It's always a good time with Dogma


Belgrade’s Dogma has been a firm favourite of mine since I first visited in 2018, and is right at the top of my list of breweries I need to get back to once the world has got its act together. In the meantime though, it’s genuinely spirit-lifting to jump on a video call for an impromptu tour of Dogma’s much-expanded taproom, with its absolute gem of a co-founder, Vladimir Stojkovic.

Vlada is as welcoming as ever, grinning as he shows me the brewery floor (much more crowded with fermenting beer) and the taproom itself (somehow about three times its previous size), before sitting himself at the end of the bar with a pint of Quasar Black IPA, fresh off the line.

Like everywhere, the past couple of years have been tough for the Serbian hospitality industry, particularly for the pubs. Dogma though has still enjoyed some good successes; it’s always had a strong focus on export, which has kept the lights on when the domestic pub trade was slow, and a well-timed fifth anniversary party brought thousands of fans to the taproom during a brief window of restrictions being lifted. As a result, it grew last year by 20-25%, depending on how you count it.

“Always the best survivors are those who can adapt. In beer and in life. We need to fight and we need to be also dynamic, clever and sharp, 24 hours a day, 366 days a year. I need that extra day every year, not just one-in-four!” he says with a grin.

Dogma has certainly been keeping busy, particularly on the brewing side, where it’s really developed from its early focus on big hop character – a brave move, given that it was hop-forward IPAs like Hoptopod and Plutonium that really put the brewery on the international map. In summer 2021, it began a barrel ageing programme, which will yield its first beers in a few months’ time.

“We have a Russian imperial stout with cardamom and cocoa nibs, ageing in old Serbian Vignac barrels – basically Serbian cognac, but we obviously can’t call it that. We’ve also got some Imperial prune stout, brewed with real prunes, because plums have always been such a huge part of Serbian food and drink. We’ve collaborated with distilleries and wineries, so for example we have a great saison that’s currently ageing in Serbian wine barrels. So, lots of really exciting things happening on that side.”

We’re certainly excited about the beers Dogma is providing for this month’s box, which includes – for the first time in far too long – a black IPA. I ask Vlada why he went for a style whose star is very much falling.

“When everything started with craft beer here, back in 2014, we got some new beers from Europe, including Wild Raven from Thornbridge, a black IPA that was crazy popular,” he replies. “And definitely, I fell in love with that style because it’s something unique, when you mix those roasted speciality malt flavours with the bitterness and fruity hops of an IPA.

“As a style, it’s fallen out of fashion a lot now though, so when we decided to brew one last year, we wanted to give it a name that would mean something. Quasars are very distant – so very, very old – objects in space that look like stars, but they’re not stars. They’re very bright, but also some scientists think they have a super-massive black hole at their heart. It seemed to fit! I’m really proud of this beer, so hopefully your subscribers will try it and have a bit more love for black IPAs.”

Alongside Quasar, he’s also given us the latest iteration of Dogma’s perennially popular SMASH single hop series. Long-time members will remember SMASH Mosaic and the wonderful SMASH Sabro; this time, it’s Galaxy getting the treatment, and we couldn’t be more keen to give it a taste.

With so much on the go, I ask what Vlada is most looking forward to, as beer lovers begin to properly re-emerge. He pauses to consider and take a sip, this time from a pint of SMASH Galaxy – he’s not moved out of shot, so it’s not clear precisely how he managed this switch.

“When the sun comes out in April, May, we have that great space outside, we will hopefully have events every week again, we have some great guest kitchens lined up, like our friends at Holy Smoke, which is Belgrade’s only Texan barbecue, a great sandwich company, and lots of foodie collaborations working with our beer. Then we have our sixth birthday in July, which will hopefully be amazing again. So what am I most looking forward to… I guess just seeing lots of people face-to-face, welcoming them to the taproom and seeing them have a great time with our beers again.”

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