Yup. Itís official: beer is alcohol in Russia. Or it will be come 2013.
Until now, the land that put vodka on the world map considered any beverage that contains less than 10% alcohol to be merely a foodstuff. The alcohol content of beer varies by brand name and type but beer usually contains between 4% and 6% alcohol by volume.
As food, beer can be purchased anywhere any time food is sold in Russia and it can be purchased by anyone who has the rubles to pay for it, regardless of their age. There are no restrictions where beer can be drunk in Russia, either, so itís just as common to see people drinking beer walking down city streets, riding the subway, or enjoying a day at the park as it is to see someone doing the same with a soft drink or cola beverage.
Much of this sudsy freedom will end in 2013, when new laws take effect that will regulate and tax beer as an alcoholic beverage instead of a food product. Russian President Dmitri A. Medvedev made it official on July 20 as he signed the new regulatory law in the hope of curbing alcohol abuse in Russia.
Since 2009, Medvedev has worked with lawmakers to change the food / alcoholic beverage status of beer, which has been touted as a healthier alternative to the vodka Russians are known to love. Government efforts to drink beer instead of vodka were so successful that beer sales rose more than 40% in the last decade as vodka sales dropped by about 30%. Last yearís 200% tax increase on beer did little to slow beer consumption since Russian incomes have been on the rise, too. The added tax had little effect on the average Russian enjoying a more affluent lifestyle than ever before.
The World Health Organization classifies Russiaís alcohol consumption at twice the critical level for optimum health. The average Russian consumes about 12.5 liters (3.3 gallons) of alcohol per year, with vodka accounting for more than 40% of total consumption (approximately 5 liters) and beer consumption about 4 liters.
As part of the new regulations, beer will no longer be sold between 11:00 PM and 8:00 AM and it will no longer be available at train stations and outdoor kiosks; these two venues account for about 30% of all beer sales in Russia today. In other words, when beer becomes an alcoholic beverage in Russia in 2013, it will face the same sales and consumption restrictions as vodka does now.
To enjoy a hearty Boilermaker cocktail Russian style, fill a beer glass about 3/4 full of your favorite beer. Fill a shot glass with vodka and gently drop it, glass and all, into the beer. Sip the beer as you normally would although youíll be getting a little nip of vodka with each sip of beer.
For another beer-laced cocktail, follow the link below to the recipe for a frozen blender full of the Strip and Go Naked Cocktail. And donít forget August 3 is National Skinny Dipping Day!
Bottoms up, yíall!