Those of you who have been to any of the former Soviet Union know that they know how to drink. Of course the drink of choice is always vodka, however beer also holds a special place as well. Each of the five Central Asian ‘Stans – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, have their own beer brands. While YPT has previously written about Chinese beers, such as the world’s most sold beer Snow, we hadn’t come around to showing other beers of Asia, more specifically beers of Central Asia. Consider this fixed. Obviously I can’t go through every beer in each country but here are some of the most popular and common Central Asian beers from each country, as well as a couple of other notable ones. You might not find the best beer in the world here, but you’ll certainly find a few worth your while!
Turkmenistan is a two beer country – Zip and Birk. Any bar you go to, restaurant you eat at, or hotel you stay at, will sell either one or both of these simple drops. Two of the more popular cafe/bars in Ashgabat are named respectively, Zip and Birk, as one sells only Zip and one sells only Birk. My favourite is Zip, both the beer and the bar.
They are both lower in alcohol than a lot of you would be used to usually being around 3.5-4% alcohol volume. They’re both very simple lagers that need to be drunk very cold.
Sarbast is the most common beer in Uzbekistan and is produced by UzCarlsberg, which as you probably guessed is a joint venture between the Uzbekistan government and Carlsberg. Uzbekistan has a history of successful joint ventures, with the most known one being GMUzbekistan, formerly known as UzDaewooauto.
Qibray is another one of the gang of beers on offer in Uzbekistan. This is a self-described Pale Lager, however they also produce an extra strong beer around 10% alcohol that actually has quite a bit of flavour, but it has a big kick.
Pulsar is probably the second most common beer you’ll see in Uzbekistan and is made by the Samarkand-Praha brewery. They also happen to own and run a bar called Zlata Praha which has a selection of beers – Filtered, Unfiltered, Dark Lager etc.
As far as foreign beers go, Tuborg would probably be the most widespread and popular. It is of course also made locally though by the UzCarlsberg company.
Kyrgyzstan has gone the furthest towards producing genuinely great beer. The Central Asian Beers produced by microbreweries were in Bishkek and there is some great variety for those who like to drink more than a plain simple lager.
Save the Ales was opened by a mum and daughter combination who produce some of the most amazing beers you will try. Whether it’s an old style Porter, an American Brown Ale or a triple hopped IPA, they are at the same place in brewing as the world’s most hipster craft beer companies. It’s also next door to a great Thai restaurant where you can take your beers from Save the Ales and have a great meal as well.
Arpa (Арпа), Zhivoye (Живое) and Nashye Pivo (Наше Пиво) are the oldschool brands and quite honestly should only be drunk when there’s not much else on offer. They offer a simple alcohol delivery which isn’t too offensive.
Red Sun Velvet Amber Ale is a more recent addition to the market and can be found almost everywhere in Kyrgyzstan. It offers a departure from other mainstream beers on offer as it has a beautiful ruby colour, lovely hoppy taste and a slightly sweet caramel finish.
Kazakhstan has a wide variety of lagers, quite often named after a town or place in Kazakhstan, for example Alma Ata beer (Алма-Ата) from Almaty, Shymkentinskoye beer and Karagandinskoye beer. Zhigulskoye, the famous Soviet brand of beer is also very common in Kazakhstan and is famous for their interesting can designs.
Something that is very common now in Kazakhstan is individual restaurants/restaurant chains that also make their own beer, a microbrewery essentially. In Almaty two of the more famous restaurant/pubs that produce their own beer are Pinta (Пинта) and Line Brew.
In Kazakhstan it is also a lot easier to get all the world’s biggest brands, whether it’s Guinness, Tetley’s, Becks, Peroni or Paulaner.
In 2012, Tajikistan was officially the cheapest country in the world to drink a pint in, with the average price being 45 US cents to enjoy a cold beer at a pub or bar. That being said, the locally produced drops are also considered the worst in the region, considered by beer experts to be overly sweet and very watery.
If you head to the main brewery in the centre of Dushanbe, Pivzavod Brewery, a pint of their main beer, Dushanbinskoye, won’t even set you back 50 US cents today.
Sim Sim is probably the most popular bottled beer you can find in shops, a 4% very sweet beer. It’s also very common on tap. They also have their own bar by the river in Dushanbe where they also sell a very nice wheat beer.
One problem at higher end bars/restaurants is that quite often they won’t have local beers, and instead just sell Russian/European beers.