Russia's Finest Fermented Drink
If you're looking for a mildly alcoholic beverage different from what Westerners commonly find at their grocer or liquor store, then you might want to try Kvas (otherwise known as Kvass). This fermented Russian drink can be enjoyed throughout the year, offering bold flavors and a texture many have never before encountered. With ancient origins, it remained a hit throughout Soviet times, and recently has enjoyed an uptick in popularity at home and abroad once again.
Origins and Makeup
Kvas is at least as old as Russia itself, with references stretching far back into the earliest written records made by Slavic peoples. Its deep cultural roots have been appropriated for political and nationalistic purposes in more recent times. Kvas was billed as an anti-foreign drink native to Russia during the late Soviet era. Today, it enjoys renewed popularity among patriotic Russians, but also interests outsiders, gaining attention from multinational companies like Coca Cola and Pepsi.
The brew is regularly made from hearty grains like barley, wheat, rye, and others. Coming off the fields, these materials are driven through a rigorous fermentation process, which mixes the grain base with sugar and occasionally fruit flavors for added sweetness. Beets are a fairly common addition too. From there, modern Kvas shows up in the storage kegs of Eastern European street vendors as well as markets and vending machines as a bottled drink.
Many describe Kvas' taste as a mixture of sweet and sour. This can vary greatly depending upon what's used in its manufacture. Standard Kvas is much thicker than many Western beers and ales – a consistency that often surprises newcomers, and sometimes must be taken as an acquired taste.
An Alternative to “Light” Alcoholic Beverages
Kvas is building popularity abroad as an alternative to drinks with low alcohol content. With only around 1% alcohol, it holds less than most light beers on the market. This means Kvas can be enjoyed by those who prefer to avoid alcohol, or mixed with stronger spirits for seekers after exotic alcoholic drinks.
Little known in the West are Kvas' medicinal benefits. When unfiltered, the drink retains its yeast and other ingredients from the fermentation process, which contains enormous amounts of vitamin B. This class of vitamins is famous for promoting healthy skin, boosting the metabolism, stabilizing the nerves, and possibly having preventative benefits against some cancers. Cases of Kvas relieving stomach pain and irritable bowels have also been reported.
With a potent, satisfying, and vitamin rich brew like Kvas, its possible to enjoy a new taste from abroad and reap fantastic health rewards. The next time you're looking for a new experience in a glass, seek out a Russian market or online retailer near you.