Everyone knows that in Russia vodka is the national drink.
What many do not know is that beer is more popular in fact. Until a few years ago, beer was officially classified as soft drink, It was for sale in almost every shop, gas station and kiosk. It was common to see people drinking it on the way to work. That has changed now, as the government has been encouraging more healthy habits.
In Soviet times the beer was brown and fizzy, but barely drinkable. In summer bars often times served it from a tap, and you had to bring your own vessel. Patrons were drinking from all manner of jam jars and preserving jars, vases – well anything that would hold beer basically. There were only a few different brands. Now there is a myriad of brands, both foreign and local, although mostly controlled by the global drinks companies.
In recent years the range of beers has widened, and IPA, dark beers, wiessbier have all become widely available, as well as more traditional for Russia types like Pilsner. In some towns there are local microbreweries with interesting takes on their sorts of beer.
Most beer is consumed at home, in bottles. The culture of going out for a drink is less evident, although of course restaurants usually serve both keg and bottled beer. In most towns there are Irish and English pubs, however they will not remind you much of home. They usually serve a good range of beers, like IPA, bitter, dark beers which seem to travel reasonably well. Many of them these days are brewed locally under license.
In Russia the most popular things to eat with beer are black bread fried in garlic and salted fish. They are definitely worth trying at least once.
On our tours there are ample opportunities for a brew if you fancy, some better than others. Of course if you prefer vodka, not a problem.