St Petersburg, July 31 (Reuters): From the land of vodka to the Islamic Republic: canned beer, but hold the alcohol.
With the blessing of the Tehran government, Russia’s Baltika brewery this week sent its first shipment to Iran — 30,000 litres of Baltika No 0. The non-alcoholic version of Baltika, Russia’s most popular beer, was specially certified by Iranian officials for sale in a country where alcohol sales are banned.
“This is the same product Russian beer drinkers can see on the shop shelves of the Russian Federation. This same product will be supplied to the Islamic republic of Iran,” Baltika Marketing director Igor Karpov said.
The price is higher though — 30,000 rials a can ($3-$4) compared with about 20-25 roubles ($0.66-$0.83) in Russia.
Russia remains a country of committed vodka drinkers more than a millennium after its ruler chose Christianity over Islam as the state religion because — as legend has it — he couldn’t deprive his people of their greatest pleasure. But beer is gaining in popularity, and non-alcoholic beer has found favour because of strict drink-driving rules.
Baltika, jointly controlled by Danish brewer Carlsberg and the UK’s Scottish & Newcastle, says Iranians drink about 12.8 litres of beer a year per person. That compares with about 50 litres per head expected in Russia this year, which is low for Europe. Baltika won’t be the first to supply beer without alcohol to Iranians.
The country’s main brewer, Behnoush Iran Co, sold about 59 million bottles of non-alcoholic beer in 2001, according to its website www.behnoushiran.com. A few independent European brewers such as Dutch Bavaria also ship their non-alcoholic brews there.