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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

City Splashes Out 5 Million Liters of Beer

Tempers are flaring, roads are melting and lines are growing at kvas trucks as Moscow swelters in the July heat and looks for a way to quench its thirst.

Mayor Yury Luzhkov has a remedy.

On Saturday, he will be on hand to open the tap to, like a mirage in the desert, 5 million liters of beer as the third annual Moscow Beer Festival kicks off.

The eight-day festival is Moscow's version of Munich's Oktoberfest, with more than 20 local beer companies displaying their wares alongside the best of Bavarian beer. More than 1.5 million people are expected to attend the festival, quaffing millions of liters of beer in 10 million plastic cups.

Dancing firemen, policemen, gardeners and cyclists — waving beer factory flags and beer-inspired banners — will parade on Saturday afternoon down Tverskaya Ulitsa and over to Luzhniki Stadium, where the festival will take place.

They may not be real police officers — when was the last time you saw a smiling policeman, let alone one dancing? — but mere actors hired for the day. But the beer will be real, and prices will be kept far below regular retail prices, beer companies say. Entry to the Luzhniki Stadium will be free up to up to 5 p.m. and cost 10 rubles afterward.

Luzhkov, dressed in national costume, will open the festival at the stadium with guests from the Bavarian government.

Luzhkov is an enthusiastic supporter of the festival. Although his stout figure may suggest that he enjoys the odd liter of beer, the mayor insisted at a news conference Thursday that he hasn't touched a drop of alcohol in 30 years.

He said that the festival was important in teaching people the culture of drinking and "how to drink alcohol without making pigs of themselves."

Luzhkov also said the beer business owes him a debt of gratitude for its survival. In the 1980s, he was part of a Mikhail Gorbachev-led campaign against alcoholism and was supposed to ensure the dismantling of equipment in breweries — but he ignored the order.

With the Russian beer market booming — and almost as many beer ads on television as those for tampons and chewing gum —the festival comes at a good time.

Production of beer in Moscow jumped 27 percent in 2000 with 62.5 million deciliters produced, Luzhkov said.

Beer consumption has been soaring for the past five years, chalking up 10 percent to 20 percent increases annually, according to industry statistics.

Russia's fondness for beer took a slap recently, however, when Kommersant reported that a state trade inspector found traces of intestinal bacillus in Tolstyak beer, which is owned by Sun-Interbrew.

"It's a blatant lie," said the marketing director of rival brewer Baltika, Maxim Dozmarov, as he defended Tolstyak at the news conference Thursday.

City Hall officials said they had not found any problems with local beer.

The beer festival has blossomed since the first one was held in 1999. Only six breweries took part then, compared to six last year and 26 this year. Luzhkov said that this year the festival expects to make a profit for the first time, after breaking even last year and losing money in 1999.

This year, the festival will have a myriad of beer events, from concerts to competitions to performances by the Chuvash beer theater. The republic of Chuvashia is perhaps best known for its beer industry.

A Bavarian folk group will play at the Bavarian stand situated by the Palace of Sports every day of the festival, and Russian folk and rock groups will also regularly play. A 10-hour concert will take place on the last day of the festival with bands such as Tequilajazzz.

Breweries want to make sure the festival is easily accessible. Baltika, for example, will sponsor a no-alcohol zone with special facilities for children and sober-minded adults.