I recently had a conversation with my colleague Lyuba about Ukrainian beer, which resulted in a blog posting.
In this conversation, she mentioned a beverage I had never come across before. She called it “kvass” and was astonished to find I’d never heard of it. “Everyone drinks it back in the Ukraine!” she told me, and added that lots of people brewed their own kvass at home. That made me prick up my ears, and I asked Lyuba if she would be prepared to brew some kvass for me and my colleagues. And our Lyuba would not be Lyuba if she didn’t take me up on it straight away ;.
Lots of you may be surprised to learn that the drink dearest to the Ukrainians’ hearts is not the revelry-fuelling vodka, but a (more or less) alcohol-free soft drink. To be more precise, it does have an alcohol content of 0.5 to 1. 4 % – so in comparison to vodka it’s in actuality more or less alcohol-free :).
“Kvass”, you know, is popular not only in my homeland, but also in Russia and other nations of Eastern Europe, though there it’s frequently known under a different name. In Georgia, for example, it’s called “burachi”, in Lithuania “gira”. And in Germany, the beverage is sometimes referred to as “bread-beer”. This designation, however, is not without its problems, since in fact there is in Eastern Europe a bread-based beer that’s not alcohol-free and has nothing to do with the lite kvass.
But what exactly does “kvass” mean? It’s quite simple: the name is the message. The word, you see, translates roughly as “sour drink”, or “something fermented”, and is derived from the Russian verb “kwasit” (to acidify). And that’s precisely what happens in the production process for this beverage. But I’ll get round to that later.
As a Ukrainian, of course, I can never get enough of kvass. But since I go back to my homeland only once a year, I never get to enjoy it as often as I would like. So as not to have to do without my favourite drink, there were only two alternatives left to me: buying kvass at the Russian shops in Germany, or brewing it myself.
I tried the “shop-bought brew”, and was far from enthusiastic – which is why I acceeded to the requests of my colleagues and decided to try my luck at some home-brewing.
Lyuba will be telling us how this turned out in her next article. We’re really looking forward to finding out if she has the makings of a natural-born home-brewer ;.