Croatian Beer: Best Known Brands And Breweries
Croats are well known for their love of beer. In general, beer is more popular in the inland, while people on the coast prefer wine.
There are few brands that can be found in most of the country, but more of them are regional or purely local ones.
National beers in Croatia
Ožujsko is the brand with the highest market share. It is produced by Zagrebačka pivovara (Zagreb Brewery) since 1892 and Zagreb with its surroundings is its most important market.
Brand Ožujsko has recently been expanded significantly and now comes in several flavors - standard light lager beer, Tomislav (dark beer), Super Dry, Cool (non-alcoholic), lemon, grapefruit and dark cherry. During winter Zagrebačka pivovara produces Christmas beer.
Karlovačka pivovara (Karlovac Brewery) has a long tradition of beer production, which dates back to 1854. Its 'Karlovačko' is the main competitor of Ožujsko and the second most popular beer in Croatia. Brand Karlovačko also comes in many flavors: Karlovačko light, Karlovačko dark beer, Karlovačko Radler, Karlovačko Rally and Karlovačko Maxx (non-alcoholic).
The third brewery in Croatia by market share is Carlsberg Croatia, formerly known as Panonska pivovara (Pannonian Brewery), which was founded in 1971. Its main brand is certainly Pan, mostly known for its light lager, while the rest of the product line is completed by Pan Zlatni (gold), Pan Tamni (dark), Pan Radler, Pan BEZ (non-alcoholic) and Hajdučko, named after the best-known football club from Split and obviously marketed for Dalmatia.
As is the case in other countries, the best beers are usually the local ones, but they are also usually less accessible. The situation is similar in Croatia.
Osječko pivo (Osijek beer) is a beer that is produced in the town which has got the first brewery in Croatia - Osijek. Beer production was well established there already in the second half of the 17th century. But, because that brewery has not operated continuously, Daruvarska pivovara (Daruvar brewery) is often considered the oldest one (more details below). However, there is no dispute that the oldest Croatian 'beer city' is Osijek. Along with Osječko svijetlo pivo (Osijek light lager beer), there's Osječko crno pivo (Osijek dark beer) – dark version, and it is interesting that both beers are bottled in brown bottles, not in green, as is the case in most other breweries in Croatia.
Daruvarska pivovara (Daruvar Brewery) has been producing beer since 1840 and is the oldest Croatian brewery that operates continuously. Its most popular brand is Staročeško pivo (Old Czech Beer). It is named after Czech immigrants and produced since 1893, making it the oldest continuous beer name in Croatia. In addition to light beer, under the same name is bottled Staročeško crveno (red), Staročeško zimsko (winter), Staročeško 10 (slightly less alcohol) and Staročeško limun (lemon radler).
Pivovara Ličanka (Lika Brewery) has gained a reputation as probably the best brewery in the country, although it was founded just recently - in 1997. Their Velebitsko pivo (Velebit beer) comes in two varieties - as light and dark beer, while Kasačko is a mixture of a dark and light beer. Excellent beers prepared by crystal-clear waters of Lika are certainly indispensable for beer fans. Until recently it was difficult to find beers of Pivovara Ličanka outside of Lika and assorted places in Zagreb, but lately they can be found in more places in the center of Zagreb.
Similar to Velebitsko pivo, Vukovarsko pivo (Vukovar beer) is also known as one of the best in the country, and first bottling began in 2008. Its excellent taste is mostly founded on the production based on the Bavarian Law on beer from the year 1516, so that Vukovarsko pivo is produced without any preservatives.
Of local breweries, we would also like to mention the two from Istria. The first one is Istarska pivovara (Istria Brewery) from Buzet, established in 1977 and known for its brand Favorit, which can be purchased as a Favorit light beer, Favorit Rosso, Favorit Sport's, Favorit Radler (lime and grapefruit) and Istarsko pivo (Istrian beer).
The second one is Bujska pivovara (Buje Brewery), founded in 2013, but with already recognizable beer called San Servolo, which is named after the City's patron. Much like Vukovarsko pivo, San Servolo is also produced by the German law of beer purity from the 16th century, and is available in two varieties - light and red beer.
Micro breweries in Zagreb
Central European metropolises are known for their micro breweries and Zagreb is not an exception there. In the (wider) city center there are three pubs that belong to Medvedgrad, brewery chain founded in 1994. With excellent food they serve their three beers - light beer Zlatni medvjed (Golden Bear), Dva klasa (Two ears) and a dark beer Grička vještica (Grič witch).
There is also a pub Zlatni Medo (Golden Bear), where they serve beer of the same name. There one can eat well and have fun during the weekend when various tambura ensembles have their performances.