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  • Writer's pictureMatthias

Brewgrade – Where to craft-drink what

Serbs love their beer – nearly as much as their traditional brandy rakija even. With Zaječarsko, Lav and Jelen among others hopsophile visitors can find some solid Serbian mainstream brands in every store, supermarket and restaurant menu. But as the trending young and modern city Belgrade is, it's obviously also following the trend of young and modern craft beers, brewed by a new generation with creative ideas and timely skills. Say cheers to the beers!

Photo by Sanja Kostić

Reaching the Salto brewery in the far south of Belgrade, in the municipality of Rakovica takes quite a while. In a renovated building in an aged industry complex, inbetween classic car repair and air press engineering as well as modern fashion brands and photo studios friends Goran and Ivan have set up their craft brand – or at least their brewhouse. The first three years after launching Salto in March 2016 it was produced in Belgium while the team was looking for a location in their hometown Belgrade as well as working on their own equipment.


Photo by Sanja Kostić

In fact that engineering spirit is exactly what started it all. "I was always way more interested in beer and brewing than I was in my actual job", says sound designer Goran who laid the foundation of Salto way back when he built his very own brewing machine in his kitchen at home. "I have always loved that mix of art, design and technology that brewing combines." For his founding partner it was less of a hobby – he is an actual engineer and had the necessary technical knowledge.


The first brew that was created at their quite impressive location – that includes a complex filtration system mineralizing the city water several times and giving it their very own profile – was the Belgrade IPA. It came as an addition to the US style Pale Ale that started their whole business while the quite refreshing Wit features spices and a touch of cilantro. But as all creative folks the Salto brewers are naturally always looking for new tastes that go through thorough testing before they actually reach the local bars and businesses. "The people know, when Salto is doing something new, it's gonna be good", Goran continues. "But consistency can be hard when it comes to brewing beer. It's not difficult to come up with a new recipe, but repeating it over and over again can be. Unlike wine, where every vintage can have a different quality and taste is based on the respective year's grapes, beer always has to taste the same – even if the ingredients don't. The same hops can have a very different aroma when grown in a different soil." Which is why Salto trusts in hops from the US and malt from German Heidelberg, even if it's not easy to order internationally and sell for prices that need to work locally. By the way, new testing brews are still created using Goran's original kitchen machinery – slightly upgraded of course!


Your main location to try Salto is Zaokret at Cetinjska, a bar slash coffee place that was created around the same time as the brand itself and is run by a friend of Ivan and Goran. The latter additionally recommends: "Sprat right next to it is amazing if you wanna try a variety of local beers."

Photo by Sanja Kostić

Among those you can also find another big Belgrade beer brand (have another pint and say that three times fast). Dogma Brewery has been around in Belgrade a little longer (and a little closer to the center) and is serving in their very own Irish Pub style Tap room – appropriate food included. Having started in July 2016 as of 2020 they have been the biggest Serbian exporter of beer for two consecutive years, with 48,000 liters brewed per month. It seems to be a thing – whereas only a decade ago "we should buy a bar" was two friends' ultimate dream, now it seems to be "we should brew a beer". Dogma as well was founded by two childhood friends, food tech engineer Vladimir and economist, marketer and IT pro Mlađen from the city of Majdanpek who both had high goals from early on as the former admits: "We always wanted to go international. That's one of the reasons we went with the name Dogma – it means the same in every language."


Photo by Sanja Kostić

Dogma has successfully gotten on to become a trend brand in itself and the involvement of a professional marketer is palpable in every area, from the cool merch to the participation in big events like Red Bull Flugtag and international festivals. On top of that the Dogmatists have been originating new festivities like an international Beer Can Festival in 2019 to promote a true culture of the classic beer containers – needless to say that their own cans are true pieces of art and even more worth taking home as a souvenir than caps and T-shirts.


Even if Dogma's bestseller is a classic US-inspired West Coast IPA their best feature is possibly the variety of flavours, all with purely organic ingredients and without any artificial tastes. Besides traditional brews you can try the sourish-fruity raspberry wheat beer as well as pumpkin, clove and cinnamon, quince or orange milkshake. The craziest one is undoubtedly the Ayahuasca – yes, like the traditional spiritual medicine among indigenous peoples. "Mlađen went to Peru and did one of these spiritual cleansings and that had quite the effect on him. He wanted us to make a brew that would reflect his experience so I asked him what it tasted like and he said 'earthy, woody and like the ugliest thing I have ever tasted'. We played around with juniper and various types of hops to create something rather trippy." But no worries, it’s not ugly at all.


Photo by Sanja Kostić

Like Salto Dogma is obtaining their hops from outside Serbia's borders. Are there no good ingredients within the country, Vladimir? "Well, we surely have the soil here. But so far the Serbian hops has not quite reached the quality of the international products." Maybe there is still room for more upgrades, ideas and people in the Serbian craft beer industry...


For more crafty craft beer craft check out Samo Pivo, Gunners Pub or KRAFTER.


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