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Feature 30 Mar 17

Beer Museums: Another Reason to Visit Serbia

You might well think it’s all about rakija (fruit brandy) for Serbs, but the recent opening of a number of beer museums proves otherwise.

Ivana Nikolic
BIRN
Belgrade
Lazar Dundjerski's house. Photo: Courtesy of Muzej Carlsberg Srbija d.o.o.

Serbia, and the Balkans as a whole, is world famous for its unique rakija – fruit brandy – and wines, but local beer lovers are determined to put the nation on the map of must-visit beer countries.

Beer has been steadily gaining in popularity in Serbia and two new beer museums have opened in the last few years alone. A third is set to open in 2018.

All three are in Serbia’s northern province of Vojvodina. One in the city of Pancevo, another in the village of Celarevo, while the third will be located in the town of Zrenjanin on the river Begej.

The new museum in Zrenjanin will occupy part of the old Zrenjanin Brewery building, which has long been defunct. The civic association Urbani Forum began reconstruction work to create the museum space, later securing support from the local authorities as well as the city’s tourist office.

During the first reconstruction phase, which was completed last summer, the façade was restored and new window glass put in. The museum will have around 400 square metres and will be located on four levels – two of which have already been refurbished.

The museum’s main attractions will include the centuries-old production machines with organisers expecting small-scale beer production to resume in the next two years. The museum will also have a large exhibition area with old beer bottles, labels, glasses and a variety of archival records. There will be guided tours giving visitors the chance to learn about the brewery’s history and beer production in general.  

The Zrenjanin brewery is among the oldest in Serbia. It was established back in 1745 by the Bavarian brewing maestro Sebastian Krazeisen.

As the years went by, the factory changed owners several times. The most notable owner was Lazar Dundjerski, the famed merchant, industrialist, landowner and benefactor, who bought it in 1891 and owned it until the rise of communism in what was then Tito’s Yugoslavia in 1945.

After that, the brewery was nationalised and then again privatised in 2003. However, beer production stopped for good in 2006.

Beer Roads tourist route

The Celarevo brewery was established in 1892 and bought by Denmark’s Carlsberg Group in 2003. Photo: Courtesy of Muzej Carlsberg Srbija d.o.o.

Many hope this unique museum will bring tourists and promote the city itself.
Moreover, once the Zrenjanin museum is finished, these three beer havens will create a so-called Beer Roads route for domestic and international tourists and enthusiasts.  

The museum in the tiny village of Celarevo has a lot in common with the one-to-be-opened in Zrenjanin – not least the owner. The Celarevo brewery (Pivara Celarevo) was established in 1892 by the aforementioned landowner and industrialist Dundjerski. He owned it until the end of WWII, when it passed into the hands of the newly-declared socialist Yugoslavia.

In 2003, the Danish Carlsberg Group bought the Celarevo brewery. The museum, which opened in 2008, is entirely dedicated to the very first owner, Dundjerski. The museum itself is modelled upon the one in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Visitors can find out more about how the beer was produced back in the early days, about the ingredients and about from where and how materials were transported to Celarevo - as well as about how beer was stored. There are also Dunđerski’s old photos and letters on display that also tell much about the brewery’s rich history.

Old beer bottles, Dundjerski labels and fridges are also on show, the vast majority of these pieced date back 100 years.

The museum is open every Thursday 2pm-4pm and entrance is free of charge. For more information, contact [email protected]  or call +381 62 228 195.

Last but not least, the Beer Museum Djordje Vajfert in Pancevo was opened last May in a building once owned by the Vajfert family – another mighty industrialist family that ran the brewery from 1847.

The museum occupies part of the old brewery – it is located in a five-floor tower. The museum is open thanks to the local civic association of the same name, Beer Museum Djordje Vajfert, which has recently started small-scale beer production as well.

“We want to revitalize this entire complex of the Vajfert’s old brewery and ready it for various events before the year 2022, when the 300th anniversary of the brewery will be celebrated,” Sinisa Jankovic from the civic association said at the opening ceremony.

The brewery dates back to 1722 and is said to be the oldest industrial complex in Serbia and the oldest brewery in the Western Balkans. Nowadays, the brewery is a cultural monument under state protection. The brewery has changed owners many times during its long history, but Djordje Vajfert – and the entire Vajfert family – are the most prominent ones.

According to historical records, Djordje Vajfert (1850-1937) equipped the brewery with the best machines of the time, which remained in use until 1977. Many refer to the Vajfert’s period as the brewery’s golden age – the factory kept working and expanding while the beer quality was constantly improving.

In addition, the brewery had a huge impact on the lives of Pancevo’s residents – its halls often hosted charity concerts and other events organised by women, art groups and humanitarian societies.   

Visitors can see and hear the machines at work during tours and also find out more about its history as its 18th century environment has been faithfully restored. The museum is open every day from 10am to 6pm.

For more information, visit www.muzejpivarstvadjordjevajfert.com.  


This article was published in BIRN's bi-weekly newspaper Belgrade Insight. Here is where to find a copy.



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