The Great Purge – Part I

Ticking the elusive kvass

Kvass, an obscure style of Russian ale, is among the rarest varieties of beer to be had. This is important to note, as a popular activity among a certain wild breed of beer geeks is the illustrious activity known as ticking. Simply put, ticking is trying as many different kinds of beer as possible, and recording it for posterity. Popular variations of ticking includes sampling as many unique beers as possible, sampling beers from as many states or countries as possible, and in this case sampling as many unique styles of beer as possible.

Cue Woodshop 5.1, a beer tasting event held at Blue Palms Brewhouse in Hollywood, CA. Beer geeks from across the Southern California region swarmed to the event with dreams of sampling the tasty rare beers that the Woodshop name had become synonymous with. One enterprising you man known named Bobby, and known to the wider beer community as t0rin0, was about to make that dream come true. The highlight of his cooler full of brews that day included none other than an elusive kvass called Khlebny Kray (read the accompanying review here).

Bobby had over a liter of the mystifying ambrosia in a plastic bottle he had procured from the far away land of the internet. In the land of ticking each person only needs approximately two ounces of beer, so this one large bottle was split well over a dozen ways.

Kvass in a variety of soda-like containers.

Kvass is a traditional Russian beverage that is made with a variety of grains, or most commonly is not really a beer at all but made with stale rye bread. More modern versions employ a combination of barley malt and cheaper grains such as rye or buckwheat. Fruit and spice additions like raisins, lemon, and mint are also added for flavorings to smooth out the beverage that is generally made with excess ingredients and fermented with simple bread yeast. Today, the beverage even takes on an almost soda-like status, and has some history in the post Soviet era as being championed as the true Russian drink, as opposed to foreign drinks like Coca-Cola.

On this sacred day at Blue Palms, over a dozen members of the website BeerAdvocate were able to sample the beer. Eventually, they would review it. With this rare opportunity to tick a kvass, few could pass up the allure. Personally, I truly did enjoy this. It was almost like a sweetened carbonated herbal tea. My friend Greg, also known as Wethorseblanket, concurred as we sipped and refreshed our palates.

It later became evident that not everyone actually enjoyed the beer/kvass as much as we did, though everyone was pleased to at least try this exotic treat. Not everyone would end up feeling the same way come the end of this story.

Read Part II of this article “The kvass that shook the BeerAdvocate Top 100” here

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3 responses to “The Great Purge – Part I

  1. I applaud everyone’s eagerness to tick off kvas from their list. But are you ready for this? It’s readily available at virtually every Russian market in SoCal! There are probably 30 such stores in the Fairfax district alone (look for Cyrillic writing on the windows and awnings) where you can find a couple of brands. However, as you’ve discovered, it’s not something you’ll be buying and drinking over and over again.

    Incidentally, I lived in Russia for a while…and not once did I see any kvas. Na zdarovye.

  2. Pingback: The Great Purge – Part II | Extol Beer

  3. Brian, thanks for your comments. You are right that the kvass is around if you know where to look. Most beer geeks just don’t go to Russian markets looking to buy beer. I’ve also heard it is a great place to get three liters of Euro Strong Ale. Yum.

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