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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Want Some Good Beer? Make It Yourself

There is a new trend in Moscow that may interest expats who pine for the beers of their native lands, but dislike paying Moscow prices for the chance to imbibe in a good dark stout or tart English ale.

While it is true that locally brewed beer has come a long way since the days of the Soviet-made Zhigulyovskoye, it can be rather expensive, and quality can still be inconsistent. Instead of shelling out rubles for store-bought pivo, many have decided to turn their own kitchens into a brewery.

Mikhail Perfilyev began brewing beer at home about six months ago. "I want to drink good beer, not the kind of beer I can buy at kiosks," he says. "I can make better beer than anything else I've tried."

His wife adds that it is important for a person to have a hobby, as well. She doesn't especially like beer, but has tried Perfilyev's beers and says they seem better than store-bought bottles. "His friends like them," she says. "No one can believe he can make such good beer at home."

The couple gets their supplies at Konkord Master, a store that sells everything necessary to set up a home-brew operation. Marina Nikitina, the store's sales assistant, has been working in the home-brew store since it opened six months ago. She says the equipment and ingredients for home brewing have been in Russia for about five years, but the hobby is now gaining real popularity.

Why the increased interest? "People have had a chance to try various Western-style beers, and realize there are a lot of differences between the styles," Nikitina says. "But buying these products in the store is often very expensive. Now they realize they can make the same thing at home."

Nikitina theorized that there has been a shift in attitudes about beer since the collapse of the Soviet Union. "During Soviet times you could only buy terrible beer. Nothing else was available. It was a drink for alcoholics," she said, clicking her tongue and snapping her fingers at her neck in the common Russian gesture for being drunk. "But now, it has become a new trend to try different beers, to select the type of beer that complements different types of food. Now drinking beer can be very prestigious."

She might be right. Beer has even penetrated politics, for example. The Beer Lovers' Party, one of 43 officially registered Russian political parties that vied for seats in the 1995 State Duma election, campaigned on a platform of devotion to pivo.

"Our goal is to reduce stress in society and to make people feel better with the help of beer," party leader Konstantin Kalachyov was quoted as saying by Reuters. "People who drink vodka are harsh and mean, while people who drink beer are soft and nice. We want to put beer drinkers in the Kremlin."

With a home-brewing kit, it is possible to make the exact type of beer you like, from pale ales to dark stouts. The alcohol level can be increased or decreased as desired. And after the initial investment in the equipment, the cost per bottle for home-brewed beer is extremely low: According to Nikitina, with a home system, you can make beer for as little as 1,000 rubles (about 20 cents) a liter.

"There is a genuine boom in the beer industry right now," Nikitina says. "As Russians become more health-minded and stop drinking so much vodka, the consumption of beer increases."

Asked for her own personal preference, she says she likes English ales, although she has noticed that men seem to prefer the lighter beers and women tend to like darker beers. "You know men," she says. "They don't want anything to be sweet."

Making the beer at home is easy and almost foolproof, although it does take time. The necessary equipment includes a bucket with an air lock to allow for fermentation, siphoning tubes, and a bottle capper. To make, simply pour the beer extract into a gallon of boiling water and boil for 10 minutes. Pour into the bucket, and add cold water as directed by the extract recipe. Sprinkle powdered yeast, included with the extract, on top of the liquid, and close the bucket with the affixed air lock; the fermentation process takes about 14 days.

The next step is bottling. It is best to siphon the liquid from the fermentation bucket into another container, then add a cup of sugar to begin carbonation. The liquid is then siphoned into bottles, and caps affixed with the bottle capper. The bottles should sit at least 10 days before opening to allow for proper carbonation.

The extracts provide instructions, and various hops, additional malt and sugar may be added to vary flavor and alcohol content. Each can of extract produces a batch of about 23 liters of beer. All necessary supplies may be purchased for about $65 to $100, depending on the size of the bucket and amount of extract. Bottles may also be purchased, but it is much cheaper to simply recycle used beer bottles, as long as they do not have twist-off caps.

Home brewers should use filtered water in making their beer, as Moscow water is often poor quality. If the water introduces contaminates or bacteria to the beer, it will be off-flavor and off-color, according to home-brewers, although no harmful bacteria can survive the fermentation process.

Konkord Master Domashniye Pivzavody, VDNKh, Pavilion No. 58. Tel. 917-8134

Teddy Beer, 17 Yagodnaya Ulitsa. Tel. 329-3366