Ljubljana’s craft beers and pubs - an enthusiast’s guide

by Peter Kamien

As a dyed-in-the-wool Bavarian, I am thrilled by the new beer culture that’s sweeping Slovenia. The introduction of craft beer from small breweries has been a triumph, and among more than 100 excellent breweries now operating in Slovenia, seven are from Ljubljana or its near surroundings. So follow me for a short walk among Ljubljana’s wonderful world of craft beer ...

Ljubljana’s brewing tradition is far older than most people would imagine, as evidenced by the discovery of 3,900-year-old beer barrels in the Ljubljana Marshes. Ljubljana’s earliest known brewery dates back to 1592, and by 1796 the city boasted six breweries - serving less than 10,000 inhabitants!

Recent years have seen rapid growth in the popularity of craft beers made by different microbreweries, many in Ljubljana. Brilliant, creative beers with names to match. Try, for example, a Crazy Duck. Or, even better, what about a Loo-Blah-Nah?

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And there’s more…

Tektonik …Patriot Vunderbar…Mister… Hopster… Krachtowill… you don’t need to pronounce it, just enjoy it! Even Union, Slovenia’s main beer brand, has jumped on the bandwagon and offers its own craft beer line.

Now, where to find all this pleasure?

Ljubljana has a wonderful pub scene!

Ljubljana has a wonderful pub scene!

Strolling along the Ljubljanica River or through the charming Old Town, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to places to eat and drink. There are almost too many cool bars, cosy inns and inviting pubs threaded along the riverbank and on the atmospheric streets.

So let me make a few suggestions. Start with these, my personal favourites, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy going on to discover others that are just as enchanting.

Let’s start at Pop’s Place

Let’s start at Pop’s Place

If you’re setting off on a beer-tasting, it’s a good idea to line your stomach first. Pop’s Place is ideal: not too far from the Three Bridges in the town centre, and right on the river. Here you’ll find the best burgers in town – perfect partners for the huge offering of local craft beer that Pop keeps on tap!

Moving on to the Lajbah …

The Lajbah (the old Austrian name for Ljubljana) is located just five minutes’ stroll from the Three Bridges, along the Ljubljanica River. This pub opened in 2018 to serve a very specific type of clientele – those who love and appreciate good beer. It’s a beautiful pub with a very inviting terrace, and an enormous selection of craft beers to keep you happily sampling for hours.

Lajbah…

I recommend you opt for the beer-tasting: four glasses of very different beers to sample. From the Slovene offering, do try Pelicon and Reservoir Dogs. For contrast, you might then choose from some of the very famous European craft beers also on offer here.

Next stop: Sir William’s Pub

Next stop: Sir William’s Pub

This elegant and stylish pub right in the centre is probably the most iconic ‘beer’ pub in Ljubljana, and many of the top Slovenian craft brewers or distributors are desperate to be on one of the 14 taps. There are a few regulars, including the German and Czech lagers and a German Wheat beer, but the remaining 11 frequently change. The usual crowd you’ll meet at Sir William’s are real beer lovers, keen to learn about the new brews and chat with the knowledgeable bartenders about what’s happening in the Slovenian craft beer scene.

Further away from the tourist trail, we find the Antico

Further away from the tourist trail, we find the Antico

The Antico is a very nice place to hang out and maybe chat with some of the locals. It feels truly hospitable and friendly and in spite of its fantastic location right in the heart of Ljubljana Old Town, it’s laid-back and cosy – a home away from home. They serve great draft beer, and also some very good, down-home food. Overall, it’s a perfect place to kick back and enjoy a cold beer.

By the way, the latest ‘made in Ljubljana’ beer – which I really love - is served here. It’s the one called Loo-Blah-Nah and it’s a must to try!

Next station: the Gas Station

Next station: the Gas Station

The biggest concentration of bars, pubs and other fun venues is right in Ljubljana’s centre, so it’s a nice surprise to find a spot like the Gas Station pub doing well, given that it’s outside of the core. But it’s really only a ten-minute bike or bus ride or a thirty-minute walk from the Prešernov trg Square to reach this, the only pub in town with a car inside it.

That was the gimmick that made the pub known, but people came to see the car and stayed to enjoy the beer. Gas, as the locals affectionately call it, offers a great selection and is definitely worth a visit.

Last but not least, the Union Pub

Last but not least, the Union Pub

The Union Brewery dates back to 1864, but the pub only opened as part of the brewery complex in 2014. It’s a large pub with a nice terrace, just about 10 minutes’ walk from Ljubljana centre.

I put it on my map because it has a great history representing the tradition of Ljubljana beer, plus a good atmosphere and some definitely wonderful draft beers. You can sample more than ten different brews plus the Union Selection – a special weekly brewer’s choice of beers, prepared exclusively for the Union Pub.

Well, that’s my selection. And I’m sure you’ll have fun discovering yours. Cheers!

Peter Kamien

Peter Kamien is a doctor of psychology and was East European director of an international advertising agency.

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