March 30, 2018
Vasja Golar, the owner of Bevog, has a background in electronics, but decided not to pursue that as a career after visiting Belgium on a business trip and sampling some of that country’s famed brewing traditions. As for so many others, his taste of something more complex than the usual Laško / Union was a revelation, but unlike most Vasja then went on a quest to produce his own beer. He bought some brewing equipment and set it up in a garage, then started to experiment with various recipes, learning by doing and tasting.
After much reading and more experimentation, in 2013 Vasja launched Bevog, now one of the leading Slovenian craft beer brands, although it’s based just over the border, in Bad Radkersburg, Austria. This location was chosen for business reasons, with the Slovenian authorities being less welcoming of the brewer than those on the other side of the border, and there being problems with processing the related building permit and access to water in a timely manner, as well as the attractions of cheaper land and the relatively low excise taxes in Austria.
We recently got in touch with Vasja to talk about his work, and he was kind of enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer some of our questions.
How Slovene in the company?
Surprisingly, all of us who work here still come from Slovenia. It just happened like this, and it’s very common that Slovenians work in Austrian companies located at the border, so we work in Slovenian, German and English.
With regard to sales, last year we brewed more than 5000 hl, and Slovenia is still our biggest market, although Austria has very nice growth, Italy and the Netherlands too.
We also have a pub and restaurant in Slovenia, called Pivohram Gola, owned by my family. It’s in Gornja Radgona, and there you can get most of our core range and special beers on tap. We also have a guest tap and fridge with selected craft beer cans/bottles.
An interesting fact about this pub is that it’s in the middle of nowhere, and was the first pub in Slovenia with only craft beers plus one selected tap of a great quality pilsner lager, which now has a great Austrian family-owned Trumer pils. Besides beer you can also enjoy good food, made mainly from local ingredients from local farmers and butchers, and all made in-house, which is very uncommon in Slovenia.
What are your best-selling beers?
Our best-selling beers vary from market to market. In some markets Tak pale ale is the bestseller, in others Kramah IPA, and then again in others the Who Cares limited editions are the most popular.
We actually released 18 different beers in 2017. We’re trying to get organised here and plan it in advance, but some recipes are already settled in the head and most times it’s just a matter of when one of the tanks is free, so we can brew something new.
A small selection of Bevog beers
What are some of the more interesting beers that you have produced?
Among the strangest is definitely Snake Charmer, which is smoked gose with coriander and cardamom or Black Blood, a black IPA made with red beets which contributed to a spectacular dark red/black beer and nice red berry fruits dimension, which we made as the official craft beer for Metal Days festival. We really like to have fun and be creative. But whatever we do, we are real in craft and when brewing with fruits, spices, chocolate, coconut and so on, we always use real fruit, real chocolate, real vanilla and spices. Kind of old school, it’s true.
What beer trends are you excited about now?
Well, we talked about interesting beers, but I’d also like to see more drinkable stuff coming out. It seems like over-hopped IPA, double IPA and triple IPA with added flavouring will still remain a big thing for some time, but – hopefully - lagers and sours will continue to grow in popularity too.
What are your plans for this year?
2018 is another a big festival year for Bevog. We are being invited to many European festivals, from Oslo to Rome and therefore we’ll be travelling around Europe for the whole year. And there is of course our own festival, “The Who Cares for Beer festival 2018”, which is already being organised and will host many great craft breweries from all over and various cool artists with great supporting acts. [The festival is August 25, with details here.]
Which beer do you drink most often?
I personally love flavourful and drinkable beer. I like to sit down, have few and still want more. For sure there are occasions when you can enjoy heavier and very complex stuff, but there must be defined aroma and flavour in those beers.
I think nowadays this is sometimes forgotten with all the madness of competing with who will throw more hops and haze into beer, for instance. It’s hard to make balanced yet flavourful and drinkable beer, that is well constructed and where all components are where they should be. I think those are the main pillars of a great beer. Easy going session IPA, refreshing golden ale, nice sours and a great well-crafted lager are at the top of my list if you ask me for quantities. On the other hand, there is my love for slow sipping of stronger and very complex beers.
Which other breweries inspire you?
Well, there are many aspects in brewing, beer and the beer industry nowadays. When I started the brewery the whole scene was quite different, and we are talking here about short period of time. Some great breweries that were heroes for craft beer scene and beer geeks five or even just three years ago, are now facing accusations of being too big and too commercial. But we all have to remember that these were the pioneers and people that paved ground for all that came after. I am inspired by breweries that are capable of having very constant and excellent quality over and over again in their core range, and at the same time experimenting and doing crazy new or just one-off beers. On the other hand, there are some very small breweries that are pushing beer into new dimensions the whole time, so it is hard to pick an inspiration, to be honest. The biggest inspirations are those that have great quality and creativity.
Anything else you want to share with our readers?
Drink craft beer and craft beer only. This adds so much more to the beer drinking experience. Not just because of the beer, but because of everything that comes with it; it is a great social environment which also gives a good example for other crafts. And is also building better and more healthy food scene as a whole, because people realise the difference between mass-produced beer and well-crafted beer, and then they can transfer this attitude to other things, like food.
You can learn more about Bevog at the firm's website or Facebook page, and find it's beers, made in Austria by Slovenians, in a growing number of pubs and stores, while you can also visit the brewery for tours, with details here.