The team behind Open Kitchen (Odprta kuhna), who this year are bringing their open air food and drink markets to at least six locations around Slovenia (Ljubljana, Celje, Koper, Nova Gorica, Ptuj & Novo Mesto, as reported here), also run another, more focused event – the Pivo & Burger Fest in Ljubljana. These see the usual venue, Pogačarjev trg (the marketplace between the Cathedral and Plečnik’s Arcades) full of stalls selling craft beer, burgers, BBQ and other delights, the air full of the smells and sounds of grilled meat, along with music, conversation and laughter.
It’s a fine chance to catch up and sample what’s been happening in the world of Slovenian brewing and – if you haven’t been paying attention – then you could be in for some surprises. A few years ago the scene was still focused on IPAs, often of the ever hoppier variety, but now with well over 100 brewers in the country, from one room operations like Omnivar to (semi-Austrian) giants like Bevog, there’s been an explosion in variety. So alongside IPAs and lagers of all kinds you’ll find, among the more than 200 brews on offer at the festival, wheats, porters, ales, pales, reds, and many other types, including my current obsession – gose, or sour beer, a refreshing, fruity drink that’ll change the way you think about beer.
Indeed, the choice can be a little overwhelming, so it’s a good idea to walk around, see what’s on offer, and eat something to ensure you don’t get lost after the first few glasses. With regard to eating you’ll be able to choose from dozens of burgers, grilled in the square by big names and small, all tending to the gourmet variety, including vegetarian options, as well as pulled pork and other BBQ’d delights, in addition to some other food choices. What's more, the team at Open Kitchen have put together a series of food and beer pairings, which will be included in the catalogues you can pick up on the day, with the characteristics of different beers aligned with the foods on offer, whether savory or sweet, hot or cold.
The event runs over two days, the weekend of April 6 and 7, starting at 11:00 and ending 23:00, making it possible to enjoy burgers and beer for brunch, lunch, dinner and supper, with perhaps a few light snacks in between. It might not be the social event of the season, but for those of us for whom a burger and beer is the Platonic ideal of a weekend meal it’s a gathering not to be missed.