Beer Is Alcohol – Russia
We’ve mentioned this in passing before, but it’s worth elaborating a little on what seems at first glance to be a bizarre piece of news emanating from Russia. A few weeks ago, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev finally signed a bill to the effect that beer was now recognised as alcohol.
This isn’t a surprise to anyone else but prior to the new law, an alcoholic drink was one
which contained at least 10% alcohol, anything else was foodstuff. Largely for this reason, beer sales have increased dramatically in recent years as big breweries (especially Carlsberg) have expanded into Russia. There were no age restrictions on buying beer and it could be sold around the clock like any other food. In fact this situation will remain until 2013 which is when the new law will take effect.
The vodka industry has been pushing these changes for some time. Although it’s still marginally the most popular drink, sales have fallen around 30% over the past decade while beer sales have risen 40%. It’s a battle which has pitted the traditional vodka industry against the incoming brewing giants and has already resulted in a 200% tax increase on beer. The government said that the increase was to control consumption (which it may partly have been) but it was also a sop to the vodka producers who are losing the next generation of Russian to beer.
For another eighteen months at least though, visitors to Russia will be able to witness beer being drink out of bottles on the street by an assortment of age groups. It’s a common sight to see workers swigging out of a bottle as they wander home from work.
President Medvedev is also attempting to bring alcohol consumption in general under control. An average Russian drinks twice the critical level as set down by the World Health Organisation and the vodkas industry has also been targeted for tax rises.