Kvass or kvas (literally "leaven"; borrowed in the 16th century from Russian квас ("kvas") [Serjeantson, Mary Sidney. "A History of Foreign Words in English". Page 210.] ), sometimes translated into English as bread drink, is a fermented mildly alcoholic beverage made from black or rye bread. It is popular in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and other Eastern and Central European countries as well as in all ex-Soviet states, like Uzbekistan, where one can see many kvass vendors in the streets. [ [http://www.beerhunter.com/documents/19133-000264.html Michael Jackson's Beer Hunter - Porter and kvass in St. Petersburg ] ] Its origins go back 5,000 years to the beginnings of beer production. [ [http://www.farsonsbeerclub.com/aciviliseddrink.htm A Civilised Drink ] ]

The alcohol content is so low (0.05-1.44%) that it is considered acceptable for consumption by children. It is often flavoured with fruits or herbs such as strawberries or mint. Kvass is also used for preparing a summer cold soup, "okroshka".


Kvass has been a common drink in Eastern Europe since ancient times. It was first mentioned in Old Russian Chronicles in the year 989. In Russia, under Peter the Great, it was the most common non-alcoholic drink in every class of society. Later, in the 19th century, it was reported to be consumed in excess by peasants, low-class citizens, and monks; it was, it is sometimes said, usual for them to drink more kvass than water. It has been both a commercial product and homemade. It used to be consumed widely in most Slavic countries, where in almost every city there are kvass vendors on the street. And "despite its humble folk origins, the fermented-bread drink brewed by Russians for over 1000 years has become a booming multimillion-dollar industry.""Russia's patriotic kvas drinkers say no to cola-nisation." The New Zealand Herald. BUSINESS; General. July 12, 2008.] Moreover, "once sold only during the summer out of wheeled yellow tanks the size of beer barrels, kvas is now bottled, canned and shipped across the country all year round."

Reportedly, "to find authentic kvas, connoisseurs come to a town called Zvenigorod about an hour west of Moscow, where in a basement beneath the onion domes of the town's 15th-century Orthodox monastery, a huge refrigerator chills vats of the muddy brown brew. For over 600 years, monks at the Savvino-Storozhevsky Monastery have been brewing kvas for themselves, and began selling it [in 2001] . Unlike mass-produced varieties, the monastery's kvas has no preservatives and spoils within five days."


Kvass is made by the natural fermentation of bread made from wheat, rye, or barley, and sometimes flavoured with fruit, berries, raisins or birch sap collected in the early spring. Modern homemade kvass most often uses black or rye bread, usually dried, baked into croutons (called "suhari"), or fried, with the addition of sugar or fruit (e.g. apples or raisins), and with a yeast culture and "zakvasska" ("kvass fermentation starter").

Commercial kvass, especially the cheap brands, is sometimes made just like any other soft drink, using sugar, carbonated water, malt extract, and flavourings. Better brands, often made by beer rather than soft drink manufacturers, usually use a variation of the traditional process to brew their products. Kvass is commonly served unfiltered, with the yeast still in it, which adds to its unique flavour as well as its high vitamin B content. Reportedly, although "western imports like Coca-Cola and Pepsi once stifled the commercial kvas market", presently "a kvas revival has taken hold as Russia's companies pitch it as a patriotic cola alternative." Reportedly, in Russia, "bottled kvas sales have tripled in the [since 2005] , according to Moscow-based Business Analytica, and Russians will drink more than three litres per person [in 2008] ." Furthermore, "in Moscow, cola's share of the soft drink market dropped from 37 to 32 per cent between 2005 and 2007, while kvas' market share, 16 per cent in 2007, more than doubled over the same period." Consequently, "Coca-Cola introduced its own brand [in May of 2008] , the first time a non-Russian company entered the market as a key producer, and Pepsi [has also] entered a distribution deal with a Russian kvas company." Reportedly, "new distribution and storage technologies - as well as a heavy dose of Madison Avenue-style marketing - have breathed life into the market, which has seen the entrance of three new major brands since 2004."

For example, "Nikola, [a company with a Russian name] which [sounds like] 'not cola' in Russian, launched an "anti cola-nisation" campaign in Moscow last year that billed its kvas as the Russian alternative to "cola-nist" soft drinks. The company ran ads featuring look-alikes of Michael Jackson and Kiss singer Gene Simmons scaring Russian children and bathers while holding up cola. Then the look-alikes reveal themselves to be 'real Russians' and begin drinking kvas."

Variant names

* Russian, Belarusian, Serbian and Ukrainian: квас ("kvas");
* Polish: "kwas chlebowy" (lit. "bread leaven"), "kwas" on its own means "acid".
* Lithuanian: "gira"
* Estonian: "kali"

Kvass in Latvia

After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the street vendors disappeared from the streets of Latvia due to new health laws that banned its sale on the street and economic disruptions forced many kvass factories to close. The Coca-Cola company moved in and quickly dominated the market for soft drinks, but in 1998 the local soft drink industry fought back by selling bottled kvass and launching an aggressive marketing campaign. This surge was further stimulated by the fact that kvass sold for about half the price of Coca-Cola. In just three years, kvass constituted as much as 30% of the soft drink market in Latvia, while the market share of Coca-Cola fell from 65% to 44%. The Coca-Cola company had losses in Latvia of about $1 million in 1999 and 2000. The situation was similar in the other Baltic countries and in Russia. Coca-Cola retaliated by buying kvass manufacturers and also started making kvass at their soft drink plants. [ [http://web.archive.org/web/20060304041358/http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2002/01/13/financial1217EST0003.DTL&nl=fix The real thing?: Coke cashes in by producing nostalgic, Soviet-era drink ] ] [ [http://www.latvians.com/en/Mailer/envelope.php?2001_06_02.htm#news6 Latvian Mailer - June 2, 2001 ] ] [ [http://www.coca-colahbc.com/country/files/en/baltics/promarket.html Coca-Cola HBC - Products and Marketing ] ] [ [http://atlanta.bizjournals.com/atlanta/stories/2001/05/28/daily28.html Coca-Cola ups stake in Estonia - Atlanta Business Chronicle: ] ]

imilar beverages

Other beverages from around the world that are traditionally low-alcohol and lacto-fermented include:
* Kombucha
* Chicha
* Ibwatu
* Pulque
* Toddy
* Malta

References in Literature

*In Fyodor Dostoevsky's "The Brothers Karamazov", monastery kvass is mentioned in the dinner scene as being famous throughout the neighborhood. ["The Brothers Karamazov". Fyodor Dostoevsky. p. 85. Farrar, Straus and Giroux (June 14, 2002). ISBN 0374528373.]
*In Leo Tolstoy's "The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Other Stories", kvass is also mentioned. ["The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Other Stories'. Leo Tolstoy. p. 127 Penguin Classics (May 27, 2008). ISBN 0140449612.]


External links

* [http://www.beerhunter.com/documents/19133-000264.html Michael Jackson: Porter and kvass in St. Petersburg]
* [http://www.westonaprice.org/foodfeatures/kvass.htm Sally Fallon: Kvass and Kombucha: Gifts From Russia]
* [http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/06285/729184-34.stm Brewer tosses rye bread in mix to make a Russian 'kvass']
* [http://post-gazette.com/pg/06292/731120-34.stm The kvass is ready]
* [http://www.russlandjournal.de/en/recipes/drinks/kvass.html Easy kvass recipe]
* [http://www.russianfoods.com/cuisine/article0000D/default.asp Russian Foods Description]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • kvass — (n.) Russian fermented drink made from rye or barley, 1550s, from Rus. kvas leaven, from O.C.S. kvasu yeast, cognate with L. caseus cheese (see CHEESE (Cf. cheese)) …   Etymology dictionary

  • kvass — or kvas [kə väs′] n. [Russ kvas < IE * kwātso < base * kwat , to ferment > L caseus,CHEESE1] a Russian fermented drink made from rye, barley, rye bread, etc. and often flavored …   English World dictionary

  • kvass — Quass Quass, n. [Russ. kvas .] A thin, sour beer, made by pouring warm water on rye or barley meal and letting it ferment, much used by the Russians. Called also {kvass}. [written also {quas}.] [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • kvass — gira statusas Aprobuotas sritis vanduo ir gaivieji gėrimai apibrėžtis Gėrimas, gaminamas rauginant giros misą mikroorganizmų kultūrų raugu, po rauginimo pridedant arba nepridedant cukrinių ir kitų maisto žaliavų bei maisto priedų, kurio alkoholio …   Lithuanian dictionary (lietuvių žodynas)

  • kvass — noun Etymology: Russian kvas Date: circa 1553 a slightly alcoholic beverage of eastern Europe made from fermented mixed cereals and often flavored …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Kvass — Kvas Du kvas fait maison, aromatisé à la menthe …   Wikipédia en Français

  • kvass — /kvahs, kwahs/, n. a Russian beer made from fermenting rye or barley and having a dark color and sour taste. Also, quass. [1545 55; < Russ kvas] * * * …   Universalium

  • kvass — noun A type of traditional fermented Russian no or low alcohol beverage, made from bread, often flavored with fruit …   Wiktionary

  • kvass — n. dark sour Russian beer made from fermented rye or barley (also quass) …   English contemporary dictionary

  • kvass — [kvα:s] noun a Russian fermented drink made from rye flour or bread with malt. Origin from Russ. kvas …   English new terms dictionary

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