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I’m sure all rockers from around the world have swallowed, spilled, peed and even vomited litres and litres of it! Blonde, brown, red, stout, etc … The good, the very good even, and sometimes or often, the bad! Beer that smells bad, that makes you go to the toilet every 5 minutes and beer that doesn’t get you drunk! What’s the point of drinking beer if it’s not to be drunk, huh?
For our part, Cheryl and I love blonde beer on tap. The classic beer. As long as it’s filtered beer, neither too strong nor too sweet.
But before going any further, let’s do some history. And unusual history! Did you know that in Russia, until 2011, beer was not classified as an alcoholic beverage? No, it was classified as a food product! (Yes! Until 2011, the Russians ‘ate’ beer! Now they drink it!) And it was available everywhere and at any age! Well, maybe not at 8 years old anyway! There was some self-wisdom! Although with regard to alcohol, wisdom is not the specialty of Russians. Whether that’s good or bad, it’s not ours to say.
And we have at least one friend here who stopped drinking at 15! Yes, you read well! At 15 years old! Well, he didn’t just drink beer, of course, but he was already an alcoholic and in his wisdom he stopped drinking before it was too late. And it’s been more than 20 years since he’s had any alcohol at all! He’s even vegan now!
So since 2011, beer is now alcohol like the others, that is to say in Moscow we can’t buy it between 11pm and 8am. Yes, Russian law prohibits the sale of alcoholic beverages during the night. The law is the law, but the Russians always find a way around it … in any case, some people know where to get alcohol at any time of the day or night!
And these days, we must be at least 18 years old to buy beer or to consume it in bars. And it’s common for cashiers or waiters to ask people who seem not to be of age to prove their age by showing ID. A moment that’s always flattering for girls, isn’t it?
For those who are close to retirement age, of course, it’s been a long time since we were asked to prove our age. Thinking about that, I wonder if there’s anywhere in the world where there’s an upper age limit for buying alcohol! Probably not!
So let’s get back to our story. In Russia, when you order a beer in a bar, you are served half a litre! Sometimes you can order a small beer – 300ml, but not everywhere. In the shops, ditto, you’ll find cans of 500ml or even a litre, but not (or rarely) of 300ml!
In Russia, which is a very big country, there are obviously a lot of Russian beers on tap, but not all of them are equal. There are good ones and not so good ones. And Cheryl and I, we feel that the less good are quite numerous! Indeed, we often make a face while swallowing the first sips of some of them.
There are plenty of bars and cafes that serve Russian draft beer, but it’s common to be disappointed by the taste. Perhaps it’s because they don’t clean the pipes often enough (or at all!), or maybe they use bad quality water. Yes, the water in Russia is not drinkable everywhere, even in Moscow! Or maybe because the fermentation method is different from ours, we people from Western Europe, or the Far East (Australia).
Of course, there are many English, Irish, etc. pubs with a wide selection of beers. But it’s quite rare that we go there because in these places the choice is so huge that we don’t know which beer to choose! And in general, they are much more expensive than in other bars. This is normal of course, but for us, such a difference in price is not justified just by the taste!
And also, in these ‘pubs’, there are plenty of expats like us. And I’m going to tell you, we didn’t come to Russia to talk to English people, or Americans. Or even with French compatriots! It’s true, we’ve lived here together for 10 years, and we try to live like Russians, not like tourists or ‘expats’.
Because every time we go to one of these places, we find ourselves speaking English with people who have come to Russia to make a fortune (finance, or oil and gas) or to live an ‘experience’. Getting to know these people isn’t really a priority for us.
Put yourself in our place. Would you prefer to have a good time with your Russian rocker friends in a bar where the beer is cheap but not very good, or in a pub with people you don’t know, where the beer is expensive but tastes better? For us, the choice is the first. We don’t care about quality, what we want is quantity (and friends)!
And we love our Russian friends and we love spending time with them. And of course, in these Russian cafes, there’s not only beer. There’s also vodka! And that sometimes changes the course of the evening … I’ll talk about it in another post. Patience!
Here I am at the end of this post on beer. I have intentionally failed to mention Russian beer names because we all have different tastes and you may find one beer good, while I find the same one not so good. However, I’ll tell you about one because it bears the name of a mountain range in the Russian region of Samara, and it is also the name of the most famous Russian car brand that is also known as ‘Lada’.
This is ‘Zhiguli’ (жигули). And also, because this company produces very nice beer!
And if you want a unique experience try this spa in Prague, Czech Republic. Beer Land!
Are you a beer specialist? Share your opinion on beer in the comments below!
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Health advice: Drinking alcohol, including beer, and smoking cigarettes is dangerous for your health. Never Mind the Wrinkles doesn’t recommend or condone these activities.