As I have written before, I have a fondness for Bud Light (BL)*. Sadly, Russia does not import it. It used to, but in 2010 Anheuser-Busch (AB) prematurely terminated its BL import and licensing agreement, due to abysmal sales. Apparently BL’s superior drinkability™ only won it something like 0.1% of the import beer market share. How do I know this? Because I went on a recon mission** after not finding any BL among my supermarket’s 100-something beer varieties, foreign and domestic. I was distraught.

Beer and 'lightly alcoholic beverage' aisle at the Auchan supermarket. Image credit: RIA.

Beer and ‘lightly alcoholic beverages’ aisle at the Auchan supermarket. No shortage of options. Image credit: RIA.

The logical course of action was to find an appropriate substitute among local offerings. After tasting pretty much every single mass-produced Russian beer and a number of imports (over several weeks, ok?), I settled on Klinskoye. The ‘light’ iteration is the flagship Klinskoye product (I also enjoy the ‘living’ version – Russian term for unfiltered beer, like Blue Moon or Hoegaarden) and is one of the most popular local beers – practically the Russian Bud Light***. As a matter of fact, Kilnskoye is owned by AB, making the ‘Russian BL’ moniker even more fitting.

A variety of Klinskoye beers: Light, Arriba (no clue), Ultra Light and Mojito. Image credit: Wellhead.

A variety of Klinskoye beers: Light, Arriba (no clue), Ultra Light and Mojito. Image credit: Wellhead.

Still, the taste of Klinskoye was noticeably different from BL, and I kept being drawn back to the closest thing to the original BL that Russia had to offer – Bud (Budweiser in the US, but simply Bud in Europe, because of a trademark dispute). So, six to eight months into my repatriation, Bud became my beer of choice.

Like it really needed an illustration... Image credit: Walmart.

Like it really needed an illustration… Image credit: Walmart.

Everything was fine and dandy for about a year, until a couple of weeks ago I walked into my local Pyatyorochka (a small grocery chain) and noticed that the price of Bud has dropped by more than 10% since the previous week. By the way, this was a second price drop in 6 months – Bud went from costing RR52/16oz can mid-winter, to RR50 in early spring, to RR44 ($1.35) today. This, in a country not exactly known for deflationary tendencies!

Pyatyorochka supermarket (named this way for a 5-ruble note) near my work.

Pyatyorochka supermarket (named this way for a 5-ruble note) near my work.

Beer section at Pyatyorochka -- it's a small grocery. I had to be stealth personified to take this photo - Russian stores will kick you out for trying to take a picture.

Beer section at Pyatyorochka — it’s a small grocery. I had to be stealth personified to take this photo – Russian stores will kick you out for trying to take a picture.

Naturally, I panicked – what if this is AB’s dumping price before Bud exits the market too?!?!?! – but after a frazzled web search, it turned out that my worries were for naught: apparently, Bud is actually gaining popularity in Russia! Who knows, maybe it will give AB the incentive to try a Bud Light re-launch sometime soon? A girl can dream!

Also, last week I discovered this magnificent establishment:

I have never before seen one in my life. I'm not even sure there are Bud Diners anywhere else in the world.

I have never seen one before, anywhere.

Yes, it is a Bud Diner. Right in my neighborhood. The reviews are pretty bad, but for me it is a ‘win’ by default, simply because of the name association.

If you are curious about the Russian beer market, you can read more here, and for more fun facts about international beer consumption, check out the always excellent Lady of the Cakes.

*A few weeks ago I once again Googled “’bud light’” and “Russia” and this blog showed up in the top 10 query results. That might have been my proudest life accomplishment to date. I am hoping this post will push me even higher.,or.r_cp.r_qf.&fp=a866b5ed34aa4764&newwindow=1&q=%22bud+light%22+russia

**Thanks again, Google Search! I think it was an industry report of sorts but I was not able to find that document again for this post.  But I will!

***I think Baltika is the primary exported Russian beer, and thus is the best known Russian beer internationally – I used to buy it at Brighton Beach in NYC.

19 thoughts on “MOSCOW DRINKS: BEST BUDS

  1. Finally! The post on beer!!!
    As for brand shares, this is what I’ve got (total volume sales of beer in Russia % breakdown by brandshare, 2012:
    Baltika (Carlsberg) 14.7%
    Klinskoye (Anheuser-Busch) 4.9%
    Arsenalnoe (Carlsberg) 4.0%
    Bely Medved (Andalou Group) 3.5%
    Tuborg (Carlsberg) 3.5%
    Gold Mine Beer (Andalou Group) 3.3%
    Bolshaya Kruzhka (Carlsberg) 3.1%
    Ochota (Heineken) 3.1%
    Velkopopovicky Kozel (SABMiller) 2.3%
    Zolotaya Bochka (Andalou Group) 2.3%
    Sibirskaya (Anheuser-Busch) 2.2%

    Budweiser is right down in 25th place with a 1.1% share, up from 0.5% in 2010, so it does seem to be gaining in popularity

  2. a bud diner?! that’s awesome/crazy. you know, bud light was my drink of choice out of college and the only thing that i would request for the past 10 years. then i moved to belgium (also, completely shocked that the home country of inbev, who owns AB, does not sell BL!) and had to get used to their much stronger beer selections. and then! a couple weeks ago (after a year of living here), my friend took me to the nato grocery store where i found BL….but the first sip into it, i almost spit it out. it tasted like river water! 25 year old annie would NOT be proud!
    also, I googled ‘bud light’ + ‘russia’ and found you pretty high up! (i clicked on it, so maybe it’ll boost your seo a little…is that how it works? no idea, but hopefully!) cheers!

    • OMG, thanks for the Google! Now I have to go do that again 🙂 I used to hop over to Brussels while studying in Paris. Gueuze Lambic was my go-to beer. I even toured one of the breweries that makes it! Btw, what are your thoughts on Waterzooi Stew? My ultimate Belgian comfort food!.

      • the cantillon brewery tour? that’s our go-to with’s so quaint! i haven’t tried it yet! we have a belgian cookbook called ‘applie pie to waterzooi’ but have yet to open it….but if you recommend it, we’ll have to try it soon!

      • I think that was exactly the tour! I got to hear a great story about how Guinness got its original rich meaty flavor from the rats who used to fall and drown in the tubs of brewing beer. I might have just ruined it for you, didnt I?

  3. Congratulations on the google search!

    Have you tried Sibirskaya? Stupid question, probably but I swear their “pivo s laimom” tastest just like BL lime. But I’m connoisseur like you.

    • You mean Sibirskaya Korona? Then yes. But I wont try anything with lime. UGH. I do enjoy unfiltered Klinskoye but I havent seen it around lately… actually, not even every store carries Bud!

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