerial hosted by German Food and Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner. The high-level meeting will focus on digitalisation in agriculture. The ministerial will also discuss young farmers, small farms and family farms, which are priorities of the FAO.
Pivec will wrap up her trip by meeting Slovenians living in Berlin on Sunday.
Watch three men try too many Slovenian craft beers here
If you’re in town this weekend and want to grab a beer and see the city from two different perspectives then you’re in luck, with a couple of events to welcome the autumn and anchor your adventure on the ground and in the sky: Septembeer and Oktoberfest.
STA, 9 September 2018 - Europe's first beer fountain, which opened in Žalec in east-central Slovenia two years ago, has proved such a success that it will be franchised abroad.
If you want to see creativity, passion and can-do spirit in Ljubljana then one place to head this weekend is the craft beer festival being held today (Friday, April 20) and tomorrow, 14:00–02:00, in the exhibition centre on Dunajska, where people are getting things done.
Bringing the craft beer scene to Maribor and beyond. An inspiring tale of enterprise, effort, finding what you love and sharing it with others.