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Oakes Weekly - September 30 2004

Moscow Part 1
Oakes Weekly September 30, 2004      
Written by Oakes

Vancouver, CANADA -

I arrived in Moscow on the overnight train. I had a lot of trouble getting settled and a few matters attended to. This would be a running theme during my stay in what would come to be probably my least favourite city ever. The first night I was able to pay a visit to one brewpub, the centrally-located <A HREF=../Ratings/Beer/ShowBrewer.asp?BrewerID=5016 target=_blank>Arsentich</A>. Decor-wise, it’s a pretty basic characterless bar, the likes of which I wouldn’t normally bother with, but it’s a brewpub so I was there.

The house beers were pale and dark lagers, with the pale coming in filtered and unfiltered forms. They tasted - and quite frankly looked - pretty much the same. They are good examples of the helles style, with a fresh malt character and slight berrying twang. The dunkel was metallic and thin-tasting. I thought it was perhaps a little long in the tooth.

When the bill arrived, I learned how this may have come to be. Prices for the pales were steep by Russian standards, but not of huge concern because they cost pretty much what I would pay in Toronto. The dunkel, however, at $9.50 per half-litre, stands as one of the most expensive draughts I’ve ever bought. I don’t think I paid that much even in Scandinavia. And it wasn’t even fresh! Throw in $4.50 for a couple of dried fish and I went from smiling about the calibre of the pales to grumbling about the place. Of that night’s bottled macros, <A HREF=../Ratings/Beer/Beer-Ratings.asp?BeerID=30355 target=_blank>Stary Melnik Krepkoe</A> impressed me with its well-balanced structure.

The next day I forgot my map when beerhunting and ended up three metro stops away from where I should have been. Suffice to say, I didn’t find the place.

So day three began with a mission to hit three more brewpubs. Moscow, as lousy a place as it is to have to spend time - all garish or grotty, with none of the style, charisma or poetic magnetism that so many other megacities have - is blessed with numerous small breweries.

First up was <A HREF=../Ratings/Beer/ShowBrewer.asp?BrewerID=5017 target=_blank>Angara</A>, the first 24-hour brewpub that I’ve encountered. This is situated on tacky Novy Arbat, splattered with neon like it wants to be Vegas. This is Moscow’s answer to Nevskiy Prospekt? Anyway, they too do a filtered/unfiltered pale, though less successfully than Arsentich. Their glasses were dirty and frozen (I guess to hide the dirt, as this is hardly de rigeur in Russia). An okay spot and given the opening hours there’s not much excuse for missing it if you happen to pass through town.

<A HREF=../Ratings/Beer/ShowBrewer.asp?BrewerID=5018 target=_blank>Sixteen Tons</A> is a British pub that does the light/dark thing, but I’m pretty sure they are ales (they didn’t speak much English so I couldn’t confirm - brewpub staff in Russia seem as dim about the beers they serve as ones in Canada). Both were decent. The doorman glared at me with great suspicion on account of my picture-taking. I’ve been to enough pubs that if I wanted to knock one over, I wouldn’t need pictures to figure out where the bar is. Bloody hell, you could jab my eyes out and I’d still know where the bar is. Though not on when I visited, apparently Sixteen Tons does a braggot as well.

The final stop was <A HREF=../Ratings/Beer/ShowBrewer.asp?BrewerID=5019 target=_blank>Durdin</A>, a restaurant in a giant hall near Sokol station. I wanted a sample platter so as not to stumble out of there, and the waiter at first tried to refuse. We did the "nyet"-"da" thing for a while and he finally relented. Upselling pisses me off at the best of times but lying to try and do it is guaranteed to get my blood flowing. The pale beers sucked, but the two darker lagers and the wheat were okay. To top it off, the mushroom pelmeny I ordered came topped with Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup. Don’t give me canned soup and call yourself a restaurant.

The next day included a visit to the Elephant, a bar with a few types of beer. The Justin Timberlake special on the tube didn’t encourage me to linger, but I had some of the house weissbier. On the menu, this is credited to Germany, and that’s how I tasted it. They had some Spaten taps, so it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if it was Franziskaner. No worries, really - I didn’t go there expecting a brewpub.

The brewpub of the day was <A HREF=../Ratings/Beer/ShowBrewer.asp?BrewerID=5023 target=_blank>Pyatiy Okean</A> ("Fifth Ocean"). They have taps at each table so you can pour your own. What the hell the bartender does I’ll never know. The amount is measured electronically. They do a decent pale and dark. Both beers, especially the pale, seem rather wheaty and it wouldn’t surpise me if that was the idea.

Speaking of wheats, I was quite happy when searching for something new, I noticed <A HREF=../Ratings/Beer/Beer-Ratings.asp?BeerID=29796 target=_blank>Sibirskaya Korona Beloye</A>. Beloye means "white" and that’s the style of the beer. The brewery is part of the Interbrew family so no doubt they garnered some knowledge, which helped them make one of Russia’s best macrobrews.

The next day, though, I had to get the hell out of Moscow.



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start quote I’ve been to enough pubs that if I wanted to knock one over, I wouldn’t need pictures to figure out where the bar is. Bloody hell, you could jab my eyes out and I’d still know where the bar is. end quote