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Thursday, August 26, 1999 Published at 13:10 GMT 14:10 UK


World: Europe

Beer is the new vodka in Russia

The Klin brewery rolled out 110m litres last year

By Moscow correspondent Robert Parsons

In the home of vodka a revolution is in the making.


The BBC's Robert Parsons reports: "A new generation of Russians are developing new tastes"
Beer is becoming big business. The Klin brewery alone produced 110m litres last year. This year they're aiming for 150m. A new generation of Russians is developing new tastes.

The brewery is now the sixth biggest producer of beer in Russia. Once best known as Tchaikovsky's home town, Klin is more famous today for its ale.

In the last three years alone, sales have increased by a staggering 300% - yet Klin can't keep up with the demand.

Marketing director, Vyacheslav Kuzmenko, attributes the boom to changing drinking habits: "It is more popular now and it is a new modern culture not to drink strong drinks like vodka, whisky, cognac and some others, there is a shift and we feel it."


[ image: Beerfest - Russian style]
Beerfest - Russian style
The annual Great Moscow Beer Festival is part of the new image being crafted by the brewers. Fifteen Russian companies laid out their wares alongside a few Western favourites for nine days of entertainment and raucous intoxication.

Not so long ago Russian beer was an insipid, noxious slop with an inch of sediment at the bottom of every bottle. Not any more. Foreign companies are taking over the main producers and pouring investment into ageing plant. And with good reason.

The market still has plenty of room for expansion. Average beer consumption has grown to 25 litres a year - but that's still far short of the 156 in the Czech republic or 104 in Britain.


[ image: Local brews only please]
Local brews only please
As the quality has improved so Russians have begun to show a patriotic preference for local brews - albeit often foreign financed. Imported beers, which were popular until last August's financial crash - are being squeezed out.

A Russian revolution may be under way. Is it possible that the nation whose drinking habits have been so categorically definded by the obliterating properties of vodka could be changing its mind?

The brewers say they're out to smash a stereotype but the people who matter don't seem so sure. As one visitor to the festival put it: beer without vodka is like throwing money to the wind.





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