Croatia’s Cheap Beers: A Brief Introduction

As a committed beer geek, I was looking to expand my liquid horizons in Croatia. Wine? Sure. Rakija? Sign me up. But unless you’re checking out a swanky joint like Vinoteka Bornstein, you might have trouble finding a bottle of Pošip at most bars, and everyone swears the best rakija is home-brewed. So while I’ve been exploring Zagreb’s varied nightlife for Let’s Go, I’ve fallen back on my mainstay: cheap beer. If you’re looking for a little malt when you visit Croatia’s capital, here’s what you’ll be contending with:

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Ožujsko

This is the most popular beer in Croatia. It’s also the one I have the most difficulty pronouncing. I ordered Tomislav at four different bars before I worked up the courage to ask for an Ozh… an O-zooj…. that one over there with the red label, please? One time I ordered it and the bartender seemed to understand me. Apparently I asked for three, which he promptly uncorked and set down in front of me. “Drink up!” the patron besides me cackled. Overall verdict: it’s a perfectly decent Euro pale lager. Very palatable if you don’t drink three in quick succession.

Tomislav

This is a darker, stronger beer, but they still serve it in a giant half-liter glass. It’s not a Euro pale lager; it’s a Euro dark lager! It’s also my favorite of the beers I’ve had in Croatia, and not just because it’s the easiest to pronounce (marvel at the lack of diacritics!).

Laško

This is actually a Slovenian beer, but it’s ubiquitous in Zagreb. It is a Euro pale lager, meaning it tastes like Stella Artois, Heineken, Beck’s, Ožujsko, et cetera ad nauseum. It’s fine.

Karlovačko

This is technically a Czech-style pilsner (Staropramen, a Czech-style pilsner that’s actually from Czechoslovakia, is also ubiquitous in Zagreb), but you will probably have difficulty telling it from Euro pale lagers.

Bonus: Pivnica Mali Medo

This isn’t a beer, but a Croatian brewery that sells its wares at a brewpub on Ulica Tkalčićeva. With prices like 20 kn for a taster of all 6 beers (5 regulars, 1 rotating), they’re on par with everywhere else in Croatia, but you’ll get a bit more variety and flavor.