Last Updated : 25/06/08
ark Enderby has been to Armenia and sends this report...
As usual did a beerme search in advance which revealed around 12 breweries scattered across the country. However, the majority of updates were 1998! The Armenian script didn’t help prior investigation on Google, and made determining beer names difficult on the ground! In reality, most of these breweries were Russian owned and effectively abandoned on independence. The two main Yerevan breweries filled the vacuum and it looks like they’ve basically made reviving any of the others uneconomic, though some appear to have continued as mineral water producers or beer importers.
Alongside the home-grown produce, there are an increasing plethora of imports – especially from Russia, Ukraine and Czech, together with a smattering of others (Holsten, Warsteiner, Bavaria were scene). Most drinking appears to be done in cafes with an increasing number of “downstairs” bars. There are plenty of street-side sellers and small supermarkets.
In the end, I managed to track down 3 (possibly 4) Armenian breweries.
Beers of Yerevan produce the Kilikia brand and their 3.8% bottled and draft standard lager was widely available and well-regarded by the locals. Indeed, I found it to be very palatable and easily the best standard beer light, quaffable and with good hop and bitterness. Beerme claims that there are around 6 brands including a dark lager, but I could find no evidence despite extensive supermarket trawls. However, our guide did confirm the existence of the dark version (but didn’t manage to find me any!).
Abovyan brewery, just north of Yerevan is the other main supplier trading under the Kotayk and Erebuni brands. This is a joint venture with the French and I found the beers more “ordinary” and boring. The 4 beers I tracked down were all lagers –2 at 5.2% (one labelled Export), Gold (5.6%) and Erebuni at 6.4%. They all tasted pretty much as I’d expect – and, by choice, I went back to the Kilikia.
The other brewery that is available is Shirak in Gyumri to the west of the country. They produce the Gyumri brand and 4.5% and 5% versions were tracked down. Like Kotayk, they were fairly ordinary, though perhaps smoother and more refined.
The one “beer pub” we found was Beerloga at 24 Saryan Street in Yerevan. Besides the usual suspect, they had a good selection of German and Czech draft beers. More interestingly, was a beer called Jager. This was a very pleasant unfiltered darkish beer which good hop and fruit flavours. The pricing suggested that this was a local beer but my attempt to get further information floundered due to the language barrier. My web search attempts only revealed a Hungarian “biere de garde” style beer .... but it would seem to be rather excessive to import a beer which clearly(sic) didn’t fit in with local’s tastes. Any ideas ?
There were 2 breweries more recently updated on Beerme
Oktemberyan (2006). Both guide and driver were certain this didn’t exist – the town had also changed its name from Oktemberyan.
Kirovakan (2008). This is in Armenia’s 2nd city and was a more likely candidate for survival. However, no evidence was seen.
However the 2008 Yellow Pages only listed the 3 breweries I’d track down.
Finally another mystery. On the road from Sevan (approx 100km NE of Yerevan), just outside town, there’s a bar/restaurant with Sevan Brewery in English and Armenian on it. A Google search shows it to be founded in 2006 and producing Kellers Gold unpasteurised beer (according to business directory www.spyur.am). Enquires in the area the night before hadn’t produced any evidence of a local brew so whether this still exists is open to question.
So there we have it ... Armenia has stunning scenery but probably not one for the scooper (but there’s a couple of mysteries to solve if you want to go ;-).
BTW, on the public transport front, Yerevan has an extensive trolley system but the Skoda trolleybuses seem pretty thin on the ground, and it wasn’t clear whether every route was in use. There was extensive use of gas-powered busses, looking like yellow Airstream caravans with gas cylinders on the roof. The Yerevan metro has a single line – typically Soviet with 2-car Russian trains. The rail system had been privatised on the 1st of June and were now run by Russian railways – rather conveniently given that the stock and infrastructure is all Russian (BL8 and BL10 electrics and a few EMUs and Russian diesel shunters). Passenger services are very thin on the ground and freight is rather restricted due to the Turkish and Azerbaijan borders being closed (leaving only the Georgian line with any significant traffic).