Balika Beer

Baltika Breweries (Балтика) began producing beer as a state enterprise in 1990. It was formed by originally merging Soviet-built brewing facilities under the LenPivo (Leningrad Region Beer) name. When that company was privatized in 1992, the assets were purchased by a consortium of Scandinavian brewing companies from Norway, Sweden, and Finland. The name “Baltika” was taken from the Baltic Sea, with which the Leningrad Region and much of Scandinavia share boarders.

Despite being foreign owned, Baltika has long been marketed as Russia’s national brand. Even internationally, Balitika is associated with Russia much as Budweiser is with the US. The two brands also share criticisms and strengths as well – they are relatively cheap, mass produced, and nearly ubiquitously available throughout their respective countries, and are not generally credited as the highest quality beer available. Despite criticisms, however, Baltika is today Russia’s second largest brewer and holds more than a third of the Russian beer market. It is also Russia’s largest beer exporter. Its international recognition was recently bolstered when it became the official beer supplier of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

Baltika has been, since 2012, wholly owned by Carlsburg, a Danish brewing company, which perhaps still within its general tradition as Denmark is also part of Scandinavia. It continues as well to be Russia’s national brand.

Baltika major beers are known by numbers rather than by name. It is a common myth that the numbers refer to the alcohol content of beer. While these numbers sometimes roughly align, the myth is not actually true. Baltika’s major branded beers are Baltika 0, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, and 9.

 

Baltika №0 Non-alcoholic (Безалкогольноe)
Type: Non-alcoholic
ABV: Less than 0.5%

Production of Baltika 0 began in 2001 and holds about 60% of the non-alcoholic beer market in Russia. It is produced with a traditional recipe and tastes like a light beer. In March 2017, Baltika announced an expansion of their non-alcoholic beer line. The press release attributes the growing popularity of non-alcoholic beer to a federal initiative aimed at promoting responsible beer consumption.

 

Baltika №2 Pale (Светлое)
Type: Pale Lager
ABV: 4.7%

This pale lager starts sweet and has a soft bitter finish.

 

Baltika №3 Classic (Классическое)
Type: Pale Lager
ABV: 4.8%

For ten years running Baltika 3 has been awarded the Russian Commodity of the Year prize in the beer category of mass consumption products. Number 3 is Baltika’s most popular beer and has a slightly sweet malty flavor.

 

Baltika №4 Original (Оригинальное)
Type: Dark Lager
ABV: 5.6%

Baltika 4 is an amber pour produced with rye malt, giving it a sweet bready flavor and light bitterness. It is one of the oldest brands in the Baltika family of beers and is produced only at the St. Petersburg brewery.

 

Baltika №6 Porter (Портер)
Type: Porter
ABV: 7%

Baltika’s porter beer is brewed from an English recipe. This full-bodied beer tastes of nuts and molasses. In 2000, British beer connoisseur Michael Jackson (not the American pop star) included the brew as the only Russian beer in the “Great Beer Guide: 500 Classic Brews.”

 

Baltika №7 Export (Экспортное)
Type: Lager
ABV: 5.4%

True to its name, №7 is exported to more than 75 countries worldwide, including Finland, South Korea, the U.S., Iran, England, and Germany. It also sells well inside Russia. The straw-colored pour leads with pale malts and a clean finish.

 

Baltika №8 Wheat (Пшеничное)
Type: Wheat
ABV: 5%

This dense brew produces a hazy, golden color and contains the classic sweetness of a Hefeweizen with hints of banana, clove, and yeast. The beer is unfiltered, and, according to Baltika’s website, contains “biologically active substances useful for health.”

 

Baltika №9 Strong (Крепкое)
Type: Strong lager
ABV: 8%

Baltika 9 pours a clear yellow gold and has a syrupy sweet yet bold body. Best enjoyed on a cold night, the alcohol content in this beer is sure to keep you warm.

 

These numbered beers remain Baltika’s best known products, but Baltika has also been experimenting with other flavors and types, particularly in the face of the current explosion of local craft beers now produced in Russia.

 

This is a video introduction to Baltika’s products in English.

 

This is an advertisement for one of Baltika’s newest additions to its lineup, Baltika Tap Beer.

 

Katheryn Weaver is a student of rhetoric and history at the University of Texas, Austin. Her primary areas of investigation include revolution and the rhetorical justification of violence against individuals, state, and society. She is currently studying Russian as a Second Language with SRAS's Home and Abroad Scholarship.