*Packaging may vary
Jester King Kvass
Kvass /3.4% ABV / Texas, United States
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- Texas, United States
- Suggested Glassware
- Pint Glass, Stein/Pub Mug
Kvass is a farmhouse ale brewed with bread from Miche Bread in Austin, Texas!View all products by Jester King BreweryCalifornia Residents: Click here for Proposition 65 WARNING
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Kvass is a distinctly Russian brew made from soaking dark-brown bread with natural flavors (usually honey or mint) and yeast; give this witch’s brew a few days to ferment and develop some mild carbonation and a little booze, and the result is a sour Russian treat called kvass. Pronounced like “kuh-vass,” this isn’t the easiest specialty beer to track down, though some small, American breweries are producing authentic varieties of the sour Russian favorite. However, kvass is a staple in Russian homes (during the Soviet Union, it was considered safer to drink than water) so it’s relatively simple to craft a home-brewed version.
To help explain this curious Russian staple, you might begin by comparing kvass to kombucha: both are relatively low in alcohol, are considered a living beverage (thanks to the bacteria cultures) and both deliver a uniquely sour taste. However, the similarities end there; while kombucha is often sweet and sparkling, kvass is savory and salty, possessing a heavy rye flavor thanks to the Russian dark-brown bread used as its base. To help balance some of the overwhelming bitter and sour notes, kvass brewers typically add natural flavors including honey, raisins, mint, sugar, cinnamon, birch sap or even cherries and raspberries.
Russian kvass is generally less than 2% alcohol by volume; because the recipe lacks hops (which serve as a natural preservative in beer), kvass isn’t fermented for very long, leading to relatively low alcohol content. Traditional kvass relied on a spontaneous fermentation method (allowing wild yeasts to feast on the kvass wort), but many home-brew recipes actually use baker’s yeast; neither will produce the high alcohol results that one might achieve with brewer’s yeast. Kvass is low enough in alcohol that it’s a popular choice for Russian children, especially during the summer months, when kvass is served cold like a refreshing soda.
Kvass is most often described as sour and bitter, flavors that might be challenging to pair easily with a meal; because of the drink’s complexity, lean on simpler menu items that can use a little extra kick and play well with the sourness. For example, a pork loin with an herby sauce or a winter salad with a lemony dressing is simple enough to balance the bold flavors in kvass. In Russia, they pair kvass with pretty much everything (in fact, it’s considered as popular as vodka in Russian households), so you can’t go wrong by featuring distinctly Russian ingredients like pickles, sour cream, beets and smoked fish.
Kvass is traditionally a homestyle brew in Russia, something simple yet pungent that helped families survive during the leaner Soviet Union years; as such, there isn’t a specific style of glassware — it’s far too humble for that. Kvass is often sold in local stalls and sometimes from a giant, rolling barrel around which people queue up to fill their mugs; homemade kvass is typically stored in basic jugs or jars. Generally, kvass is treated much like soda, so serve it chilled and opt for uncomplicated tumblers or glassware that allow for easy sipping (though some suggest a shot in the morning for a healthy start to the day).
Some consider kvass more of a health drink than an alcoholic beverage; its ABV is typically less than 2%, so the calorie content is much lower than traditional craft beers. A 12-ounce serving of Russian kvass made with dark bread contains less than 100 calories and around 10-15 grams of carbohydrates, though this range can increase if brewers use additional sweeteners like sugar, honey or fruit. Some kvass homebrewers make a beet or rhubarb kvass in lieu of the traditional rye bread recipe; the vegetable-based versions are often drunk before each meal and are even toted as a healthy weight loss product.
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