In Soviet Russia...

Brewery and Country of Origin: Baltika Breweries of 6 Verkhny, Per 3 Ru, 194292, St. Petersburg, Russia

Date Reviewed: 3-18-13

This is a beer from Russia. If you know anything about the general world of alcohol, this should raise a bit of a red flag. Russians like their alcohol, but not in the form of beer. In fact, the average Russian drinks more liters of vodka than beer. And let's not forget that vodka is roughly 7-8 times more alcoholic than the average beer. Vodka is also extremely affordable. Though not cheaper than water (as in The Czech Republic), normal vodka only costs $0.50 a pint in Russia. That's a cheap date right there. Another problem this review faces is that there aren't many breweries in Russia to begin with. Using the law of large numbers, it stands to reason that the first Russian beer we've ever tried happens to come from its largest producer and exporter. Baltika Breweries, which is based in St. Petersburg, makes up about 40% of the domestic beer market in Russia. To put that into perspective, Anheuster-Busch controls about 45% of the domestic American beer market. Unfortunately, being a big enough enterprise doesn't necessarily translate into high quality... far from it. While not all large scale breweries produce poor quality beer, many macrobreweries are notorious for implementing cost cutting measures which may include using adjuncts, producing large batches, license brewing, and making light beer. This all translates into poor results which ususally end up in the one's or low two's. But like we said, this isn't the case for every large brewery. In fact, Sam Adams, which has made some pretty highly rated beers over its history, is considered a macrobrewery by definition. Sierra Nevada is also a large operation, but their beer wins countless awards every year. Still, this isn't the birthplace of craft beer. This is Russia, the former world capital of communism. And as history teaches us, a lack of competition hurts quality. So when a large percentage of the market is controlled by a small group of powerful companies, it sucks as much as US Airways merging with American Airlines. Competition drives quality, giving consumers the choice to decide what's best. Soviet planes were dangerous, as were their cars, which were shoddy copies of western world cars from decades earlier. Soviet architecture was bleak, as was the art. So you'd think that a beer produced in a large scale brewery located in the former Soviet Republic would simply taste awful. Well, fortunately it seems Stalin's legacy hasn't rendered the Russian brewing industry completely useless after all.
Date Sampled: 3-08-13 At: 7 Prescott Place, Allston, Boston, MA, 02134, USA
Beer Style: Euro Dark Lagers
Alcohol by Volume: 5.60%
Serving Type: 500 mL Bottle, 20 oz Pint Glass
Rating: 2.72


Baltika's #4 beer pours smoothly with a lower level of carbonation action. This produces a short, quarter inch tall foam head with a weak retention, a quick dissipation, and medium density. This beer has a deep reddish amber color with no sediment, giving off a bright shine in average light. This beer does not lace on the glass.


This beer's lower strength aroma is mostly summed up with caramel lighter moderate malt. This lager does have a good amount of grainy or grassy aroma with a slight tinge of metallic notes as well as some alcohol smell present. There is some sweeter biscuity or bread like notes, as well as some nuttiness. There are no hops or fruit in the aroma.


This is a medium light bodied beer with a low viscosity, a medium low amount of carbonation, and a below average weight, which all contribute to a pretty easy drinking, low volume presence. This beer does not provide for any post taste alcohol warming, and there is a dull "wet" finish at the close. This beer is cool and crisp overall.


This dark lager's flavor is characterized with a strong caramel and/or toffee sweet flavor which is accompanied with some nuttiness and bread like notes as secondary. There is a good amount of sweetness at the finish, which lingers for a short amount of time. Overall, this beer is pretty sweet with no bitter indication of dark roasted malt or any prominent hops. There is no alcohol flavor.

Our Take

Plainly put, this beer isn't bad. We were pleasantly surprised by a bold set of malty flavors, as well as an easy going presence, and a good appearance. There was nothing particularly special about this beer, however, as a lacking aroma and a weak finish were major downpoints. The flavor is charasmatic, but somewhat unbalanced with an exclusive sweetness which eliminates any hop presence or bitterness. This beer's dull finish was disappointing as it left your mouth with an unpleasant wet lingering aftertaste. Overall though, this is a respectable beer which has some substance and should be a fun one to try if you're looking to underrepresented markets. To be honest, it's not often you come across a Russian beer, unless it's actually a bear. In that case, play dead and pray she ain't hungry.