Beer probably isn’t the first thing that springs to mind when you think about Bosnia. But it’s easy to find interesting and delicious beers there, as long as you know where to look. Beyond macro lagers such as Sarajevska Premium, there’s a whole range of local craft brewers making exciting beers for travelers to try.
So, you’re in Bosnia. Perhaps you’re there for the Sarajevo Film Festival. Maybe you’re there because you were driving down the Adriatic Coast and crossed the border from Croatia without realising (friends have done this and made it across to the other side before the police could catch up). Or possibly, like me, you’re there to visit friends and check out the local beer scene.
Whatever your reason for being in Bosnia, you need a drink. As things currently stand, the Wikipedia page for “Bosnian beers” is a dry list of bullet points, most of which lead you to breweries churning out light, macro lagers. You need a detailed blog post talking about what beers you can find in the country, which you’re like to enjoy, and where you can get them.
This is that blog post.
The oldest and largest brewery in Bosnia & Herzegovina, Sarajevska Pivara is the most obvious place to start on a hunt for Bosnian beers.
Honestly, it’s not a terrible place to start. Their brewery in Sarajevo is home to a gorgeous, wood-panelled taproom where you can order generous piles of meat, chips, and fried dough to line your stomach.
The beer itself is unremarkable. Their flagship, Sarajevsko Premium, is a light, crisp, slightly buttery lager, fabulously refreshing when it’s 40 celcius outside but otherwise pretty dull. Tamno, their dark beer, is molasses sweet and tastes more like wort than beer. Their radler is lemony and light, but if a brewery’s best offering is 50% lemonade you know there’s a problem.
For those keen on the history of beer, the brewery museum is open from noon until 6 most days. For those more interested in trying something that tastes good, you’re better off heading elsewhere.
Pronounced “voodge-ko”, this pub takes its name from Sarajevo’s lupine mascot in the 1988 Winter Olympics.
Here, the beer options are more varied. An ambitious app tries to show off the wide range of beers on offer, though there’s no guarantee how much of that selection will actually be in stock.
While there we try some offerings from Pi Brewery – another Sarajevo local. Their gimmick of picking beer names that contain the letters “pi” is cute, though the cuteness of their “Pinguin” white IPA label lulls me into a false sense of security. The bitterness in this beer is astonishing, far more aggressive than anything I’ve tasted since around 2012. A DIPA, UtoPIa, is easier to drink, with boozy orange flavours dominating.
There are beers from across the border too: an APA and IPA from Croatian brewers Nova Runda. Both are smooth and sweet, the APA with more corn flavour, the C4 IPA fruitier.
Just as there is more to Bosnian beers than Sarajevsko, there is more to Bosnia and Herzegovina than Sarajevo.
Around a two hour drive from the capital lies Mostar, a city named for its famous old bridge connecting each side of the River Neretva.
Also taking its name from the bridge is the local craft brewery: OldBridz. They sell their beers from the cool and shady Ima i Moze beer garden in the western, slightly less touristy part of town.
There we tried Sinko, a pale ale that tasted almost like a kveik with lemon and funky barnyard aromas, and Oaklandia, an oak-aged amber ale. Time in oak has smoothed off some of this beer’s rougher grapefruit bitterness, leaving a smooth, caramel, slightly woody flavour.
Crucially, it wasn’t just me enjoying these beers: my partner liked them both too. Mostar may not be world-famous for its beer, but it’s convinced my beer-hating girlfriend she quite likes a pint sometimes. And that’s more than most famous brewing towns can claim.