The Strange Way Russia Used To Classify Beer

Beer, the favorite beverage of college students and Homer Simpson, the popular fictional character from the American animated sitcom "The Simpsons," has been enjoyed around the world for millennia. It is believed that the first-ever beer recipe was concocted in ancient Mesopotamia, predominantly by Sumerian women, according to Reader's Digest. Over the years, beer has become one of the most widely consumed drinks on the planet, with well over 100 types of beer in existence today, per Homebrew Academy. From lagers and pilsners to IPAs and stouts, there's a brewski that can satisfy pretty much any palate  — if you're into drinking it, of course.

According to data from World Population Review, the top three countries that pride themselves on the highest consumption of beer are China, the United States, and Brazil. And while the nation sitting in fourth place is perhaps best known for its thriving vodka market, Russia indulged in nearly 2.3 million gallons of beer in 2020. However, up until about a decade ago, Russians were, in fact, not indulging in alcoholic refreshments when they drank beer. But, how could this be?

Beer wasn't classified as alcohol in Russia until recently

Back in 2011, Russia finally decided to legally consider beer alcoholic, BBC reported. Dmitry Medvedev, who served as the president of Russia from 2008 to 2012, signed a bill that officially put beer on the list of boozy beverages. Before then, products that contained less than 10% alcohol were categorized as everyday soft drinks. The bill, which set a limit on beer advertising, enforced a minimum drinking age, and narrowed store hours during which beer can be sold and purchased, was officially passed in 2013.

As one may expect, the legislation had been a topic of debate for years before it was passed. The Globe and Mail shared in 2004 that many Russians were advocates of beer as an around-the-clock elixir that made consumers of any age healthier and smarter. In the 2000s, vodka sales in Russia plummeted by 30% when beer was regarded as the country's preferred alternative, more healthier beverage. 

The decision to reclassify beer as an alcoholic drink by the Russian government was primarily made to limit the consumption of alcohol in Russia in a bid to prevent alcohol abuse, which results in nearly 600,000 deaths every year, per The Lancet.