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Global hop market

A local alternative to mass beer suggested by independent brewers has been successful and is now altering the global market. Beer is becoming more diversified, so transnational companies have to accept the new game rules and to switch focus to young and fast growing markets. All these processes increased the demand for aroma and bitter hop as well as their acreage expansion on two continents. However now there appeared a downward trend of alcohol consumption in the world, so even special sorts can soon turn to be sufficient. In this connection the dynamic American hop market is already facing some problems. EU hop producers have become more cautious, they are not racing to exceed the demand and look forward with more confidence, judging by the contract terms. 

Hop Market in Russia

Germany still dominates the Russian market, yet over the recent two years one has been able observe a continuous success of Czech hop suppliers. Their expansion and growing popularity of hops from the United States became the drivers of supplies growth in 2016 despite the preceding modest harvest crop in the EU, as well as the factor of relative stability in 2017. In this connection, in 2017, the ratio of the varieties continued to shift towards the aroma ones, and the supplies of Magnum hop and other alpha varieties were reduced. However, the import of bitter hop pellets is partially replaced by extracts, especially from the major beer manufacturers. Total volumes of alpha acid supplies, according to our estimation, decreased by approximately 5% and returned to the level of 2015. Barth Haas Group continues dominating the hop products market; HVG also increased its weight. At the same time, Morris Hanbury significantly reduced the supplies in 2017.

New Alcohol Restrictions Are Small Beer For Many Russians

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has signed into law new amendments that define beer as alcohol for the first time and place restrictions on its sale.

The changes mean that it will no longer be legal to sell beer between 11 p.m. and 8 a.m. It will only be allowed to be sold in stores, rather than in the ubiquitous kiosks that clutter the streets in Russian towns and crowd railway stations and transportation hubs.

Advertising for alcohol will also be banned under the new legislation.

The changes are part of a plan outlined by Medvedev in August 2009 to combat the "alcoholization" of the Russian people. In January 2010, Moscow increased the tax on beer by 200 percent.

Russians drank an average of 12.5 liters of alcohol last year; of that 12.5 liters, vodka accounts for about five liters, while beer accounts for four.

According to a 2009 study published in the British medical journal "The Lancet," alcohol abuse accounts for 600,000 deaths in Russia each year and a total of half of all deaths among males between 15 and 54.

Changes Greeted With Skepticism

Beer has been steadily growing in popularity since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The new law has been enough to bruise the share price of Danish brewer Carlsberg, which owns Baltika, Russia's largest beer producer, and gets about 45 percent of its profits from Russia.

But many are skeptical that the new regulations will bring significant change, at least in the short term. Vadim Drobiz is the director of the Moscow-based Center for the Study of the Federal and Regional Alcohol Markets. He is sanguine about the changes.

"[The consumer] won't lose anything at all," he says. "He won't reduce his level of consumption. He will buy his beer in advance. Night-time crime is falling and will continue to fall to some extent."

He notes that consumption of hard liquor did not drop appreciably when a ban on nighttime sales was introduced at the end of last year.

Drobiz says it would make more sense to regulate the sales of pharmaceutical alcohol more tightly, since many drugstores are open around the clock and about 90 percent of pharmaceutical alcohol sold is used for consumer consumption.

A man drinks canned beer on the Moskva River beach in Moscow.
Darya Gorshkalyova, a 24-year-old actress sunning herself recently in a Moscow square, shared Drobiz's skepticism.

“I don’t think this will solve the problem in Russia," she says. "It seems to me people will carry on drinking just as they used to. If they make this ban, then people will just buy their beer earlier - they’ll buy it in the afternoon and drink as normal. And that’s it. It’s the same with cigarettes in Europe. They’re really expensive but people still smoke.”

'More Pressing Issues' Than Beer

Drobiz emphasizes that the main change the new regulations will bring immediately is a reduction in crime.

"Society and the state will definitely get more order, more public order, particularly at night," he says. "There will be fewer young people wandering around looking for alcohol."

Nonetheless, considering Russia's love of drinking, this war on alcohol is a bold move on the part of Medvedev and the ruling United Russia party, given the legislative elections scheduled for the end of this year and the presidential poll coming in the spring of 2012.

Sergei Zaitsev, a 40-year-old Muscovite, says there are more pressing issues that need addressing such as his biggest worry -- his unemployment.

“I [want] well-paid work so that I can be sure of myself, so that I can provide for my family and provide for my wife, feed my children," he told RFE/RL while sitting on the grass at Pushkin Square, quaffing a beer in the sunshine.

"If [Medvedev] does that -- then let him make demands like this. First he has to give something, then he can demand. And what’s he given me? Nothing.”

25 Jul. 2011



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