Best BEER in sLOVEnia
Let’s start at the beginning. First, there actually is an animal in Slovenia called the Human Fish. It’s not actually a fish nor is it human, it’s an amphibian, and is the namesake for a brewery that led the craft beer revolution in Ljubljana.
You can visit HumanFish at their brewery in Vrhnika where they have a cosy tap room, but since they are faaaar from Ljubljana (as we locals say when something is 20 kilometers away), another option is to find it on tap in the city. Luckily, there are many spots that carry their beer, including Cielito Lindo, Daktari, Petkovšek, Premier Pub, Gas Station, Irish Pub, Alter, and Niša at Dobra Vaga Gallery to name a few.
Tektonik is the most centrally located brewery in Ljubljana and it is situated in an interesting place, on the site where Slovenia’s most important daily newspapers used to be printed. While health and hygiene rules prohibit visitors from seeing where-the-magic-happens, Tektonic is preparing to open a new tap room in the coming months. Until then, Tektonik’s beer is some of the city’s most accessible and it can be purchased in food shops, grocery stores and in many bars across Ljubljana (where it’s served at the right temperature) including Magda, Sir Williams, Pop’s Place, Slovenska hiša, TOZD, and Cutty Sark.
Their most recognizable beers are Iggy (IPA), Dizzy (IPA Amerikana), Hercule (Witbier) and Normal (Pale Ale and the only one that’s in 0.5L bottles).
That wasn’t a typo, this is a phonetic transcription of Ljubljana for English speakers. The second craft beer brewery founded within the city limits has, like the city, a dragon for its symbol. This past summer Loo-blah-nah was seen all over Ljubljana and not only in a liquid form – their T-shirts were quite popular. But enough chit-chat. Their parade horse is an English Pale Ale that’s a light, fresh, easily drinkable ale that will transport you to a classic London pub. They also brew an IPA, Golden Ale, Amber Ale and, the brewers favorite, Belgian Ale.
Loo-blah-nah beers can be found in many bars including Krakovc, Zlata Ladjica, Lepa Žoga, Opera Bar, Livada, Od Žmauca sosed in od brata prjatu, Kavarna SEM, Irish Pub, Sosede, Platana Bar, and Makalonca.
Bevog is the most controversial brewery of them all. Seen as a Slovenian brewery to locals, it actually stands on Austrian side of the border. The reason? Slovenia’s unbearable bureaucracy. Anyhow, Bevog is serious. He is seriously making great beer and some of his beers are almost legendary even though they’ve been around far less than a decade. Try Tak (Pale Ale), Kramah (IPA), Deets (Golden Ale), Ruden (Black IPA), Ond (Smoked Porter) or Baja (Oatmeal Stout) at many places across Slovenia. Bevog is also a pioneer in introducing cans in Slovenia’s craft beer industry. Despite many locals still believing bottles are the only acceptable option, Bevog thinks differently. Cans don’t let any light through which keeps the beer fresh for longer and they don’t have an air pocket, so oxygen can’t affect the beer.
Named after the founder and main brewer’s surname, Pelicon Brewery is a very likeable brewery. Situated in the town of Ajdovščina, their beers are easy to find in throughout Ljubljana. Their most popular beers are include Out of China (Hoppy Red Ale), Yess Boss! (Pale Ale) and 3rd Pill (IPA). Seasonal styles not to be missed are Quantum (DIPA), Harvest Moon Ale (brewed only once a year), and the elegant Black Aurora (a Dark Ale made of Styrian Aurora, a Slovene hop varietal).
And last but not least, when ordering Pelicon don’t ask for Peli-k-on – be sure to use the Slovenian sound, which is pronounced like a ‘z’ not a hard ‘k’.
Reservoir Dogs Brewery
Are you thinking about the famous Quentin Tarantino movie? So did the brewers. They were among the fist Slovenian craft breweries and they instantly got a lot of beer lovers on their side. And even now after a few years they’ve maintained a big fan club with their beers recognized among the best rated in the country.
Apart from some incredibly inventive occasional beers like Cum Grano Salis (Gose), Reservoir Dogs designed a series of four beers called The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Warrior (Pale Ale), Grim Reaper (IPA), Starvation (Black Imperial IPA) and Conqueror (Session Ale), which are easy to track down in Ljubljana.
While craft brewery Lobik is situated near Maribor, it has nevertheless attracted a lot of attention in Ljubljana in part due to their violet beer “Champion”, which they released to celebrate their local football team’s entrance into the UEFA Champions League. Although Champion was a special edition brew, you can still get it, though it has a less spectacular colour.
Apart from the infamous Champion, Lobik also brews Hop Hazard (New England Ale), Fruitpocalypse Now (American Pale Ale) and Svarun (English Ale made strictly from Slovenian hops). They brew special beers too like Biere Plane and 3 Bad Bears, a barrel-aged ale brewed with wild yeast in co-operation with Hillstown Brewery in Northern Ireland. You can buy them at beer shops or enjoy them at Sir Williams, Dobra Vaga or at Plac.
Barut Brewing and Blending
Barut is probably the most exciting brewery from 2017, founded by three microbiologists that love to play around with yeasts, wild yeasts, and lactic acid bacteria. The result is quite impressive and for some signals a “craft beer revolution 2.0”. Their mainstay beer at the moment is Summer Snow, a Brett Berliner, which is funky, a bit sour, and low in alcohol. Occasionally they blend session series, and at the moment you can buy their beers in all beer shops and in Sir William’s Pub, restaurant Luda and Dobra poteza cafe.
In eager anticipation, I am presenting a brewery that at the time of writing hasn’t officially opened. They will do so very soon, but that hasn’t stopped them from already receiving an award for their beer. Omnivar is a fun play on words combining omnivore with the Slovenian word for brewing, and they are planning to use the “omni” part on many levels. There are a few surprises expected from Ominivar including a Vienna Lager called Sissi, a Rye Ale named The Usual Suspect, and an Oat Stout War Pig, a tribute to the Black Sabbath song.
At the moment you can taste their beers at Kimi Bar (next door), Sir William’s, Petkovšek and at Tiskarna. More will certainly follow once they’re officially open.
Union Brewery and Pub
Last but not least is Union, Ljubljana’s largest brewery. For decades only industrial beer was available in Ljubljana so it was interesting to see Union adapt to the craft beer phenomenon. Of course they still have the greatest market share, but in last number of years they’ve made some positive changes. They started with an unfiltered blonde and dark Lagers and they introduced a pub on their premises where they serve some of their special brews.
Being the oldest brewery in Ljubljana, it was founded in 1864, they offer the ‘Union Experience’, which includes a guided tour of the brewery that explores its history and facilities, and finishes with a tasting in the pub.
Ljubljana Beer Bars and Bottle Shops
Pivoljub – Beer Lover (Shop)
Ljubljana’s first beer shop was Pivoljub, which continues to have the greatest selection at the most affordable prices to this day. Grab a Marshmallow Porter Tiny Rebel or choose from an enormous collection of Slovene craft beers. And if you have trouble choosing, like I do when surrounded by liters of beer, there’s a knowledgeable staff member ready to help which is definitely an advantage of specialized shops. Pivoljub is also always up-to-date with the world beer scene, in fact during my last visit I learned that hybrids, a combination of different styles such as an IPA and Porter, are quite trendy at the moment. Pivoljub is the spot to go if you’re in search of the widest offering of Slovenian craft beers.
Pivoljub are situated in the Bežigrad neighborhood, which is outside of the pedestrian zone and another good reason to pay them a visit to see more of Ljubljana.
Že v redu Primož – It’s alright, Primož (Shop)
Another interesting thing about Slovenia’s young craft beer industry is that, for now, the city’s beer enthusiasts have built a strong community. One of these enthusiasts is Damir, the manager of the newest beer shop Že v redu Primož, situated at one of the coolest streets of Ljubljana: Trubarjeva ulica Street (or Trubar Street) in the city center. The shop’s name refers to Mr. Trubar Primož, namesake of the street and author of the first printed book in Slovenian language in 1550.
The cute and cozy shops offers about 300 beers, at least one third of which are Slovenian. They even have some beers cooling in the fridge in case you want to have your beer in a nearby park. Obviously, I recommend this only in the warm half of the year. And yes, in Slovenia you are – luckily – allowed to drink outside, but please behave so that nobody gets the idea to implement any new laws.
The team at Že v redu Primož is, at the time of writing, starting a new venture that will be unique in Ljubljana, serving only the best craft beers and some very inventive food options that will either be made or spiced with beer. Maybe “chilli con carne in Porter sauce” or “mussels in Lambic beer”? Opening is expected in February, 2018.
Gas Station Bar
In Ljubljana, the largest concentration of bars, pubs and other fun things is in the centre, so it’s a bit surprising to see a spot like Gas Station doing so well given how far it is outside of the core. But it’s only a ten minute bike ride, a ten minute bus ride or a thirty min walk from the Presernov trg Square to reach the only pub in town with a car inside. While it was the “car in a pub” that made this pub known, Gas (a local short-form) has begun offering a wide selection of beer and is definitely worth he visit.
They also started a Beer Festival held in front of Gas that’s now been running for a number of years. Luckily, it’s still closely connected with the craft beer scene in Ljubljana and has an extensive beer menu as well as a small beer shop next to the pub.
Sir William’s Pub
Sir William’s Pub is probably the most iconic pub of them all in Ljubljana, in beer terms, and joined Gas Station and Irish Pub in ‘raising the bar’ of the local beer drinking culture nearly a decade ago.
Today it’s seen by many as the baseline, with many Slovenian craft brewers or distributors eager to be on tap here. There are 14 taps, a few of them regular like the German and Czech Lagers and a German Wheat beer but the remaining 11 are often changing. The usual crowd at Sir William’s are beer lovers open to learning about new brews and to connecting with their bartenders who generally know what’s happening in the Slovenian craft beer scene.
If you’re someone who searches for authenticity and locals while traveling while avoiding crowds of tourists, visit to Godec Pub. A bit hidden from the main street, it has been attracting locals for two decades. And other than joining Slovenia’s craft beer revolution, Godec hasn’t changed much during that time.
But they joined the craft beer scene a bit differently. The majority of their craft beers are foreign and because of their cooperation with craft beer shop Craft Pivo next door, Godec often gets exclusive rights in Slovenia for small-batch brews. And often at a good price, too. In case you get hungry I strongly recommend trying their amazing homemade salami, which, prepare yourself for this one, comes from Sevnica, the hometown of the US First Lady. It’s also hometown of one of the pub’s owners.
Their local fame started because of music. Godec is strictly rock’n’roll. You won’t hear any radio programs here and that’s not all – don’t expect WiFi, TV or TripAdvisor stickers. No cards are accepted. It’s strictly analog, and people love it for this.
Niša (at gallery Dobra Vaga)
What used to be a fish market designed by architect Plečnik, who is still the most famous architect in the country, is now three-quarters gallery and one-quarter bar. I’ll be talking about the bar part. Apart from being in a building designed by Plečniks, surrounded by great art in the gallery and next to Ljubljanica River, Niša (translated as “niche”) has its own charms like offering a craft Lager from Kranjska pivovarna Brewery, which is otherwise hard to find.
All of their beers are Slovenian, featuring two more on tap: Reservoir Dogs Starvation Black IPA and HumanFish Pale Ale. More options are available in bottles and cans from Lobik, Pelicon, HumanFish and Crazy Duck.
Niša is all about social responsibility, so they offer mainly local products like their yummy pies, Slovenian wines, and fair-trade or direct trade coffee in second hand cups and plates.
First Board Game Cafe in Slovenia opened last April Fools’ Day and it’s already a hit. They own approximately 350 games of all kinds (from strategic, cooperative, to skill based) and there’s a game guru who can suggest or explain many of the games.
But it’s not only games here, Dobra poteza has 60 beers on their menu, including four taps mostly from Pelicon Brewery. The team from Dobra poteza (which means to ‘good move’ in English) is eager to get special or seasonal barrels as well, so you might be surprised in the future.
Daktari is special. I will admit that it’s one of my favorite bars, but as far as I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. Simply put it’s cozy and has its own energy. They put on the occasional event like an open-mic night, small concerts, readings, and book laun. The bar is equipped with old furniture and many full bookshelves, and in the corner there’s even a smoking room. And of course there is beer. Plenty of it.
It’s location is quite touristy being next to the castle funicular, but surprisingly they all pass right by. There are only a few that sit on the terrace and even fewer that wander inside. Maybe it’s just always full?
Cielito Lindo is a hidden little place that even most locals don’t know about. It’s just two minutes away from Prešernov trg Square and is hidden in a little square – literally, as they are situated on Little Square (Mali trg).
You may have realized that the bar’s name is not Slovenian. It’s Spanish, either a nod to the owner’s home country of Argentina, or maybe because he loves the famous Mariachi song. Nevertheless, Cielito lindo is cosy, with friendly staff and a very good deal on Slovenian craft beer.
Plac / Pivo zid (beer wall)
The Beer Wall is part of a six station place, that is simply called Plac (or place). Apart from a pizzeria, bistro, sweet shop, bar and wine shop, there is a beer wall – a self serving beer system with 14 taps. Apparently, it’s the only one of its kind in the area.
I was surprised that they have a really good selection of strictly Slovenian beers (remember that we see Bevog as Slovenian.), like Lobik (Svarun & Fruitpocalypse Now), Reservoir Dogs (Grim Reaper & Conqueror), Tektonik’s Normal, Bevog (Tak, Kramah & Baja) and a few other breweries that didn’t make into into this article but are still worth a try.
Ljubljana Beer Experieces
Craft Beer Extravaganza (craft beer tour)
Another great beer option is joining the first and only craft beer tour in Ljubljana, hosted by Ljubljananjam. This is not a regular pub crawl but more of a combination of guided tour through Ljubljana’s downtown and tasting of hot-at-that-moment or must-try Slovenian craft beers, with hints for further exploration of our lovely Ljubljana and Slovenian beer scene.
The tour includes three or four stops, each with a different vibe in order to experience the variety and passion involved in Slovenia’s rapidly growing craft brewery industry, with different beers and snacks along the way.
Beer Fountain and Beer Escape Room
If you’ve managed to read this far it can only mean that you really like beer and are eager about what’s happening in the hops world. So for your sake, I’m including two more things that aren’t in Ljubljana but are quite close. First is the only beer fountain in the world, which is in operation from April 1st to the end of October, and it is in Žalec, a 45 minute drive from Ljubljana. When the fountain is on, there’s a bus that takes you directly from the main station in Ljubljana to the fountain. Not far from this park with a world famous fountain is the Eco-Museum of Hop-Growing and Brewing Industry in Slovenia.
Another 15 minute drive from Žalec is Laško, where you can challenge yourself in the world’s first escape room about beer brewing! Sounds fun? It is! Enigmarium’s Escape Room is named Brewer’s Gold and it is in the house where the first barrel of beer was brewed in Laško. I can’t tell you about the riddles of the room, but I will give you one hint: beer.