Last week I spoke to Tron Brewery‘s Nemanja Stefanović, one of the founders of the Belgrade-based maker of craft beer in Serbia. He was in Brussels for a tap takeover of Serbian craft beer put on by ever wonderful Dynamo bar. Tron is known for beers that include Matador (a red IPA), All on Black (stout), Skiper (IPA) and Navigator (a pale ale).
He says: “When I started brewing in 2015 there were only three craft brewers in Serbia. Today we have around 30. We took our inspiration from the craft brewers in the UK and the States. They showed us what we could do here in Serbia. We are now brewing 150 hectolitres.
“The next beer we are producing is a beetroot beer. It is seasonal. Our next exciting project is a beer made with vanilla from Mexico and dried plums from Serbia. It is going to be called ‘3327’. It refers to The Secrets of Tesla’s Room.”
Stefanović notes that the craft beer foothold in Serbia has led to a revival in growing native hops.
“What’s great is that because craft brewing is getting established in Serbia one of the benefits is the revival of three types of hops native to Serbia,” he says. “One is a bitter type, the other two are aromatic. “
One is Backa, an old, rare variety of aroma hop from 1956, with an unknown land race pedigree. According to the Hopslist, “Backa has the potential for high yield in its native Backa region of Serbia but doesn’t seem to do all that well elsewhere. It’s highly aromatic and is said to have similar qualities to many European ‘Noble Hops’. The USDA lists two strains of Backa (56002) and (21080), but there seems to be some disagreement as to whether or not they are identical.”
Serbia’s craft brewers have an uphill battle. Carlsberg Serbia, Heineken and Molson Coors control about 95% of the market combined. The rest by about 20 local brewers, including Valjevo Brewery, BIP Brewery, Jagodina Brewery and Niš Brewer.
Small brewers, arise
The Serbian Monitor, quoting Srdjan Andjić, head of the Moja Voda Company and Kamarad Beer from Vrsac, notes that in Serbia, at the beginning of this year, craft brewers held between 2% to 2.5% of the market. “In the European Union, craft beer has about 25% market share,” he noted.
Among the most successful has been pioneer Kabinet Brewery , which along with Dogma, dominates the RateBeer best of Serbia list. Kabinet was founded by Kosara Dangic Melentijevic in 2013. Kabinet makes about 70 different types of beer which they export to more than 25 countries.