Sarajevo had it bad during the last war. When they say "last war" in Bosnia, they don't mean World War 2, but the civil war which followed the break up of Yugoslavia. Sarajevo was besieged for 1425 days by the surrounding army of the breakaway Republika Srbska with over 10,000 killed. The scars, faded though they are, can still be seen there today.
We had dinner in the Sarajevo Brewery Beer Hall one night. The brewery itself, also badly damaged in the siege is a big one dating back to 1864 and was the largest brewery in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, though extensively modernised in 1991. Sadly it was a victim of the war and it took until 2006 before it was restored in its mix of Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian styles. Frankly, looking at the outside and indeed in the Beer Hall, with its fin de siècle decor, you'd never know, though in fairness, we visited in the dark. The building is large and current production capacity according to their website is around 400,000 hectolitres. As far as I can tell, the brewery is still locally owned. Its beers are everywhere in Bosnia-Hertzegovina, or rather, Sarajevsko Beer, a standard continental pilsner type was everywhere. The only place I saw the dark was in the brewery. And trust me, I looked.
The Beer Hall is superb. On the ground floor is a large bar and lots of wood and wrought iron with a large upstairs gallery where we ate and drank. there is a fine vaulted ceiling made of bricks and its dim lighting certainly made the place atmospheric. It was only opened in 2004, but to look at it and to experience it is to be transported back to grander times. I really don't know if some of it is old or restored, or if it is all "new". Either way, it looks tremendous and looking down on the bar from above is quite a delight.
What of the beer though? I drank the dark beer which was really rather good, soft, sweetish and mild- like, but I didn't try the unfiltered lager, though maybe I should have. I looked in vain for the Oettinger Weissbier which is brewed in the brewery under license, but there was no sign of it there, or, indeed, anywhere else. The food was excellent and in the typical Bosnian way, substantial. You don't tend to need a bag of chips on the way home after dining out thereabouts.
If you visit Sarajevo, don't miss it.
Looking back at the photos on the website, it has a kind of Wetherspoon look. But only in the photos. In real life that didn't occur to me.
I'd have gone back again if we'd had time. Maybe I could have found the weissbier. After unrelenting taste-alike pilsner upon pilsner, that would have been nice.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink.
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