Brew in the Steppes - Kazakhstan's Booming Beer Scene
Many of you will be probably be surprised to learn that Kazakhstan has its own breweries. A while ago there was an article on Eurasianet.org “Kazakhstan: Drink Beer, Save Eagles” that we found inspiring. The article tells about a social marketing campaign launched by one of Kazakhstan’s breweries _Karagandinskoye Pivo. _The campaign aimed to raise funds for animal sanctuaries to save the eagles, which are Kazakhstan’s national symbol. The campaign raised 2.6 million tenge or about $18,000 at the time the article was written. This got us thinking: what is the beer market like in Kazakhstan? After some research, this is what we found about the beer scene in Kazakhstan.
**The Beer Landscape **So what does the beer landscape look like in Kazakhstan? Kazakhstan has a diverse array of beers ranging from local breweries to major beers that are consumed around the globe. However, there are two major breweries in Kazakhstan that define the market. These breweries are Derbes and Efes Karaganda. They are actually owned by larger beer corporations. Derbes is owned by Carlsberg, which is one of the biggest beer producers in Europe, and Efes Karaganda is owned by Efes Beverage Group that manufactures beer and soda in Turkey. Noteworthy, these companies ship Kazakh beer to the European markets.
Types of Beer In Kazakhstan As you already know, most of the beer producers in Kazakhstan are owned by either Derbes or Efes. Derbes made its debut to the Kazakh market on December 16th 1999, which was the 8th anniversary of Kazakhstan’s independence. Moreover, Derbes can be translated from Turkic as “independence”. Its product line consists of pilsner, beer with higher percentage of alcohol, non-alcoholic beer, light refreshening beer, and a special draught beer with a variety of specially blended hops. Derbes also produces pilsner called Alma-Ata, which has been brewed by Derbes Brewery in Kazakhstan since 2003. The taste of the beer reflects the spirit of Almaty which is surrounded by high mountains, apple gardens, and pine trees. Think of Alma-Ata as a refreshing beer like the city of Almaty.
Finally, Derbes produces another unique beer called Irbis. Irbis is the #2 best selling beer in Kazakhstan. It is a pilsner-style beer brewed using artesian water, which makes it very high quality. The name of the beer is the ancient Turk name for the rare snow leopards that inhabit the mountains of Kazakhstan. Irbis has been around since 1999. In 2010, Derbes introduced Irbis Ice.
Besides Derbes beer, there are other beers that are brewed in Kazakhstan. Efes from Turkey owns Efes Karaganda, which took over the Kolos brewery in 1997. Their most popular beer brand in Kazakhstan is Karagandinskoe beer. Karagandinskoe beer is unique for using special German hops and has a very distinctive aroma. The beer has been in production since 1958 (when it was under Kolos) and it has now grown into an award winning beer taking home prizes at the Sochi Beer Festival in 2003 and 2004, and gold medal at the 2002 International Beer Trade Fair in Moscow. Karagandinskoe comes in Light, Dark, and Strong. Also, this is the beer that was doing the save the eagle campaign.
Besides Karagandinskoe, Efes Karaganda also brews other varieties of beer. One in particular is Kruzhka Svezhego which is a lager that has a long shelf life of four months. Also, there are no preservatives added to the beer so it’s all natural and it’s made to taste like a draught beer. Kruzhka comes in four varieties: regular, mild, velvet (a dark beer that’s supposed to be as smooth as velvet) and an unfiltered wheat beer. Oddly enough, Kazakhstan has a beer that is a marketing hybrid of American beers Michelob Ultra and Coors Light beer called Tyan Shan. The beer is named after the mountain range that lies outside of the city of Almaty, much like Coors is marketed after the Rocky Mountains in the US. Tyan Shan is marketed like Michelob as a beer for people with an active, sporty lifestyle. The lager comes is two varieties: light and strong. For Efes Karaganda, their highest quality beer is called Bely Medved. Bely is Efes’s competitior to Irbis because it uses specialty malts, carefully grown hops, and soft water (In other words, water that is filtered to take out metal ions). However unlike Irbis which has two varieties, Bely Medved come in four varieties: Strong, Mild, Light, and Special Unfiltered.
**A Refreshing Last Thought ** Now you know about the beer scene in Kazakhstan! As Kazakhstan enjoys beers from all corners of the globe, it has developed its own distinctive beer types that reflect the culture, landscape, and tastes of the steppes. If you have reached the drinking age, next time you visit Kazakhstan, try their famous Alma-Ata, Irbis or Tyan Shan beer and thank us later!