Tirana has much to offer and with the new wizz air route from Abu Dhabi to Tirana its cheap and easy to sample some craft beer. For the price of 2-3 drinks in Abu Dhabi you can book a ticket to Tirana instead.
This is the first article in the series of affordable and beer relevant destinations available from Abu Dhabi. Next one will be on Serbia, later Bosnia and Hercegovina. The relevant craft beers will be mentioned as well as a few spots worth visit for the beer drinker. But since the craft beer development just started its good to have a back up – sample some wines as well.
Beer in Tirana
Most bars has a couple of different beers, mainly lagers but also German and Belgian beers. Things are moving and in a year or two we will see many craft breweries and bars. The population is young, with a average on 36 years, Albanian has the youngest population on the Balkans. Many young people are migrating but more and more tend to stay. Like in many Balkan countries, the population is decreasing every year.
Most bars are run by younger people with hope and passion so expect much to happen the coming years. The pandemic has passed its worst phases and restrictions are less. When we visited in march 2022, it felt that Tirana just came out of its bubble. Talking of beer bubbles, put these spots in your memory bank. Bräuhaus Tirana has made nine different beers and brew on site. This can be a good start but be prepared that not all beers are available. But food is. Puka brewery brews IPA and some ale but it can be hard to find a bottle. So need to ask around a bit. Puka has no brewpub yet and the brewery is outside town.
Duff bar is named after the beer brand that appears in Simpsons. They serve a few beers on tap, often a craft beer and has a good list with imported beers. Mainly Belgian and German but also modern IPAs. Most likely the best beer place in town. Calm place with out door seating. Remember that its allowed to smoke inside so places where you can sit outside are valuable after a few days of smoke diving.
Tirana is a small town so its easy to walk around and try local beers. Korca, Cek and Birra Tirana are good beers to refresh with after a long walk. There is espresso coffee everywhere so its possible to alternate coffee and beer during the early afternoon. Lagers cost less than a euro/dollar and some smaller bars charge less for a draft. Dont be afraid
There was a proper tap room with focus on craft beer called Tap House Tirana but its closed. After Duff, Local Kitchen and Beer Bar is good to visit. Cosy place which suits for both romantic dinners and beer sampling. The food is excellent and less than six euro for a plate of mixed sausage/salami.
Local Kitchen and Bar has around 40 different beers, not bad and all of them around 2-4 euro. Same beers in Abu Dhabi would cost 8-16 euro.
If you want to visit a bar that also turns into a very popular club later on, visit Whiskey Bar Tirana which also has a nice boutique hotel. They have both a good beer selection and nice cocktails. Just 2-3 minutes walk from Local Kitchen and Bar.
As variation, a cocktail Bunker 1944 Lounge or Radio Bar Tirana could be good, they have a good beer selection as well. The place is HBTQ-friendly like many bars in in Tirana. Overall, people are very polite, helpful and easy going despite the tough history. The country was run by dictator Enver Hoxha from WW2 until 1985. The result of his madness is still visible today. He built 700 000 bunkers around the country, in case somebody would attack. One of many reasons why Albania has been among the poorest countries in Europe. The bunkers are today popular tourist sites. Albania is also the major exporters of marijuana to Europe. But during the visit in Tirana and Durres we felt very good vibes and people are friendly. We travelled with local busses and other passengers always helped us finding the destinations. Most cities have google maps synchronised with local transportation so you can follow buses in real time. But Tirana and also Sarajevo doesn’t have that feature yet so you have ask around which is social but time consuming.
Wine in Albania
Sorry beer nerds ! We have to mention wines as well. There are many interesting wineries even if the wine history is short. There was a few wineries around 1980 but the taste was poor and Albanian was considered a no-go for the wine connoisseur. The volumes have trippled since then and we expect that the piece about Albania in wine guides will be longer than just one page. There are many wineries but we decided to visit just this one because of its good reviews and nice setting. Most of the farms are only accessible by car but Uka Farm is easy to reach with bus and some walking.
Uka farm is just outside town. Take a bus to the shopping mall QTU and walk 30 min or take taxi. They have six or seven wines and what’s interesting is that one of the wines is made with the local grape Kallmet. Very exotic to try new grapes. Wines are served inside during the winter and the food is great. A small but good menu. Staff and owner are doing their best to welcome visitors.
Other Albanian grapes are Shesh, Vlosh and Debin. The production is increasing every year and wines are developing. There are many wine shops around town but also in Durres which is the coastal town you should visit. Bus goes back and forth several times per day. The wine shops in Durres sell many other wines then in Tiranas shops which focus more on Italian/French and a handfull local wines.
Next week we are exploring the beer scene in Belgrade, Dogma brewery, Kabinett brewery and much more.
Abu Dhabi Beer Man
PS. A Guide in Swedish to Craft beer in Albania, Bosnia, Montenegro, Croatia and Serbia will be published in Beer beer magazine Maltesen the coming month.
Jonathan Gharbi de Maré