Shine On

Beer now considered alcohol, not food, in Russia

A new Russian law officially recognizes beer as food, not alcohol. (Thinkstock)Some things are better late than never.

As part of Russian president Vladimir Putin's long-running campaign to tackle alcoholism rates in his country, the new year has ushered in a new law requiring beer to be classified as "alcohol" and not "food".

Up until January 1, 2013, beer in Russia could be served in all manner of places, and it's classification as a "food" item made this possible.

The new law restricts when and where beer can be sold. Instead of being available at gas stations, bus depots, 24-hour corner stores and kiosks, beer will only be sold in licensed outlets. Buying beer after 11 p.m. and before 8 a.m. is officially a shopping habit of the past.

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The Telegraph notes that, until now, many Russians considered beer a soft drink, "a light refresher that can be guzzled on the way to work or sucked down in great quantities before a picnic and a swim in the river."

Beer commercials and alcohol consumption in public spaces are also forbidden under the new law, reports The Globe and Mail .

NBS News reports that one in five male deaths in Russia are linked to alcohol.

And The Telegraph reports that about 500,000 deaths are thought to be alcohol-related every year in the country, including road and drowning accidents.

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Though not everyone's convinced that putting limitations on beer will do anything to help alcoholism rates in the country. Some argue that since vodka is  Russia's drink of choice, the new laws may only encourage people to stock up on alcohol — and vodka is easier to store at home than beer is.

"It's much easier to buy two bottles of vodka and manage for your instant need for alcohol," Isaac Sheps, chairman of the Union of Russian Brewers, tells the Telegraph.

"So it's quite ironic that this attempt to improve health and lower alcoholism could have the opposite effect and cause people to drink more harmful spirits," Sheps adds.

The news isn't embraced by kiosk owners, either, who are bracing themselves for a sudden decline in business. These owner are also dealing with a new bill designed to ban cigarette sales at kiosks and small stands.

As part of Putin's grand plan, beer taxes in Russia have been rising steadily — and are set to rise even more dramatically over the next few years. 

Watch the video below for the basics of beer tasting. Who says its flavours aren't as complicated as wine?


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