Lju-beer-ljana: a locally-led craft beer tour of Ljubljana, Slovenia

Craft beer tours in Europe are a dime-a-dozen. Most are more like messy pub crawls than beer tours that pass on historical and cultural knowledge to its participants. Luckily for me, Peter’s craft beer tour of Ljubljana, a capital city that stole my heart, packed in as much architecture, history, and cultural context as it did pints.

I stumbled upon the Lju-beer-ljana tour online and it instantly sounded up my alley. Craft beer mixed with a cultural walking tour around the gorgeous capital of Slovenia? Count me in! This tour is for all those who like to learn while quenching their thirst, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

As per usual, I didn’t make a map with all the stops— you’ll need to book a tour to get the lowdown on the best brews in Slovenia and the best places to enjoy them.

warning: if you don’t like beer + culture…this post isn’t for you.

Lju-beer-ljana: a locally-led craft beer tour of Ljubljana, Slovenia

a bit about beer in slovenia

Apart from having the “Greenest Capital in Europe” and being covered in vast forest landscapes, it might surprise you to know that Slovenia is known for its large beer

Slovenia is the world’s fourth largest producer of hops and makes approximately 100 million liters of beer every year. About 3% of that beer comes from craft breweries, which is a large amount given the overall population of the country. In the past decade, like most other countries across the glove, Slovenia has seen a craft brewing revolution take place that has microbreweries popping up all over the country. This has elevated the culture of beer drinking.

Beer in Slovenia has also brought about changes to its constitution. When Heineken bought the two main beers in Slovenia, Union and Lakšo, what the Dutch beer giant really wanted was to get its hands on Slovenian water. Anticipating this, Slovenia’s government leapt into action and amended the constitution so that water can never be privatized. This is something I find absolutely deserving of applause. As an American by birth, it truly shocks me to think how many Americans don’t have access to clean drinking water, how many have to buy plastic bottled water, and how expensive water bills can be in the U.S.

Lju-beer-ljana: a locally-led craft beer tour of Ljubljana, Slovenia

meeting place + stop #1

The tour starts at Preseren Square {pictured at the top of this post}. It’s easy enough to find thanks to it being in close proximity to the city’s famous funicular. I’ve also included it on the map below, just in case you need help navigating!

As we sat down at a little bar looking out onto Preseren Square, Peter asked about beer preferences. I told him I love a pale ale, but I’m used to lagers. In Asia, Laos especially, lagers are what you get your hands on. They’re cheap and easy to drink on a hot evening, which is every evening. Peter smiled and asked about stouts, porters, and IPAs. I told him IPAs are probably third or second in order of what I drink most, but that I avoid stouts and porters almost entirely. “We’ll see if we can change your mind,” he said.

wait, tara. what are stouts, porters, + pale ales? what does it even mean?

I got you. The beers I’ll mainly be talking about in this post are lagers, stouts, porters, IPAs, and pale ales. I won’t go into Belgian beers or pilsners.

  • Lagers: Lagers are, generally speaking, the most basic beers. The one you probably drank at a bonfire as a teenager that you didn’t love but didn’t hate. Your first beer experience was probably a lager. For us Americans, think Budweiser or Coors {note to America: we really need better lagers}. For kiwis, think Tui. If you’re new to drinking beer, lagers are usually pretty consistent and a good starting place.

  • Stouts: The mother of stouts is Guinness, however, pretty much any stout made after Guinness has been an improvement. Sorry, Ireland. In the world of beer, stouts are considered those dark beers with the fullest body and are the creamiest to drink. Many people associate stouts with bitterness, but a lot of stouts are actually sweet. Some, like a few I tried taste like coffee.

  • Porters: Originally, porters came from the U.K. They’re a dark beer, similar to a stout, but they taste more like chocolate and less like coffee than stouts do.

  • IPAs: Indian Pale Ales are characterized largely by their hoppy, herbal, and/or fruity flavours. They can be bitter and some are sour. Usually, these have pretty high alcohol levels.

  • Pale ales: Pale ales are “hoppy”, but they aren’t as high in alcohol content as IPAs. Typically speaking, they’re malty, medium-bodied, and can be easier to drink than IPAs.

The tour kicked off with three beers accompanied by salty snacks and mineral water. The first beer I tried was Union, one of two standard lagers in Slovenia. It was dangerously easy to down and I could definitely understand how, especially on a hot summer’s day, throwing back a Union feels nice.

The second beer was a pale ale called Tak. Tak was aromatic and had an ever-so-slightly punchier taste. The malt base and four types of hops inside the beer make it easy to drink but a little more dynamic than the lager.

The third beer at our first stop {yeah, you read that correctly}, was an IPA named after a Nordic god. The name itself doesn’t translate easily. What is more important to know is that all 120lbs of me drank the 7% IPA and felt light on my feet.

Lju-beer-ljana: a locally-led craft beer tour of Ljubljana, Slovenia
Lju-beer-ljana: a locally-led craft beer tour of Ljubljana, Slovenia

city hall + stop #2

The second stop of the tour had us at another outdoor patio, this one closer to the main pedestrian path in town. Before we took our seats and enjoyed our fourth and fifth brews of the evening, Peter gave us a little history lesson about the governing system in Ljubljana. Up until 1484, there was no mayor of the city. Instead, Ljubljana was governed by a council of twelve men.

Lju-beer-ljana: a locally-led craft beer tour of Ljubljana, Slovenia
Lju-beer-ljana: a locally-led craft beer tour of Ljubljana, Slovenia
Lju-beer-ljana: a locally-led craft beer tour of Ljubljana, Slovenia

stop # 3

Stop number three was completely unexpected. I had already been in Ljubljana for three days and had walked around the city multiple times covering every nook and cranny, but somehow had completely missed this specialty store. Turns out, I had been walking right by a hidden craft beer store. To be fair, it’s a real hole-in-the-wall. You have to walk through a tunnel off of the main street and turn left at what appears to be a dead end. If you can manage to navigate your way to the set of glass doors, however, you’ll find yourself in craft beer heaven.

The blonde, broad man working that evening had such extensive knowledge of beer, I felt like a beer fraud. He dove into the politics of beer competitions, the art of creating an enjoyable sour beer,

We tried three beers here. Two of them, keeping with the theme of the venue, caught me completely off-guard. I was poured a hefty stout, black as night with a thick beige head. The first, Omnivar’s “Baltic State of Mind” stout, was named the second best beer in the country, but the man reckons it fully deserved to be named first. Weirdly, I might have to agree. It left quite an impression on me.

The other was a sour beer by Barut. These are increasing in popularity around the world. Barut is owned and operated by three microbiologists who like playing with the science behind beer to create sour tasting pours. They bought an abandoned gunpowder factory and began brewing for fun, unaware that it would become a sensation across Slovenia.

Lju-beer-ljana: a locally-led craft beer tour of Ljubljana, Slovenia

final thoughts + stop #4

On our way to the final spot of the evening, we stopped off to soak in the sunset. Peter told us a funny story about former president Clinton’s visit to Ljubljana. Clinton held a press conference and wanted to speak from the balcony of the University building, but was told the spot was for only the most important of addresses. Instead, he gave his speech from the ground floor of the beautiful building.

We arrived quickly to the final stop. Ending with a bang, we each got a flight of miniature pints for our final tasting. More salty snacks sat on a wooden plank surrounded on either side by beer. Sour beer, IPAs, a citrus pale ale, a dark porter, and a stout that tasted just exactly like espresso. My favourite, as some of you might have guessed, was the coffee stout. I cannot explain how much it tasted just like a creamy, drip coffee.

I didn’t know what to expect going into my beer tour with Peter, but my instincts about how much I’d enjoy the tour were spot on. Bonding over a love of craft beer in a beautiful city like Ljubljana made it easy to feel like I’d made a friend. Conversations at the end of the night organically shifted towards history, literature, and politics— the kind of conversations I live for. None of the small talk nonsense you can sometimes get from tour guides. Just real chats over real good beer.

Despite the beer being good, I couldn’t physically finish my flight. Yes, they were all delicious, but man, oh man, drinking that much filled my belly up. It had been a night filled with good chats and even better beer, but it was time to say goodnight and hydrate properly.

Lju-beer-ljana: a locally-led craft beer tour of Ljubljana, Slovenia

booking your beer tour

You can book your beer tour with Peter by emailing him at info@ljubljana.info or by booking online here.

Disclaimer: I was a guest of Lju-BEER-ljana, but all my opinions are my own and my experience is expressed authentically. I only promote brands and work with companies I believe in.


Lju-beer-ljana: a locally-led craft beer tour of Ljubljana, Slovenia
Lju-beer-ljana: a locally-led craft beer tour of Ljubljana, Slovenia #ljubljana #sloveniathingstodo
Lju-beer-ljana: a locally-led craft beer tour of Ljubljana, Slovenia #sloveniatravel #sloveniathingstodo #ljubljana