Russian Baltika #6

March 3, 2012 § 4 Comments

One of my fun assignments as a NASA contractor involved several years living in Moscow.  Although it was exciting working on the International Space Station Program, what I’d really like to tell you about is Russian beer.

Before Russia, I wasn’t really a connoisseur of beer.  Oh, I’d occasionally buy a six pack of specialty beer at the grocery store.  A couple of times, I even tried brewing my own beer, which was actually pretty fun, until it exploded in the laundry room.

When I moved to Russia, I became aware of how excellent beer can be.  Do you know that Budweiser Beer  is available in Russia?  And, it’s nothing like the Budweiser found in the ‘States.  In all my years in Russia, I never did learn if their Budweiser is made by the same people who make “our” Budweiser…regardless, the Moscow Bud is very tasty.

One of my favorite beers though, is Russian Baltika #6.  Up until Baltika #6, beer was a take it or leave it thing…I really couldn’t care less.

One Saturday though, I was heading out to run some errands (errands in Moscow mean much time spent on the Metro, accompanied by lots of walking, and hauling many bags of accumulated stuff all over town).  In the lobby of my apartment building, I ran into one of my NASA colleagues, an astronaut, who also was planning a day of errand-running.  So, we headed out together, me selfishly thinking that perhaps I might be able to get a little help carrying my many bags of expensive Russian vegetable market produce back to the apartment.  It was a good day, and he did indeed help me carry my haul, which was significant (I’m one of those people who buys way more food than needed, because I “worry” that there might not be enough…maybe it has something to do with being part of a big family, but I always buy too much).

On the way back, my friend, who was probably worn out from having to carry a tea-set I’d purchased for my grandmother, a pair of night vision goggles (which I spontaneously decided to purchase in the flea market), my weekly grocery shopping, plus three very large bags of tomatoes (why yes, I am prone to buying excessive amounts of produce merely because it looks attractive) suggested that we stop for a break.  I think he was tired from gallantly hauling my crap stuff all over town.  His suggestion was that we stop IMMEDIATELY, not because he was tired or anything, because he wasn’t – being a big strong astronaut and all.  No, he just wanted to maybe have a beer, and relax for awhile.  When he said this, we just happened to be standing in front of the Pizza Hut restaurant in Moscow, which actually is very good (it’s not like the Pizza Hut restaurants in Texas, which I never go to because they’re terrible).  And, just to let you know, even though I am certainly not any expert on Pizza Hut, I have actually tried Pizza Hut in many different countries, which causes me to wonder why the restaurant is so TERRIBLE in the States, and usually so good elsewhere.

So, in we go to Pizza Hut, because my friend needs a break (not that carrying all of my shopping bags has worn him completely out).  We peruse the pizza and beer selection, and he says, looking over the top of his menu,  “you look a little pale; are you getting enough iron?”  He’s an astronaut and also a doctor, and so by default, he’s an expert on iron deficiency.  “I’m not sure,” I say, “what constitutes iron deficiency?”  He runs through the symptoms of iron deficiency, which sound exactly like what I feel like every day….tiredness, pale skin, weakness (of course, this is just about every girl in the world who works 60+ hour weeks, which is still my typical week).  So, just like that, I’ve been diagnosed as iron-deficient.  “What can I do?” I ask.  He responds, with seriousness, “You probably aren’t getting enough beer.  Dark beer has lots of iron, and you just need to drink more of it.”

So, thus began my therapeutic love affair with Russia’s Baltika #6.  Thank goodness it isn’t available here in the States, or I’d be an alcoholic by now (and please don’t send me an email and tell me about how I can buy Baltika #6 here in Texas, because I really don’t need to be drinking that much beer).

Since my discovery of Baltika #6, I’ve started taking iron supplements from my doctor, so I don’t need to drink beer any more “for the iron.”  Not that I ever did a good job, keeping my iron intake up through drinking beer.  Although I do like the taste of a good beer, I’ve never been able to really hold my liquor.

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§ 4 Responses to Russian Baltika #6

  • viveka says:

    Brilliant – you have the relationship to a Russian beer as I have to a Chinese – don’t like beer at all – like it just I drink it, but afterward I feel slimy in my mouth. Until I met Tsingtao Beer – in China. The Chinese told us not to drink cold when it was hot weather, because it gets the heart rate up and we sweat even more, drink body temperature drinks and they where so right – but during the evenings I could take a Tsingtao Beer at the Seaman club in Shanghai. Back in Sweden I found out that I could buy the beer in the government run liquor store – but they never had it in stock, because to order more they had to send the bottles back. and it took ages for them to get deliveries. Cheers!

  • df says:

    Great story, Libby, and you beat me to sharing our beer stories! I’ve just posted my Guinness-related story finally. I must say, dark beer whether it’s porter, stout or something similar, is a great alternative to pill-form iron supplements! And what a guy, diagnosing you in the middle of a Russian Pizza Hut! Your Pizza Hut observations are so dead-on too. Why is that we North Americans have to go overseas for a good chain or ‘fast’ food experience? Why can’t we get that right ourselves?

    • Libby says:

      So, true…even the Pizza Hut in Korea is better than ours. And also, I do wonder exactly how much iron is in a glass of Porter beer (I think I’ll check).

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