Meet the dynasty
Croatia’s largest brewery dating back to over twenty years
Saturday 03 July 2021
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Pivovara Medvedgrad has been brewing craft beers since long before such things were a recognised phenomenon in Croatia; in fact, it predates the generally recognised start of the craft beer revolution here by around 20 years. Nonetheless, this family-owned brewery is unmistakably craft, in both its attitude and its excellent traditional beers, and it’s no wonder it is Croatia’s largest and a perennial favourite on Ratebeer.
Medvedgrad itself is a beautiful medieval city next to Zagreb – its name means ‘city of bears’ – and boasts ancient architecture that is unmistakably Croatian. The brewery is on the edge of the town and easily accessible from the centre.
It is run today by four brothers, the sons of the founding family, who have kept its beliefs and values intact. There’s definitely a traditional feel here from the four Zagreb beer halls to the focus on lager and UK-style IPAs, all created with a mix of heritage brewing methods and modern technology. For example, while the brewing itself adheres to its own strict rules on purity, Medvedgrad does use reverse osmosis to ensure perfect water chemistry for each style, and has a state-of-the-art lab and quality assurance process.
The brewery’s Ines Grgurević explains: “We’re definitely a modern craft brewery in our outlook, but there are certain traditional brewing values that make us who we are and we’ll continue to respect those. So, for example, we don’t use preservatives, adjuncts and beer fining agents. We also do not pasteurise or filter our beer – it’s 100% natural. To create beautiful, bright, flavoursome beers without taking shortcuts requires real craft, and we're very proud of that.“
This pride and belief in Medvedgrad’s mission seems to permeate the company. In all of its 26 years, it has only had two master brewers: Czech technologist Pavel Bartušek, who trained his replacement, the current master brewer, Božidar Kostanjčar.
While 2020 was been tough on all breweries, the previous year had been a real milestone for Medvedgrad, which successfully crowdfunded 1 million Euros in just nine days to cover the cost of a new purpose-built brewery. A whopping 3000 people attended the opening party, who celebrated with 5000 litres of beer. The same year, it also hosted Croatia’s largest ever craft festival, featuring collaborations with Odell Brewing and Hair of the Dog.
“We consider lager to be the greatest classic in the beer world, and the hop the most magical beer ingredient,” continues Ines. “We offer seven core and main seven seasonal beers, plus a range of various other beers through the year. Then we have our ‘Fantom’ series, where the brewers get to play with more experimental one-off beers. All of our beer names are inspired by local culture and history: for example, Fakin IPA is named for a rockabilly hot shot from Zagreb in ‘60s (called Fakins) and our wit, Summer in Zagreb, refers to river swimming spots that were popular at the start of the 20th century.
“Giving back and helping our community is important to us, so we brew a couple of humanitarian beers throughout the year, and give away all our profits from those beers to charities representing the most vulnerable in our society – children, animals, and nature.”
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