When military border was dissolved in 1871 and the area of Nova Gradiška was adjoined to the rest of continental Croatia, economy drive was huge. The place becomes regional centre, with a railway link to Zagreb from 1888. Economy, culture, and society began to develop. Among the many small enterprises a special one included the grand brewery of nobleman Dragutin pl. Lobe. It was a first steam powered brewery in Croatia and, because of the seasonal production, its first beer was called Ožujsko (March Beer). Accidentally or not, Ožujsko is still one of the two favourite beers in Croatia, produced massively in Zagreb.
Some beer barrels still survive and we were lucky to find one in the Bošnjak family courtyard in village of Sičice, south of Nova Gradiška, near the Sava River. The family is known not only because of the barrel, but because of the homemade craft beer of highest quality, made according to the family recipe. Two brothers, Mario and Dario, run the family homestead, and their father Ivan greets us with a sip of beer brandy (rakija), excellent homemade drink with addition of juniper. The taste is excellent and surprisingly mild, while juniper gives freshness and specific aroma.
Mario comes soon after and takes us in the traditional interior of tasting room, where organised groups can come and enjoy perfect beer. The tradition of craft family brews is not big in Croatia, but the big production is. Still, some families did made beer, due to a simple geographic reason. Wine does not grow near Sava, but there was an abundance of water. Some hundred years ago, Bošnjak family dig a deep well which didn’t run dry even in the greatest droughts. The well was used for mills and for the making of beer. Next to the homemade dried meat and rakija, grand-grandma of today’s owners also made a murky beer, kept in the earthen jars. At the same time, the family made corn rakija, which brings the similar technological process of making beer, as both drinks are made from crops.
Today, the beer is not murky but light and non-filtered, kept in the modern barrels and refrigerators. Their hobby became a new business in 2008 and ever since the Bošnjak Beer makes its brand. Spreading to the full-scale tourist project, today Sičice are a destination for beer lovers and all those who would like to find out how water, barley malt, hops and yeast combine in a beautiful drink.
And indeed it is beautiful! We have tried the original Bošnjak lager. It has nice amber colour and is made according to the traditional Czech recipe in Bošnjak’s manufactory. It contains only water, four kinds of barley malt, three kinds of hops and yeast. Fresh and energizing, non-pasteurised nor filtered, this is light beer that can be used every day. If bottled, it retains freshness for nine months. Bošnjak also makes dark lager.
While we were talking about old times and new beers, Mario brings us some green fluid. It is beer, of course, but green?! The secret addition remains the secret, but the intensive green colour shows also remarkable innovations and marketing strategies of Bošnjaks: this beer is presented for the Saint Patrick Day. And although the cyclists on the bike routes through the Sava villages may drive a bit more jolly, Bošnjak place is for sure one of the must-do gastronomy spots in and around Nova Gradiška.
Bošnjak Brewery is part of the Posavka education road, a local idea of connecting gastronomy, history, archaeology, folklore, and folk heritage, giving an insight in the unique and authentic Posavina architecture, and offering river tourism, hunting, adventures, and cycling. This road of 30 kilometres, leads through the rich Slavonian woodlands and along the Sava River.
OPG Bošnjak Ivan