I first heard of Kvass in a Russian history class I took as an undergrad, back in 2003. I was a bigtime eager beaver, for some reason, at that point dumb enough to think that trying real hard at college would have some kind of positive impact on my life.
Anyhow, kvass was mentioned in some account of something or other, and I asked the instructor what for it be. He was an animated man, the kind of engaging teacher who made faces and stressed important points with impassioned hand gestures and vocal inflections. In describing kvass, he sounded like a cartoon mad scientist, like if Bill Nye were talking about putrefaction.
The process of making it used to be even more horribly unsanitary than the practices we now associate with Russians. At the turn of the last century, for example, the Russian infant mortality rate was absolutely gigantic, due to the habit of pouring warm milk into bread dough and letting infants suckle upon it for hours on end, as it turned into a seething sea of bacteria. Kvass, he said, was like the bottled version of that.
So, understandably, even though I’ve known of the beverage for 12 years, I’ve never endeavored to find it. But then it was included in a trade, so, okay…
Now you might have heard how in Russia it was only recently they stopped classifying beer as a Soft Drink, because in order for something to be considered Russian-level alcoholic it has to be at least 10% ABV (that’s a true story, at least according to this meme I seen). Kvass was a basically the parallel of European/American small beers that used to be quite popular, back when potable water was scarce and people needed something to drink without getting entirely fucked up. Americans abandoned small beer due to our dueling strains of late 19th century puritanism (Samuel Kellog health nuts on the one side, Carrie Nation and her despicable ilk on the other), and we moved toward coffee and juice and soda. Kvass remained a Russian thing, as did positive attitudes towards being mildly buzzed for 19 hours a day, and cultural/material embargoes kept is a Russian thing for some time.
When the glory of the Soviet Union was prematurely snuffed out by American pig dogs, soda came streaming in all fizzy and proud and wearing sunglasses and skateboarding and shit. Kvass was thought to seem antiquated, and also it was supposedly gross, so it died out pretty quickly.
But now, apparently (according to Wikipedia), kvass is enjoying a cultural renaissance. It’s gotten big enough to have its own category on Beeradvocate, and Americans are super unimpressed.
I have nothing to base my opinion off other than intuition, but I will be fucking shocked if this is how traditional kvasses taste. This is very obviously brewed to the paletes of 2015 American beer people: aggressive, wonderful candy sourness up front, then a back end of light sourness and water. The “candy” part cannot be emphasized enough: of all the sours I’ve ever had, this is the one that most closely resembles a roll of shock tarts.
Frankly, if this were easier to find I would drink it all the time. I’m a compulsive, deeply problemed man, and so exceedingly tasty ultra-low ABV beers are sort of my jam. I hesitate to give this world class ratings simply because I have no frame of reference for this review, but I definitely encourage you to try and find some.