Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Речной Пиво (River Beer)

One of my coworkers alerted me to a story out of Russia that she saw on CNN International this morning:
Russian troops have retrieved 10 tons of beer trapped under Siberian ice, the ITAR-Tass [ИТАР-Тасс] news agency has reported. The truck carrying the beer sank when trying to cross the frozen Irtysh [Иртыш] river, near the Siberian city of Omsk [Омск], around 2,200 km (1,400 miles) from Moscow.
The beer, brewed by the Rosar (Росар) brewery [bottle caps | labels] and with a value in excess of 100,000 rubles (according to Just Drinks), will be sold at a discount; apparently, the cold water temperature (air temperatures were -28°C) should have kept the beer from being damaged by its week in the Irtysh. As of year-end 2002, Rosar was the sixth largest brewery in Russia in terms of production capacity, with an annual output of 30 million deciliters.

ИТАР-Тасс described the rescue [story | update] in detail:
Six divers of the Russian Ministry for Civil Defense and Emergencies and an armored repairs-and-evacuation vehicle made from a T-72 tank have done their best, deputy head of the Cherlak district administration Vasily Yatkovsky said. They pulled the truck to an ice hole.... The truck doors were opened, and the beer kegs and bottles were loaded onto another vehicle and taken away. They were also ready to retrieve the truck but the rope tore.
The Guardian's version of the story is interesting, in part because of how snarky it is in places:
It is fast becoming Russia's favourite drink, eclipsing the traditional Slavic fuel of vodka. So when 10 tons of beer became trapped beneath a sheet of Siberian ice for over a week authorities in the desolate industrial town of Omsk stopped at nothing to get it back, and sent in the army.

[...] Over the past week six divers, 10 labourers and a T-72 tank have failed to get it back. Rescuers used chainsaws and crowbars to carve a 100 metre long passage through the ice so the lorry could be dragged to dry land. But their hopes were dashed when the vehicle was swept away by a strong current and winds.

However, with a typical belief in the invincibility of the poorly funded Russian military, the authorities said they were confident the soldiers would retrieve it within a day. It is unclear whether they will be rewarded with part of the lorry's contents.
I couldn't find any reference to the story in Pravda or The Moscow Times, but The Moscow Times did have an interesting story about how brewers in Russia are continuing to up production, marketing, and variety. Apparently, in 2002 beer output surged by 10%, but output only grew between 4% and 6% in 2003.

The best quote came from Natalya Zagvozdina, consumer goods analyst at Renaissance Capital, who noted that while the "average Russian drinks about 50 liters of beer per year, compared to 120 liters and 100 liters by his German and British counterparts, respectively. 'We can drink more than that,' she said."

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