Luckily for me, there is a holiday called Teacher’s Day, which is taken very seriously in this part of the world. So seriously in fact, that we were given a Monday and Tuesday holiday recently, and used this 4 day weekend for a getaway to Almaty, Kazakhstan. It’s a short, cheap flight away and has a Starbucks and Hard Rock Cafe, so it was a no brainer. I had previously visited Almaty a year ago and didn’t really manage to source any interesting bars or beer shops. However, there was a 24 hour supermarket next to my apartment, which had a small variety of European (mainly Russian) craft brews to see me through a weekend. I was determined to find something better this time around.
There wasn’t an extensive list, so after 15 minutes of research, I had starred two bars in to my Google Maps: Kraftwerk and Bar Publika. On our first full day in the city, we spent the morning at Almaty Zoo and were planning on visiting one of the bars I had starred on our walk home. After getting lost on the way back and racking up almost 20,000 steps, we were in need of a beer while our daughter napped in the buggy. We finally made our way to Kraftwerk. Closed. Permanently closed, actually. Nevermind, we thought. The next bar is just a block further. Also closed. Apparently, they had decided to do some renovations over the few days I was going to be there. Everything was covered in plastic sheets, so I definitely wasn’t getting a decent beer in our time of need.
I was back to square one. There’s a bar called Harat’s not too far from our apartment, but I didn’t really want to go there after visiting their location in Nur-Sultan (previously Astana, Kazakhstan). There, I had too many dark memories of travelling to watch Scotland collapse in our Euro Qualifier with Kazakhstan back in March! Instead, we stopped at a cafe for a slice of cheesecake and coffee, before heading back to the same 24hr supermarket for whatever decent looking brews I could find. I bought an IPA and Mead from a brewery called Baza. It wasn’t until I checked it in on Untappd, that I realised that this was from a brewery based in Almaty. Maybe my search for a decent bar here wasn’t over after all.
Untappd has been a great resource for someone who has lived in and visited a lot of countries which are not really known for having a wide selection of beers. Apart from being able to rate everything a 3.5, Untappd allows you to see where people have been drinking the beers you come across. I checked the previous check-ins of the Baza IPA and found that people had been visiting a place called Pivzavod. It was a little out of the way for that evening and also on the opposite side of the city from where we would be tomorrow, but with the excuse of needing to write something for the blog, we would find a way to get there! We decided to do our shopping/sightseeing first and then head to Pivzavod for a pre dinner drink.
Pivzavod turned out to be a great little place, with around 20 different taps. It was warm and cozy on a stormy day, and seemed like the type of place that only beer enthusiasts would seek out. Reading Cyrillic is a skill I am still mastering, so seeing it handwritten immediately causes me difficulties; I can only say with 80% confidence that most of the beers on tap were from Russia, along with a couple of local brews from Baza Brewery. Luckily, the word Zagovor stood out (partly because it was written in English). The name should sound familiar to those of you who receive the Mikkeller Beer Club boxes as they included a Zagovor Gose called All Summer In A Day, several months ago. I decided to try their Sour IPA, which I am guessing is called Twisted Values, or at least that’s what I checked it in as on Untappd.
After getting our beer, I started to take in my surroundings. My two and a half year old was the only one who really had any complaints. She seemed to think the chairs were too high, and preferred to stay under the table instead. (I’m not sure her opinion should count in a bar review.) Pivzavod was fantastic. I was immediately disappointed my school wasn’t located here, because I feel like it would become a regular haunt. There were snacks, including a large selection of dried fish, crisps and nuts. There was seating in the bar for around 15 people and a small area for standing. The barman spoke English, which is good for me because even after living in Post-Soviet countries for 5 years, I still cannot put a Russian sentence together properly. For me, the best feature of the bar was their two refrigerators full of bottles, where I could buy beers to bring home with me. There were bottles from all over the world. Some from Stone, Oskar Blues, Fuller’s, Belhaven and even two Mikkeller options too. They had Black Bear Russian Imperial Stout and the Beer Geek Vanilla Shake. As we were only here for a weekend, we had only used up 25kg of our 60kg luggage allowance, which meant there was a lot of room to take decent beer back to Tashkent. In the end I bought 9 beers to take home, which I will share with you in a new blog feature called What’s in My Suitcase? My wife needed some space for wine, so 9 was my limit!
I don’t have any beer related social media to share, but if you are interested in semi regular posts of things I see in Uzbekistan and on my travels, you can follow me on Instagram @sightsoftashkent