Where the Fountains Flow With… Beer

The small town of Žalec in Slovenia is home to a unique fountain that flows not with water, but with the hoppy goodness of beer. It is an original project, the first of its kind, and commemorates the local culture and tradition.

Pouring beer on Public beer fountain in the town park at Zalec
Beer pouring from the beer fountain in the town park in Žalec, Slovenia. Photo: Simon Kovacic

Everybody likes a nice fountain, and when traveling, they often make it onto sightseeing lists. However, let’s be honest. Despite the fact that there are thousands of beautiful fountains in Europe, very few really stand out. That is not the case with the one that you are about to read about.

In fact, its attractiveness has nothing to do with aesthetics. And truth be told, it’s not even a real fountain, at least by certain definitions. However, it is called a fountain – a beer fountain.

Žalec beer fountain: beer monument in wine country

Despite being mostly known as a wine country, Slovenia also has a long beer tradition. If you are familiar with the country, then it may not surprise you since the area was historically usually closely tied to places like Czechia and Bavaria. Beer production dates back to the Middle Ages, but it really hit off in the early modern age. The story of the beer fountain, however, is more recent.

The idea comes from a local initiative in 2014 when the tourist associations of the town of Žalec wanted to make a tribute to the hop heritage of the town and surrounding Lower Savinja Valley, the hops-growing center of the country. On the world scale, Slovenia is the 5th largest producer of hops, the spice responsible for the recognizable flavor of the beloved drink.

What they wanted was to combine history with the present and lay the foundation for an interesting tourist history in the future. The result of all these factors is the Zeleno Zlato (Green Gold) beer fountain.

The municipality staged an architectural competition to find the best design as soon as the initiative appeared. The following year, a project was prepared, and a project team was appointed, with the construction of the Green Gold Fountain starting in 2016. The fountain was officially inaugurated in September 2016 during the Žalec Municipality Festival.

Zeleno Zlato: the green gold

Since a boost in tourism was a major reason for building it, it can be said that it was successful. In the first two months of operation, the fountain was visited by over 36,000 people. This is pretty staggering when you remember the fact that Žalec has a population of 5000 and had never previously been a tourism hot spot. Sometimes, you just need something that hasn’t yet existed. Green Gold is indeed the first and only fountain of its kind in the world, at least for now.

The fountain is located is in the city center park, next to the square. The architectural design of the fountain is based on the symbolism of the hop ear, which is expressed in two semi-circles or fountains, one for beer and one for water. The semi-circles are dressed in copper lace, symbolizing the foam of the beer.

And how does it work? A visitor can buy a mug at various locations around the city, of which there are various sizes, depending on how much they love beer or if they’re driving. The mug has a chip and is then placed under the dispenser of one of six different beers you can currently choose from. The “fountain” then serves the beer to you automatically. At the beginning and end of the tasting, an authorized person with an authorization card raises or lowers the taps. It’s that simple! Refills possible. Cheers!

Vid Sosic

a Slovenian master of religious studies and ethics, based in Ljubljana. He writes articles for several Slovenian journals, specifying in topics of geopolitics, culture and religious metters. He also cooperates with the Polish Fundacja Jegiellońska from Subcarpathian voivodship, Poland, where he mainly engages in the project of Trimarium, the goal of which is to spread awareness about the Three Seas Initiative among high school students and young people in general. He visits all 12 countries of the Iniciative, organizing events where he promotes it through educational games.

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