Weird History: Russian Army’s Beer Rescue

Here’s an odd one from recent history. On January 20, 2004, the BBC had a headline that read: Russian army rescues kegs of beer. Subtitled “Russian troops have retrieved 10 tonnes of beer trapped under the Siberian ice after a week-long operation,” you know you’re in for something special. Here’s the story:

A lorry carrying the beer was lost while crossing the frozen River Irtysh, near the city of Omsk, about 2,200 kilometres (1400 miles) from Moscow.

The driver managed to jump out after the ice gave way, but the lorry and its cargo sank.

Six divers, 10 men with electric saws and a tank pulled the beer kegs – but not the truck – to safety.


Beer going cheap

With temperatures reaching -27C, the rescue mission was fraught with problems.

Russia’s Tass news agency reported that the recovery team eventually managed to pull the vehicle through a hole in the ice.

They retrieved the kegs of beer but the rope snapped and the truck slipped back under the water.

The Rosar brewery in Omsk said the freezing temperatures probably kept the quality of the beer from deteriorating and said it will still take the delivery.

It plans to sell the beer at a discount.

As many people commented at the time, at least the Russian Army had their priorities straight.

The Tass News Agency added the same day:

Russia has sent in the army to bolster a week-long struggle to rescue 10 tons of beer trapped under Siberian ice, Itar-Tass news agency said Tuesday. A lorry carrying the beer sank when trying to cross the frozen Irtysh river, and a rescue team of six divers, 10 workers and a modified T-72 tank from the emergencies ministry have so far failed to save the load.

“The situation hasn’t developed according to our ideal scenario,” the deputy head of the Cherlaksky region, told the agency. Temperatures were around minus 27 degrees Celsius (minus 17 degrees Fahrenheit) in the region, near the Siberian city of Omsk and around 1,400 miles from Moscow.

A week-long effort to cut a 100 yard corridor to the river bank to pull the truck to dry land failed when the vehicle was swept away from the rescue site, Tass said.

But it said the soldiers were confident it would take them just a day to retrieve the beer.


Naked Beer Cans

This is an interesting design, generic beer cans, made to look as if they were essentially clear and showing the contents inside, albeit in an idealized way. They were created by Timur Salikhov, a designer from St. Petersburg, Russia.


He starts with the premise “Why hide what good beer looks like?”


And then he designed the cans to appear as if they were a freshly poured glass of beer. It’s fun concept and apparently he’d like to sell the idea to a brewery. I think the only unfortunate aspect of his design is that without additional branding on the package, it may look too generic. BUt it sure looks like a beer I’d like to open.


Russia Beer

Today in 1991, Russia gained their Independence from the USSR.


Russia Breweries

Russia Brewery Guides

Other Guides

Guild: The Union of Russian Brewers

National Regulatory Agency: Federal Service for Consumer Rights and Social Welfare, Ministry of Health and Social Development

Beverage Alcohol Labeling Requirements: Labels must include the following information: Product name (and type, for beer); Manufacturer name and address; Trademark, if any; Date marking (both bottling and use-by dates); Alcohol by volume (expressed as minimal content for beer); Special instructions for storage; Reference to applicable regulatory compliance document; Certification information. Also, Additives must be listed, and for beer, label must include information on extractability of original wort, basic source composition, major ingredients listing (determined by manufacturer), and nutritional value.

Drunk Driving Laws: BAC 0.00%


  • Full Name: Russian Federation
  • Location: North Asia bordering the Arctic Ocean, extending from Europe (the portion west of the Urals) to the North Pacific Ocean
  • Government Type: Federation
  • Language: Russian (official), many minority languages
  • Religion(s): Russian Orthodox 15-20%, Muslim 10-15%, other Christian 2%; Russia has large populations of non-practicing believers and non-believers, a legacy of over 70 years of Soviet rule
  • Capital: Moscow (Moskva)
  • Population: 138,082,178; 9th
  • Area: 17,098,242 sq km, 1st
  • Comparative Area: Approximately 1.8 times the size of the US
  • National Food: Shchi, Kasha and Pelmeni
  • National Symbols: Bear, Golden Bicephalic Eagle; Birch tree; Moscow Kremlin, Saint Basil’s Cathedral, Matryoshka doll, AK47, Khokhloma, Ushanka, Kosovorotka; Red Star, Spasskaya Tower, Khokhloma, Double-headed eagle; Volga River
  • Affiliations: UN, CIS
  • Independence: From the Soviet Union, August 24, 1991 / Notable Earlier Dates: 1157 (Principality of Vladimir-Suzdal created); January 16, 1547 (Tsardom of Muscovy established); October 22, 1721 (Russian Empire proclaimed); December 30, 1922 (Soviet Union established)


  • Alcohol Legal: Yes
  • Minimum Drinking Age: None (to drink); 18 (to buy) [Note: There is no law or regulation in Russia that prohibits minors from consuming alcohol, but selling alcohol to minors is prohibited by federal and additional regional laws.]
  • BAC: 0.00% [Note, WHO claims 0.03%]
  • Number of Breweries: 160


  • How to Say “Beer”: pivo / Пиво
  • How to Order a Beer: odno pivo, pozhaluysta / одно пиво, пожалуйста
  • How to Say “Cheers”: Budem zdorovy (“let’s stay healthy”) / Chtob vse byli zdorovy (“let everybody be healthy”) / Na zdorovia *may not actually be used* / Na zdorovje (“to your health”) / Za sbychu mecht / будем здоровы / за ваше здоровье / пей до дна
  • Toasting Etiquette: Begin eating only after somebody says a toast, even if there is no alcohol on the table [which is almost impossible]. Toasting is a very important part of dining. Toasts are common The host starts and guests reply. Do not drink until the first toast is offered. After a toast, many Russians like to clink their glasses together. Do not do so if you are drinking something non-alcoholic.

    Not drinking is a serious handicap to doing business in Russia. It’s the way things are done. In all but the most Westernized circles, you will have trouble winning trust if you do not get drunk with your hosts. It’s considered a way of breaking down barriers and getting to know the real you. Refusing to drink is unacceptable unless you give a plausible excuse, such as explaining that health or religious reasons prevent you from imbibing. Also you may smile and pretend that you are drinking, to show that you accept the toast and respect those around you. If you feel that you’re getting intoxicated, avoid signing anything.


Alcohol Consumption By Type:

  • Beer: 33%
  • Wine: 1%
  • Spirits: 63%
  • Other: 3%

Alcohol Consumption Per Capita (in litres):

  • Recorded: 11.03
  • Unrecorded: 4.73
  • Total: 15.76
  • Beer: 3.65

WHO Alcohol Data:

  • Per Capita Consumption: 11 litres
  • Alcohol Consumption Trend: Stable
  • Excise Taxes: Yes
  • Minimum Age: 18
  • Sales Restrictions: Time, location, specific events, intoxicated persons, petrol stations
  • Advertising Restrictions: N/A
  • Sponsorship/Promotional Restrictions: N/A

Patterns of Drinking Score: 5

Prohibition: 1914-1925


Beer In Ads #552: Russian Beer Queen

Tuesday’s ad is for a Russian brewer, though which one is a bit of a mystery, primarily because I don’t know the cyrillic alphabet. Though I’m pretty sure “Mockba” is Moscow, so that’s probably where the brewery is/was located. But the woman with the beer looks like she’s wearing a crown and holding a wreath of hops and barley.


Beer In Art #134: Jean Beraud’s Open-Air Ball

This week’s work of art is by a Russian artist, Jean Béraud, though he lived much of his life in France during the Belle Epoque. Open-air Ball, or Le Bal public, was painted in 1880.


Depicting a typical scene of Paris night life in the 1880s, speculation has the setting being the Closerie des Lilas cafe. People are dancing on the right-hand portion of the painting, but resting with glasses of beer on the left, as shown in a detail of the artwork below.


You can read Béraud’s biography at Wikipedia, and also at the Tate. You can see more of Béraud’s paintings at All Posters and Hoocher.

Beer In Art #61: Alex Arshansky’s Cheers

Today’s works of art is quite modern, painted in a style that’s been described as “biomorphic cubism with a touch of surrealism.” The title of the acrylic painting is Cheers, and it was completed last year, in 2009.


The artist, Alex Arshansky, moved with his family from Moscow, Russia to Tucson, Arizona when he was 18. From his Fine Art America biography:

Alexander was born in Moscow and has moved to Arizona (USA) at the age of 18. As the East met West, his work has evolved and become more expressive, depicting symbolic, ambiguous forms and subjects. The critics and art lovers define Alexander’s style as Biomorphic Cubism with elements of surrealism. Great attention is paid to numbers, letters, signs and symbols. Alexander’s works feature vivid, saturated colors – they produce a visual impact even without understanding the content of the painting. Some of his art pieces present a challenging interpretation of religious events and common dogmas to the point of insult.

You can see more of Arshansky’s work at his own website and also at Fine Art America.