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Great beer in cosy Bosnia and Herzegovina

Guest writer: Jonathan Gharbi De Maré

Meet the people, enjoy the beautiful nature and not least the beer. Preferably all at the same time. There's a friendliness and hospitality that makes it a pleasure to visit the excellent pubs in Sarajevo, Banja Luka and Mostar that serve local craft beer. You shouldn't miss the classic sights, of course, but put a little extra effort into your drinking and your trip will be unforgettable.


Bars and breweries in Sarajevo

Let's start with Sarajevo, a relatively small capital city but one of the cheapest to visit in Europe. What's better than stepping into a place where you can travel in time and space while unwinding with a cold beer. 

The bars in the pictures below are called speakeasy bars and are inspired by the illegal bars of the 1920s in the US, where you could speak quite quietly. The one on the left is called Slatna Ribica and on the right Balkan Express.

Slatna Ribica is almost French in its decoration but is a classic speakeasy bar, quite romantic in style. If you want to propose in a pub in Sarajevo, this is the place to do it. If you like a simpler 1920s style with live music and a place to have a few beers and the local liquor slivovitza, Balkan Express is perfect. 

If you prefer good old-fashioned lager, you can visit the local brewery's beer hall, which is a short walk away from the site of the Sarajevo shootings. A little further away is the cable car that takes you up the mountain with a great view of the city. 

Sarajevska Pivara brews only regular lager. But the tasty craft beers are on the rise in Bosnia so you don't really need to drink any lager. As well as being tasty, it's also cheap, around €25 for a glass.

There are a handful of breweries that make excellent ipa, porter, wheat beer and much more. We walk around the corner from Balkan Express to Gastropub Vucko, where we find about 140 types of beer and a good menu for those who get hungry. Gastropub Fabrika is also within a few minutes' walk and offers local craft beer as well as food and a nice atmosphere. 

Fabrika is located along the pedestrianised Ferhadija street. Vucko is close to the 1920s bar Balkan Express.

Fabrika and Vucko offer beer from MCB in Banja Luka and beer from one of Sarajevo's own craft breweries. They are called joints, Pi Brewery, Shaman Brewery, Olympic 84 (it was the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics), Pivara Semizburg and VOPI. A short distance from Sarajevo there are also Gorstak Craft Brewery who are skilled brewers and sell their beer both inside and outside Bosnia. 

The most exciting place in Sarajevo is VOPI (the name is pivo backwards) where you can get the latest beers and news about what's happening in the beer industry. The bar is run by brewer Damir Dizdarevic who has collected all the country's craft beers in harmony with his own.

Very few tourists have visited the bar because it is a bit remote, but it is by far the best in Sarajevo if you think a lot about beer. It's located in the residential area of Dolac Malta, about four kilometres from the tourist trail, and you can get there on the three-section tram for a few dollars. 

Many of Bosnia's craft beers are served at VOPI and Damir is both knowledgeable and pleasant to talk to if you want to know more about Bosnian beer.

Pivara semizburg is run by brewer Haris, whom I met in Hanoi in 2012 at the local homebrew association there. After a period of home-brewing in Vietnam and then Pakistan, he decided to open his own in Bosnia. The beer is mostly sold in the Walter Ego 1 and 2 pubs, which are located in the centre of Sarajevo. The most popular beers are sold as house beers and are called Walter Ego Red, Dark, Light, and Babaroga and Prikaza.

Are you not a Viking? Well it might be possible to visit anyway, Viking Pub is 200 metres away from the Latin Bridge and ask if they have beer brewed by shamans. The fact that Viking Pub sells beer from Shaman Brewery may not be a coincidence but for those who like to play with words there are many jokes to pick up here. 

Bosnia's gem Mostar does not disappoint

Mostar has a beautiful riverside location, and right by the famous bridge, the Imaimoze Craft Beer Garden with its own brewery, Oldbridz (pronounced oldbridge, after the famous bridge nearby), is the place to be to connect with brewers and beer enthusiasts.

Mostar. About 300 metres to the right of the bridge is the Oldbridz pub.

Visiting a historic site and looking out at the walls and towers while drinking your favourite beverage is an unbeatable combination. It serves 5-6 beers on tap. In addition to Oldbridz, the brewery Cooltora Pivovaras sells its beer in both Mostar and Sarajevo.

Imaimoze Craft Beer Garden where Oldbriz serves its beers on tap. If you're lucky, brewer Arslan Mesihovic (right) will be there to tell you more about the beer. 
If the brewer is busy, this woman knows everything - just ask!

If you are travelling around, be sure to visit the MCB in Banja Luka as well. Silvertown Brewery in Srebrenica and Laufer Craft Brewery in Brcko. 

Jonathan Gharbi de Maré

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Jonathan Gharbi De Maré

Jonathan runs the start-up about beer both in the UAE with offshoots in neighbouring regions. Jonathan opened the first craft brewery in Burkina Faso and wrote the book Beer guide to Vietnam. He is a regular writer for the beer magazine Maltesen. In addition to beer, he has a keen interest in nature and more unusual travel destinations. He has written articles for a variety of newspapers and magazines.

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