Goodbye vodka? Russians toast craft beer revolution

By Ana Llobet In Moscow ( China Daily ) Updated: 2016-04-16 09:40:41

Bearded hipsters and bespectacled 20-somethings sip pale ales and dark stouts at Garden Beer, one of Moscow's new craft beer bars serving "made in Russia" brews to an increasingly discerning clientele.

While the craft beer revolution swept North America and Western Europe years ago, Russia is now catching up at a time when it is trying to shrug off a vodka-swilling reputation.

"We are tired of Russia being perceived as a country of alcoholics," Pavel, a customer at Garden Beer says as he relaxes after work. "Old people still drink vodka, but we young people prefer good-quality beer."

Renowned for their hard-drinking habits, Russians in recent years have started cutting down on booze as the government has tightened controls to curb rampant alcoholism.

Last year, the average Russian drank some 11.5 liters of pure alcohol, down from 13.5 litres in 2014, according to a health ministry official.

The beer market has seen overall consumption fall - but while the big brands have suffered, niche producers have started flourishing as drinkers' tastes have gotten increasingly sophisticated.

"A new craft beer bar opens in Moscow almost every day," says Natalia Petrova, editor-in-chief of Real Brew, a magazine targeting Russia's amateur brewers.

"There are already more than 1,000 microbreweries" in Russia, she adds.

Garden Beer owner Yan Stopichev said his bar - which opened in September - serves 4,000 liters of more than 60 brands of Russian craft beer every month.

"These are microbreweries, young Russians who learned how to make good-quality beer from YouTube videos," Stopichev says of his suppliers as he poured a pint of Jaws Lager, brewed in the city of Yekaterinburg in the Urals.

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