This blog documents my attempt to drink a beer from every country in the world and every state in the United States.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Country #26: Armenia

Beer: Zhigulyovskoye

Brewery: Beer of Yerevan, Yerevan, Armenia

ABV: 5.0%

Funny name, funny bottle.
Armenia is a place surrounded by places vastly different from it, and the Armenian people have long suffered for it. They are Apostolic Christians, living in mountains and valleys in the Caucasus. They are surrounded by Eastern Orthodox Georgians to the north, largely teetotaling Shia Muslim Azeris in the flat lands to the east (with whom they fought a nasty war during the late 80s and early 90s), militantly teetotaling Iranians to the south, and Sunni Muslim Turks to the west, who just happened to kill about a million and a half of them in the early 20th century and still haven’t apologized for it. 

Zagorka, from Bulgaria, didn't use any Cyrillic letters on its bottle, although Bulgaria uses the Cyrillic alphabet. Armenia has its own script, seen on the sign at right, but this beer uses Cyrillic and Latin alphabets on its bottle. Hmmmm.
Armenia is in a strategic location, at the crossroads of the Caucasus, between the oil of the Caspian Sea and the ocean lanes of the Black Sea, but has shorelines on neither. So, while these other countries, with their own acrimonious relationships with one another, started building pipelines in order to make a lira or a lari, the pipelines circumnavigated Armenia. Everyone else started cooperating and got richer for it, but Armenia wasn't invited to the party. 

Circumvented. Armenia is the little grey country in the middle without any pipelines running through it.
More woe: Armenia was part of the Ottoman Empire for centuries and part of the Soviet Union for 69 years. Its beloved national symbol, Mount Ararat, where Noah’s Ark supposedly ran aground as the flood receded, somehow wound up in Turkey when the borders were last established. Jesus. Sounds like the country could use a beer.

Similarly named beers hailing from (from left to right) Belarus, Lithuania, and the Russian cities of Kazan, Samara, and Irkutsk.
Since I can’t buy Armenia a beer, I bought an Armenian beer for myself. I found an oddly shaped bottle of something called Zhigulyovskoye, which is about as Armenian a name as Smith or Jones. Explanation: while Armenia was a part of the Soviet Union, it, along with all the other satellite republics that became independent upon its collapse, experienced Russification, in which Moscow sent its best and brightest to manage the Motherland’s factories and to make sure that everyone fell in line with the Kremlin’s grand plans. Branding was also not big in the USSR, so breweries around the country were all made to produce beers called Zhigulyovskoye (or some close variant thereof), even if the eponymous beers all tasted different. When the USSR collapsed, many breweries in the newly independent republics continued to make beer under that name. So there you have it.

A slightly more Armenian name surreptitiously hiding on the side of the bottle.
As far as pale lagers go, this one was pretty decent. It was hazy, thick, and yeasty, with a bit of a citrus flavor. The funny bottle is used by the brewer, Beer of Yerevan, for most of their products, which is why the bottle is imprinted with the word “Kilikia,” the far more Armenian-sounding name of another of their brands. I wonder how Armenians feel about this stuff. Is it too Russian-sounding for many proudly independent Armenians? Is that why they ship it over here? Anyone know?

No comments:

Post a Comment