If you consider yourself a beer enthusiast or you just enjoy a cold draft on a hot day, then this list of some of the best Albanian beers will hit the spot!
A super easy word to learn in Albanian is the word for beer, and that word is birra (beer-ah). So as you explore all the beautiful beers Albania has to offer, you’ll be amazed by the history behind every glass of golden goodness.
You can find most of these beers anywhere around the country, but be sure to take advantage of any brewery tours and beer gardens when available!
1. Birra Korca – Korce, Albania
The first cold, frothy beer to try during your stay in Albania is Birra Korca. Known as the first Albanian beer, you can find Birra Korca practically anywhere in Albania, from supermarkets, restaurants, and pubs. But the history of this beer makes every sip something to savor.
Birra Korca History
Italian designer and investor Umberto Umberti decided to build the Birra Korca brewery in 1928, which required special approval from King Zogu I. Only briefly was Albania a kingdom for the second time in its history, when then-President Zogu declared Albania a monarchy and made himself king. The transition did not go well, and King Zogu had more than 600 blood feuds against him and survived 55 assassination attempts (we think this may be a record?).
Not much later, Italy invaded Albania, where Mussolini declared Albania an Italian protectorate and forced King Zogu into exile. He was never allowed to return to Albania and spent the rest of his life in France until he passed away at the age of 65. In 2012, his remains were returned to Tirana and now lay in the royal mausoleum.
Birra Korca is genuinely unique in that it is one of the few operations to start during this brief and unique period in the country’s history, and it is still in operation today! German technological engineer, Hebard Geraldine, established the beer production process for the factory, and the same process is still used today. The only change was in 1942 when malt production was added to the factory.
Birra Korca Selections
Located in the city of Korce, the Birra Korca factory produces more than 1.37 million gallons of beer every year. Its signature beers include:
- Birra Korca Bjonde (Korca Beer Blonde): A light and smooth pilsner with a pleasant aroma and bouquet of flavors.
- Birra Korca E Zeze (Korca Beer Black): A truly unique beer for the country, this beer is similar to a stout, comprised of 4 different malts with a hint of caramelization.
- Premium Birra 01 (Premium Beer 01): A lighter blonde than the Korca Bjonde, when you need something light and refreshing on a super hot day.
Birra Korca Brewery
You can enjoy a tour of the Birra Korca factory and be amazed by the nearly 100-year-old history. You’ll even see where they take water from the nearby mountains and run it through the osmosis process to ensure the best quality product. You can also enjoy lunch or dinner at the Birra Korca factory and, of course, try your favorite Birra Korca selection!
Full day trip to Korca including a stop at Birra Korca Brewery.
Places to stay when you are visiting Korca.
2. Birra Tirana – Tirana, Albania
Another beer that has survived throughout the decades is Birra Tirana. Known as the most extensive beer production factory in Albania, Birra Tirana produces a premium pilsner that gets shipped throughout the country and to several places in Europe and the United States.
Birra Tirana History
Birra Tirana started in 1960 as part of a food factory and used barley grown around the Korce area. Still used today is the special water line that brings water directly to the factory from the Selita spring, a remote area located in the nearby mountains.
In 2001, the company was privatized and underwent massive reconstruction to install new technology, including new packaging lines, to provide the beer in glass bottles, aluminum cans, and kegs. The upgrade had cost approximately 15 million Euros!
Birra Tirana Selections
Today, the ingredients in Birra Tirana beverages include barley from nearby Croatia and Austria, Hops from Germany, and water from the Selita spring. They have also been using the same yeast culture for more than 30 years.
- Birra Tirana Premium Pilsner: The most popular beer produced by Birra Tirana is the same recipe used since the factory’s founding in 1960.
- Birra Tirana Kuqalashe (Red Glass): A newer product also a premium pilsner with just a slightly higher alcohol content.
You can watch the mesmerizing process of Birra Tirana getting packaged by watching this video on their website.
Birra Tirana Brewery
Places to stay when you are in Tirana.
If you are looking for a place to try Birra Tirana and grab dinner here is a list of our favorite restaurants in Tirana.
3. Birra Stela – Tirana, Albania
The next frosty choice of brews in Albania is Birra Stela. The Birra Stela factory opened in 1994 and now oversees various beers and other non-alcoholic beverages in the country.
Birra Stela History
Today, Birra Stela is the second-largest beer and beverage factory in the country. Four Albanian entrepreneurs founded the factory in the early 90s during heightened uncertainty as the country transitioned from communism to democracy. Yes, other breweries were established before this transition, but Birra Stela was the first to start with an entrepreneurial mindset.
They started by producing 132 gallons of beer a day, and today produce more than 6.5 million gallons every year!
Birra Stela Selections
A unique quality of Birra Stela is that the non-alcoholic version is halal certified. Halal is an Arabic word for “permissible.” For food or beverages to be halal, they must be prepared by a Muslim who says a blessing.
Islam forbids alcohol, so the non-alcoholic version of Birra Stela is available for 58% of the population who practice Islam.
- Birra Stela Lager: The most popular product, you can enjoy a light sweetness with a balance of a bitter aftertaste.
- Birra Stela 0.0% ALC: Enjoy the same sweetness and bitterness but without the alcohol.
- Iliria Weissbier: A nod to Albanian history, Iliria references the ethnic, Indo-European Albanians who lived in the region during ancient times. It is also a nod to its German influence, weissbier being German for “wheat beer.” You can enjoy an aroma of wheat, quickly followed by a creamy, rich foam.
- Cek Pilsner: A pilsner that delivers a nice balance of smoothness and bitterness.
- Cek Craft Beer: A slightly darker version of Cek, you can enjoy the same pleasant bitterness with a deeper flavor of hops.
- Cek Pilsner Dark: The deepest and darkest of Cek selections, enjoy this stout with three different malt flavors.
- Strong Dopio Malto Beer: A sweet, alcoholic treat that reminds you of a double malt beer.
Birra Stela also produces various pop/soda and energy drinks.
Birra Stela Brewery
While you can’t tour or visit the Birra Stela factory, you can visit and stay at Te Stela, a resort located right in Tirana. Part of the resort is a beer garden, the first one to open in the country! There you can experience super fresh, unfiltered lagers and pilsners that only have 24 hours shelf life. In addition, you can participate in beer tastings and perhaps catch an Albanian celebrity or two visiting.
4. Birra Peja – Peja, Kosovo
For our next Albanian beer favorite, we’re actually traveling outside the borders of Albania to the neighboring country of Kosovo. You may be asking why since we’re talking about Albanian beers!
You see, the people of Albania and Kosovo share blood, ethnicity, and history; they just live in two different countries. Most Kosovars are Albanian, and the two countries consider each other as sisterly/brotherly neighbors.
And this is why you’ll find Birra Peja throughout Albania, as it’s made by Albanian brothers and sisters in the village of Peja, Kosovo. Even when the Albanian national team qualified for the European Cup in 2016 for the first time, the team’s sponsor was Birra Peja!
Birra Peja History
The brewery opened in 1971 and continued production even during the Kosovo War during 1998-1999. And in 2010, the factory went through significant renovations from generous investments and new production, technology, and marketing.
Birra Peja Selections
- Birra Peja Pilsner: This is your traditional Albanian pilsner that delivers a smooth and light taste.
- Birra Peja Dark: The same Birra Peja you love, but with the caramelization taste of a stout.
- Birra Peja Zero: A non-alcoholic version of the traditional pilsner.
Birra Peja Brewery
Tours of the brewery are not available. However, Birra Peja sponsors some of the most significant events in Kosovo and Albania throughout the year. Some events include Beer Fest, Beer and Wine Fest, and Doku Fest (International Festival of Documentary and Short Films) in the capital city of Pristina and Bunar Fest in the historical Kosovo city of Prizren.
5. Birra Elbar – Tirana, Albania
Our next frosty favorite is Birra Elbar, another quench-worthy brew you can find in stores, restaurants, and bars throughout the country. This beer is a little different because the Agna Group produces it. This company distributes various international food and beverage products in Albania and manages construction, real estate, hydropower, and hotel businesses in the country.
Birra Elbar History
Birra Elbar hit the stores in July 2015, making it one of our younger beer selections on the list. The Agna Group developed it, but it’s produced at the Glina factory, which is under the supervision of the Heineken company.
Birra Elbar Selections
- Birra Elbar Lager: This lager is a traditional Albanian beer that quenches your thirst when you need something light, crisp, mellow, and smooth.
- Birra Elbar Weiss: This is a mix of your favorite Albanian beer with the taste of German wheat. This beer hit stores in 2019.
Agna Group distributes other international alcohol favorites in the country, such as Baileys, Smirnoff, Johnnie Walker Scotch Whiskey, Amstel, and Heineken.
And since Birra Elbar is a product of a company, there isn’t a brewery to tour. However, you will see this beer sponsor popular events in Albania, such as the Fest of Friendship, where folk, pop, rock, and folk artists come together to perform for fans.
Places to stay when you are in Tirana.
6. Birra Kaon – Tirana, Albania
Birra Kaon started as a local microbrewery that has grown to be one of the most popular breweries in the country. As part of the T.E.A. Company, the factory produces various versions of Birra Kaon and is home to one of the most popular beer gardens in the country.
Birra Kaon History
Birra Kaon started in 1995, first in the city of Vlore, and eventually moved to the capital city of Tirana. It is now the fourth-largest producer of beer in the country.
Birra Kaon Selections
You can enjoy traditional Albanian pilsners and lagers and German-influenced wheat stouts from Birra Kaon’s various selections:
- Kaon Lager Golden Pils
- Golden Weiss
- Berg Bier
- Berg Bier Helles
- Stener Brau
Birra Kaon Beer Garden and Restaurant
You can try as many beers as you’d like at the Birra Kaon Beer Garden. There is also a wide choice of meals to accompany your beverages as you sip your way to Albanian beer heaven. The beer garden is open every day of the week, 9 a.m.-10 p.m.
7. Birra Puka – Puka, Albania
A unique beer that we couldn’t leave off the list is Birra Puka. Produced in the small town of Puka in the north of the country, it’s a small operation that only hosts a Facebook page and no official website.
Puka is one of the highest towns in Albania, sitting roughly 2,700 feet above sea level. Since lush meadows and spring water surround it, the local microbrewery produces one of the tastiest, amber-colored lagers available.
It’s only produced in small quantities, so if you’re at a restaurant or bar and see Birra Puka on the menu, you’re in luck! It’s a must-try.
The Best Way To Enjoy Albanian Beer
As you can tell, many of the beers in Albania have been brewed alongside history. So no matter what you decide to try, or you choose to try them all, with every glass, be sure to:
- Enjoy each serving at a pleasant, chilled temperature
- Don’t be afraid to try something out of your comfort zone
- Savor every sip and see if you can detect the different aromas and flavors
And when in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask the locals for recommendations! Most likely, anyone would be more than happy to share with you their favorite beer.
If you are interest in visiting a winery or distillery see blog post: The 12 Must Visit Wineries and Distilleries in Albania