The Russian parliament today finally acknowledged something taken as given the world over: beer is alcohol.
The Duma passed a law on second reading (a third, largely ceremonial reading will follow, but the second is the most important) a bill that explicitly acknowledges that fact and bans the sale of beer between 11pm and 8am. It will also cease to be sold in the ubiquitous kiosks and underground shops that make Moscow an alcohol lovers’ paradise.
This is a big deal. I know someone who once went to rehab in Russia for a drinking problem – he couldn’t have vodka or wine on site, but beer was no problem. You often see people drinking beer in the mornings, on the metro or walking down the street, especially when it’s particularly cold (we’re currently at -16C/3F, thank you very much). Maybe (I can dream can’t I?) that’ll start to change.
Some people will certainly complain. Since Russia launched its War on Beer (my title) last year, beer producers have suffered. Russia increased its tax on beer by 200 percent last year, leading some, like Danish brewer Carlsberg, to suffer a 21 percent drop in profits in the fourth quarter of 2010. Ostensibly, this is all part of Russia's attempts to lower its notoriously high drinking rate. But some of the inevitably conspiratorially minded people here in Russia wonder if this isn’t just a huge ploy to boost sales of vodka, Russia’s traditional spirit which has been losing popularity to beer over the past few years.