A little delight for Russian beer lovers with bite penalties

June 6 (Reuters) – “Sorry, that was our last bottle of Czech beer,” said a waiter at a restaurant in central Moscow, a month after Russia sent troops into Ukraine and the West imposed sweeping sanctions.

More than 100 days after what Russia calls a special military operation in Ukraine, foreign alcoholic beverages are still available in Moscow’s bars, but once-plentiful reserves are dwindling.

“Some of the bars had built up large stocks when it all started. But, as far as I know, no new shipments were ordered and confirmed after February 24,” said Alexander Skripkin, who runs two bars in Moscow.

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Many foreign companies including the country’s leading western breweries Carlsberg (CARLb.CO)Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABI.BR) and Heineken(HEIN.AS)In Russia, sales were halted and the freight trade declined.

This put pressure on the economy and affected the habits of Russians who were accustomed to a large selection of alcoholic drinks made abroad.

“The beer situation is very dismal,” said Anton, a 36-year-old IT expert who works at a state financial institution in Moscow.

“Not to mention Pauliner, Pilsner Urquill and other delicacies, I’m not at all confident that Russian beer is here to stay. There are problems not only with beer imports but even with hops imports,” he added.

Russian breweries rely heavily on imports of raw materials, such as hops.

The Russian Federation of Breweries said, citing Beer Resource, one of the largest distributors of raw materials in Russia’s breweries.

In early March, Carlsberg, AB Inbev and Heineken halted production and sale of their main beer in the country and have since said they would sell their business there. Read more

cargo shipments

The world’s largest foreign container lines – including the three largest companies MSC, Maersk and CMA CGM – have temporarily halted cargo shipments to and from Russia, while European Union countries that share borders with Russia and Belarus have denied entry to freight vehicles registered in those countries.

“There is no Guinness anymore and never will, at least for the time being,” said a bartender at White Hart, a large English-style pub in central Moscow next to the Central Bank. She was selling stout for 690 rubles ($10.83) for a pint.

Diego (DGE.L)Ltd., which makes Smirnoff and Guinness vodka, started its own distribution in Russia in 2006 and once noted huge growth potential in the country. It said in March it was suspending all exports to Russia as well as domestic beer production.

But Guinness, which has a one-year shelf life when stored in kegs, was still available at two nearby bars where bartenders said they were selling stock with little hope of replenishing them anytime soon.

“We have stocks that are supposed to be enough for half a year,” said a representative of the importer of beer Nice Beer, based in a Moscow suburb.

Also, strong alcoholic beverages made abroad can become scarce.

The warehouses are almost empty and the restaurants are selling old stock, said Sergei Mironov, ombudsman for the restaurant business in Moscow.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that sanctions will backfire on the West and provide new opportunities for Russian companies.

“Sometimes when you look at those who leave – thank God, perhaps? We will occupy their fields: our work, our production – it has already grown, and it will remain safely on the ground that our partners have prepared,” Putin said in May. 26. Read more

As foreign influxes of alcohol dry up, bars and stores are considering locally produced drinks.

“We started looking for local alternatives to foreign beer, and as a result, the choice has changed dramatically. Imported alcohol is now 20-50% more expensive, while local beer is a little cheaper than the imported one that was before February 3. 24,” he said. Scribkin.

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(Reuters report) Editing by Ed Osmond

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