Russian brewers hunt for hops as imports run short

STORY: Russian brewers face an opportunity, and a challenge.

Sanctions on the country have seen most Western rivals depart.

While that means a chance to grow domestic sales, it’s also creating problems with imported ingredients.

Hops - which give beer much of its flavour - are one big issue.

Imports aren’t banned, but sanctions on payment methods and snarled-up logistics mean they’re hard to get.

Khmelyoff is one Russian beer maker.

Director Sergei Barinov says he’s trying to use hops from Russia’s Chuvash region:

"For the last 15 years, we have been buying hops from Germany - the whole amount that we needed. This year, we tried hops from Chuvashia. We bought a small amount to try it out. Generally, we are pleased with the quality and we plan to buy a larger amount this year here, in Chuvashia. That is why we came here.”

Russia imports most of its hops from the U.S., Germany and Czech Republic.

Some brewers say that the country can’t produce the variety needed for more sophisticated beers.

One told Reuters it would take years to develop all the necessary types.

For now though, many firms are enjoying the opportunity left by absent competitors.

Vadim Deshyovkin is general director at Afanasy Beer Factory:

"There used to be Heineken, Guinness, Belgium Leffe here, and all that was left for us were two or three - as it's now trendy to say - "facings", positions on the shop shelf. Now our direct competitors have left and there is more shelf space for us, and consumers are already turning their attention to our product.”

Overall production certainly doesn’t seem to have suffered.

Official statistic show Russian beer production rose almost 3% over the first half of the year.