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

Friday, May 31, 2013

Country #38: Albania


Beer: Korça Pils

Brewery: Birra Korça Shpk, Korçe, Albania

ABV: 5.0%

This glass reminded me of Albania, probably because I know very little about Albania.
Whenever I’m back in Connecticut, I have to make a trip to Amity Wine and Spirit, as they never fail to stock beers from some of the world’s most obscure countries. On my most recent trip I found a six pack of something called Korça Pils, from someplace called Albania. As far as Europe goes, it doesn’t get a whole lot more obscure than Albania.

Molvania is a bit more obscure than Albania, mostly because it doesn't actually exist (link).
As far as the beer is concerned, it was fairly predictable. While Albanian is a weird language (more on that later), we see the word ‘pils’ in the beer’s name, and we know it’s a pilsner. It was so-so: a bit sweeter than some of the better, hoppier pilsners, but not bad for a country best known for having half its population killed by a vengeful Liam Neeson. 

"I don't know who you are, or where your country is. I can tell you that I don't have any money. What I do have is a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a year and a half of doing this blog. If your country doesn't make beer, that'll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if it does, I will look for you. I will find you. And I will drink you."
According to the bottle cap, the brewery, Birra Korça Shpk, was founded in 1928, which is about when the Industrial Revolution finally made it to Albania. While the Albanian coastal plain is where most of the tiny country’s people live, most of those people are Muslims, a rarity in Europe, but not in Albania. However, the town of Korçe, home to its namesake brew, is off in the hills near Greece, which makes sense, because most of the people there are Albanian Orthodox Christian. 

If this is really "The First Albanian Beer," I'd hate to know what Albania was like before 1928.
Regardless of their religion, and their religion’s attitudes about alcohol, most Albanians speak the Albanian language, which I don’t hesitate to describe as weird. I think it deserves this description not because it is so strikingly different from English, but because it is so strikingly different from just about every language in the world. Because it is an Indo-European language, it shares some cognates with other European languages, and as such the links on the brewery’s Albanian-only web page can easily be translated (Foto, Kontakt, Histori, etc.). However, try clicking one of those links and reading about the brewery’s histori. Good luck. This is because Albanian branched off from the other Indo-European languages ages ago, and now has no close linguistic relatives. As a result, Albanian looks like it would be a bitch to learn. Even the country’s name for itself in its own language, Shqipëria, is a mouthful. 

Raise your hand if you thought I made a terrible typo at the intro to this blog post, listing the brewery as "Birra Korça Shpk." What in the hell kind of word is SHPK!?!? Apparently it just means "limited," though it looks awfully similar to "shqiptare," which means "Albanian."
This linguistic isolation runs parallel to a longstanding cultural isolation in Albania. This isolationism was best embodied by paranoid madman Communist dictator Enver Hoxha, who, in order to thwart invasions, had over 500,000 concrete defensive bunkers built around the country. Because, you know, everyone wanted to invade Albania. Freedom appears to have had the last laugh, however, as Albania is slowly crawling out of its own bunker and into the international community. It has applied for EU membership, its Mediterranean coast is attracting tourists, and one can sit and have an ice cold Korça Pils in one of Hoxha’s bunker, turned into a bar, in the seaside town of Durrës. Shëndeti tuaj!

Half a million of these things to hunker down in, so as to protect a poor country barely bigger than Massachusetts. At least this one is currently being put to good use (source).

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