Viva la Craft Beer Revolution in Zagreb!
I always wanted to write a post about craft breweries and craft beer in Croatia, but unfortunately, there wasn't anything to write about. Croatia is in the top 10 beer drinking countries in the world, but the beer which is being drunk here is not so exciting. This year the Croatian beer market will experience a big change. My colleague Marko and I opened a craft brewery Nova runda ("Another round"), and our dear friend Andrej opened Zmajska pivovara ("Dragon's brewery"), and both will be focused on production of ales - top fermented beers. Both of breweries share the same beginning, we all started as homebrewers. Homebrewing movement is very strong here in Croatia, and that movement gave us a much needed confidence to swim in the craft beer waters. We got the idea about starting our own brewery two and a half years ago. It was during Christmas holidays, and we were in a pub in our neighbourhood. I think we decided we would open a brewery in the similar way as we decided we'd start with homebrewing 5 years ago - in the pub :)
OK, homebrewing is definitely easier to start than a real brewery, but they share the same rate of excitement. In my opinion, the great part of a craft brewer is his homebrewing experience. All of our role models started as homebrewers - Jim Koch from Boston beer Brewing Co., Ken Grossman from Sierra Nevada, Greg Koch from Stone Brewing Company, Sam Calagione from Dogfish Head brewing company...
That is the point of craft brewing in general - when you start something as a hobby, great part of the business is the love for what you're producing - in our case beer, craft beer :) Homebrewing opened our eyes to a dozens of beer styles that we didn't know at the time. After many years of practicing homebrewing, we witnessed the growth of homebrewing movement in Croatia, the rise of imported craft beer, and the maturing of Croatian beer market. Now is the time to start a craft beer revolution because consumers want good value for money, and they are tired of the classic Croatian beer selection, consisting of lagers totally under the influence of Czech and German brewing methods. We'll brew only ales, and bring some fresh air of the UK's and America's brewing methods!
Starting business isn't a piece of cake in Croatia. The amount of paperwork is stresfull, so one person has to invest a lot of private time to prepare all regulative and mandatory papers needed to open a brewery. Our first big date was June 28, 2013, when we opened our company (only in the books :) ), and it was only because we wanted to compete for the incentives for new start-ups given by the Croatian Government. At the start of 2014, I was on the big meeting regarding our brewery project, where we wanted to see if there's any chance for these incentives. The meeting was held at the Ministry of the Entrepreneurship and Craft, where they thought our project is a joke, and didn't even want to see our business plan written during 2013. The critical point at the meeting was the part where I said that one source of the investement money we plan to collect would come through crowdfunding platform - from that point, all the attendees stopped taking me seriously. Of course, we started the crowdfunding campaign, and it's still active on this link so if you want to support our brewery and the whole Croatian craft beer movement, there's still time.
After that meeting, we knew that Gipsy brewing is our way to the market (in other words, brewing at a rented brewery). Since Croatian beer market is focused on mass-produced lager-type beers made by the Croatian big three - Heineken, Molson Coors and Carlsberg, we didn't want to risk a big loan for our equipment. Instead, one microbrewery was delighted with the concept of Gipsy brewing, and they agreed to rent us their facility for our brewing. From that moment we became the first Croatian Gipsy brewers, just like popular breweries Mikkeller and To Øl from Denmark, and Innis & Gunn in Scotland! We made a test batch of our ale, and the result was more then satisfying. Then finally came that day - June 21, 2014. The day when we started offering our beer on the market, the first Croatian craft beer - Nova runda American pale ale (APA). We hope this will be the start of a new era in the Croatian beer history - when beers will be made by many small craft brewers, and when consumers will apreciate beers made for them, and support local craft brewers, because now there's an opportunity to drink high-quality Croatian local product, so there's no need to buy only imported craft beers. Croatian craft beer revolution has started, and we are not the only ones, our friends from Zmajska pivovara will start soon, and with them we are the Croatian craft beer pioneers!
We can now proudly say that if you want to visit Zagreb, you'll find craft beer here, and soon this craft beer phenomenon will spread across the whole Croatia! Our American pale ale is currently sold at two pubs in Zagreb - Tolkien's pub and Ro&Do pub, and in the near future it will be available at Score cafe and Bacchus pub! This is only the beginning! I'm happy that Croatia is now also being put on the world craft beer map, and that people will have a choice to pick different beer styles made by small, independent, local craft breweries - beer made by beer lovers for beer lovers!