Surely it would be yours as well. Who doesn’t like a good beer or three. 🙂
Maribor hosted its second beer festival this afternoon, and since Maribor is also my town (and I also like beer (a lot)) I simply had to go. Perhaps I should have been some place else, but I had to cancel and disappoint some people, but that’s beside the point.
Now, even though craft brewing has been around for a long time, this is not exactly the case in Slovenia. We’re more a land of wine, and even though we have a couple of bigger breweries, small independent brewers were few and far in between. Until a couple of years ago. Quite a revolution started then and local brewers started popping up all around the place. Even I tried my hand at making beer from brewing kits and the results were quite impressive, albeit to an amateur like me and my friends. But a number of very successful, independent producers arose as well, much to my liking. About 20 of them gathered today in Maribor.
Good weather and a number of food stands nearby helped things even further and the square in the center of town was full from the afternoon onward. I took my friend Nejc with me and he was nice enough to arrange transport, so that was taken care of. Once there, you had to buy a glass for 3€, but you’d get 2€ back if you returned it at the end of the day. Then there were 1€ tokens and you usually got 1 or 1.5dcl fills of beer for them – more if you wanted to.
There were many beers of many kinds, from domestic mash-ups to imported ones. Usually, when you go to a pub here in Slovenia, there are perhaps 2 to 4 major producers available (that being Laško, Union, Heineken etc.). Only a small number of pubs carry craft brews, but that’s been changing in the last couple of years. So being able to get such a big number of different beers in one place was quite unique!
We decided to buy 10€ worth of glasses and tokens each and then spent them all on various brews before Nejc had a craving for cigarettes. As luck would have it, there were a couple of his friends a short walk away at another pub, so we had to go there to get them. I soon found out that the pub carried Bevog Kramah, one of my favourite beers around. It made me jump in my seat when the waitress told me they had it.
Now, Bevog is a special kind of brewery. Not only are their beers top notch, their story is a bit unusual as well. When starting out, the owner, who is Slovenian wanted to start his business in Prekmurje, a region in the eastern part of the country. He tried for years to get all of the required permits, but gave up trying. In the end he decided to move his brewery just a couple of kilometers north, across the border into Austria. He got the permits in about 3 weeks, started brewing sensational beer and collected a number of best-of awards in a very short time. The brewery’s had trouble keeping up with demand as they are exporting to many countries around Europe and the world and they’ve been forced to expand their capacities. If you chance to find a bottle of their beer somewhere close, don’t hesitate to try it. You won’t be disappointed.
Back to the fest we went, this time to grab something to eat and meet a Gregor and Urška, a pair of college friends who’d also come to taste some of the offerings. After getting their own glasses and tokens we went around once more and I met the fun Hungarian guy pictured above. Coming from a hospitality college I appreciate someone who can make a difference by being really happy with what he does, and it looked like he really enjoyed being there and pouring beers. He was constantly cracking jokes and I just had to go back a second time.
More and more people were gathering as the darkness fell and I was beginning to feel the effects all the good beers were taking on me. Pretty soon it was time to get back home, at least before I got too much of it all. Gregor went out of his way to drive me back home, and I’m very grateful for that. The organizers have set up a great event and I can only hope it’s going to get even bigger and better next year.