Serbia

Ratings Key:

A: Choice and/or quality of drinks: /10

B: Style and décor: /10

C: Atmosphere and feel: /10

D: Amenities, Events & Community: /10

E: Value for money: /10

F: The Pub Going Factor: /10

Belgrade

8/10

  • The Black Turtle – A: 8/10 B: 7/10 C: 9/10 D: 7/10 E: 7/10 F: 8/10

While some Serbians would hate to admit it, much of their cafe bar culture is crimped from Bosnian, Macedonian and Turkish origins, with communal seating around central tables upholstered or fitted with finely woven and surprisingly luxurious cushions, pillows and throws. It makes an interesting juxtaposition for an otherwise pretty rugged masculine culture.

If you want to get down and dirty in Serbia it’s pretty easy, just dive into one of the many sports bars and congregate with chain smokers pouring the ghastly Jelen Pivo down their gullets.

Sadly the beer culture is throttled by the ubiquitous Jelen, marketed even more aggressively than Coca-cola. From parasols, to motorway hoardings, to serviettes, you would think they were insecure that people had never heard of them. Given Jelen possesses a near total monopoly over Serbian beer drinking it’s baffling who they think they are competing with, and which of the non-existent other options they think are a threat.

Most of the other Serbian beers are confined to bargain basement cans in supermarkets where at least they can compete. If you’re ‘lucky’ enough to find the likes of Apatinsko or Lav, don’t expect any great things – in fact Lav manages an ever lower rating on Untapped than Jelen.

The resistance is being led by some fairly small scale craft breweries, the most major of which is Kabinet. I didn’t spot any on my visit but that reflects just how recent these breweries have come about. Unlike many Mediterranean countries, a landlocked beer drinking country like Serbia is ripe for beer development, and yet nearly completely under-developed. They need to take a leaf out of Poland’s book – bypass the control of the big boys altogether by latching onto new bars opening, while demanding chiller space in bottles and canned form in the other bars.

Serbia’s drinking , particularly in the cities is unvarnished, smokey and boisterous, a fair reflection of the country itself. I would recommend trying to find some studenty bars for better beers, slightly better decor and the most friendly atmosphere.