What is Kvass Beer?
Kvass is less like a beer and more like a soda! Follow along as we cover how it’s brewed, what it tastes like, and its Russian history!
By Emma Zhao on Jul. 21, 2022
Kvass is a fermented and low alcoholic beverage originating from Russia. Made from rye flour or even left over bread, kvass is most famous for its acclaimed health benefits. It’s said that drinking it can boost your immune system, increase your gut biomes, and even keep your circulatory system healthy. In fact, Kvass is so popular in Russia, they consume it like a soda!
About Kvass Beer
Technically, Kvass is considered a very light sour beer. It’s made with an open, natural or wild ferment, and has additives like fruits, herbs, or other tart flavorings. The “sour” component comes from the blend of bacteria working along side yeast to create acetic and/or lactic acid.
The alcohol content of in the beverage is supposed to be low (under 1%), so in some cultures it’s considered safe for children. However, aged kvass can increase in ABV, and some available types exceeding 2.5% (making it potentially not safe for children or pregnant women). With the alcoholic content being so low, kvass sort of resembles a fermented soda or Kombucha.
It’s easy to brew and is made with water and either rye flour or old rye bread. Due to its popularity and commercialized status, home brewers and manufacturers have been adding sweet and fruit flavorings to give it a more soda-like palatable taste.
2 Types of Kvass Beers
There are two distinct groups of Kvass: a bread and flour-based (grain) style, or beet-based style.
For this style, bread is used as the main ingredient to create the kvass. While any kind bread is fair game, the bread cannot contain any added preservatives, and obviously should not be moldy as some forms of mold can be toxic. Any extra ingredients can taint the fermentation process of the kvass.
Rye bread is commonly used, and is usually soaked in hot water or malt to enhance the flavoring. This is the most traditional way to make the beverafe, and requires little preparation time.
Beet-Based Kvass Beers
For this style, rye bread is replaced with beets, giving the beverage a unique color and flavor. Beet-based kvass are typically considered a healthier option because it contains less sugar and more minerals. Beets are high in fiber and can metabolize by your gut bacteria, potentially improving your digestive system.
Is kvass a beer or a soda?
In laymen’s terms, it’s both!
Kvass is unique because while it is technically a beer, it’s much more like a soda. It used to be a beer-like beverage during the 16th century because it was made with grains and cereals, such as wheat, rye, barley, and other grains. But over time, the culture around and ingredients use in kvass have changed.
While it may not be the same as it used to be, today, especially in Russia, it heavily resembles sodas like Coca-Cola or Pepsi. In fact, they can be sold on street corners in Russia. If anything, it’s exactly like a lemonade stand, but for a beer-soda!
Essential Style Information of Kvass Beer
Origin and History
Kvass beer is a traditional Slavic beverage that has roots in Ancient Egypt, Babylon, and Greece. While the exact ancient origins are still unclear, it’s safe to say that Russia is responsible for the kvass beer that we know today.
Arriving in Russia some 1,000 years ago, it has rooted itself in Russian manuscripts, literatures, politics, and socioeconomic cultures. During its early years, it was consumed daily because of its health benefits and quenching properties.
Consumed mainly by farmers, it was a good way to keep your gut biome and immune system strong while engaging in a hard day’s labor. Additionally, kvass was very easy to brew at home, because there were really only two ingredients. It also fermented naturally with wild yeast, which meant that farmers didn’t need a comprehensive brewing operation to make the beverage.
The first recorded mention of kvass was in the year 989 during Vladimir the Great’s baptism, which the citizens of Kiev celebrated by consuming feasts and beverages, including kvass.
Its popularity skyrocketed in the 18th century, where people of every class consumed heavy amounts of it, perhaps more than water, according to Ian Spencer, the author of A History of Beer and Brewing.
During the Soviet era, kvass was known as the “Coke of Communism.” In the fight against capitalism, the Soviet Union banned Coca-Cola sales because to them, the soda represented the evils of the west. Instead, people purchased and drank kvass as if it were a soda.
Since then, the beer maintains its cultural significance in Russian culture. In 2019, 608 million metric liters of kvass was sold in Russia alone.
Bread-based kvass resembles the golden color of your typically beer, but its cloudier in appearance.
Beet-based kvass takes on a bright red color, and is similarly cloudy in appearance.
ABV or Alcohol Content
0.5-4.5%; lower ABV is expected, but can increase the longer the fermentation.
IBU / Bitterness
N/A – Kvass generally doesn’t have an IBU rating because it’s sweet and sour, not bitter. What is IBU?
Aroma, Flavor, Palate & Mouthfeel
Most kvass beers will be tart and malty in flavor, resembling a deeper and richer soda. It’s also quite sour, which balance out the tartness.
The beers made of rye tastes most like a beer, although some people also claim that it tastes similar to kombucha.
On the other hand, the ones made of beets tastes a bit earthier and less sweet.
How to Serve a Kvass Beer
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