1435 km so far.
I am sick of lager. And pilsner. I knew when we headed out on this trip I would end up drinking a lot of light (in colour and taste) beer, because we are in the land of light beer.
While living in England for almost a decade I fell in love with bitter, a delicious, dark, naturally carbonated brew. When we moved to California, IPAs were everywhere. It seems everyone and their dog is brewing a craft brew IPA in America, and while we lived in Los Angeles, Eagle Rock Brewery and Golden Road both opened and began brewing some of the finest IPA in the world.
Since we were heading to the big city of Ljubljana, I decided to Google ‘good beer Slovenia’. The very handy In Your Pocket had a review of a beer I hadn’t seen before, named after the salamander I had seen earlier in the day at Postojnska Jama: Human Fish Brewery. As luck would have it, their brewery was on our road to Ljubljana, so I emailed them to see if we could stop in.
Brewmaster Matthew Charlesworth emailed me back and said that while they weren’t open on Mondays, he would be happy to open the brewery for us and show us around. Amazing! It was as if the beer gods were looking down on me.
Matthew was waiting for us when we arrived, and gave us a tour of the brewery, showing us the various malt he uses to make his beer and the hops, most of which are Slovene.
Slovene IPA, Pale Ale, and Stout are his regular brews, and seasonal beers also make appearances throughout the year. He told us that eastern Slovenia is hops growing country and that we will be cycling through the heart of it in a few days time.
The brewery is in an old dairy factory, but instead of pasteurising cow’s milk, they are making the milk of the gods.
Matthew trained in Vermont at the American Brewers Guild, and after a life as an oil man, this Australian settled in Slovenia to bring good beer to the land of Union and Laško (both pale, weak lagers). There was no independent beer culture in Slovenia a few years ago when he started, so he helped start Goldings (named after a Slovene hop), a beer collective of which he is member number 2. There are now more than 3,000 members, so he’s doing something right.
He then opened a taproom, started kegging his beer, and delivering to bars. Patrick’s Irish Pub in Ljubljana was the first to carry his beer, and they now declare themselves the Home of HFB.
We sat down in the taproom for a tasting and fascinating conversation. The beers are delicious. As a hoppy IPA lover, my favourite is his SIPA, and I am currently enjoying my third pint since we got to LJ. The Pale Ale is an excellent, milder, less hoppy beer, and a welcome change to the standards found throughout the region. His beers are all unfiltered and naturally carbonated, so have a true craft beer colour, taste, and play on the palate. His stout had a robust smoky, coffee flavour, and wasn’t too milky or heavy, owing to its natural carbonation.
Matthew gave us lots of great tips for our trip east through Slovenia, including what sounds like an truly unique donut shop we will be visiting in the next couple of days, and a vineyard and winery run by a New Zealander that is also on our route. Stay tuned.
Human Fish Brewing is only 20 km out of Ljubljana so if you are in LJ go visit the brewery, and have a drink with Matthew.
More Beer Gooder
After stopping for lunch in Vrhnika (and another pint of HFB Pale Ale) we got on our bikes for the final 20 km push into LJ. We were pleasantly surprised to find a bike path that ran almost all the way into the city.
The bike lane may be the first of its kind we have seen on the trip so far, but it turns out Ljubljana is a bike-centric city. Bike lanes and bicycles are everywhere. It seems strange to have our own bikes locked up in the basement of the hostel and to be walking around, when so many people are pedalling past us.
We found a Japanese restaurant, Moy Sushi, and had some delicious soba soup to warm us after a rainy day of riding. Then we headed to Patrick’s Irish Pub for more Human Fish SIPA for me, and cherry beer followed by Slovenian apple cider for Jane. ♥