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Russia Decides Beer Is Alcohol, Not Food, and More News

Russia Decides Beer Is Alcohol, Not Food, and More News

In today's Media Mix, Mark Bittman on fixing the food problem, plus Guy Fieri is supposedly leading a food revolution

Arthur Bovino

The Daily Meal brings you the biggest news from the food world.

Mark Bittman on the Food Problem: The writer offers a suprising way to help solve food problems: patience. [NY Times]

Fieri: Leader of Food Revolution?The Sacramento Bee offers Guy Fieri as one of the leaders of the food revolution for organic produce. [Sacramento Bee]

Alex Guarnaschelli Q&A: The Iron Chef: Redemption winner chatted about her earliest food memory, keeping her win a secret, and her go-to meal. [TV Fanatic]

Beer Changes Status in Russia: New rules label beer as alcohol, not food, meaning only licensed vendors can sell beer. [NBC News]

Jimmy Fallon's Lunch: Vanity Fair has lunch with the talk show host at Gramery Tavern. The time? 8 p.m. [Vanity Fair]


In Pandemic’s Grip, Russia Sees Spike in Age-Old Bane: Drinking

The widespread, false belief that alcohol will protect drinkers from the coronavirus is helping drive an increase in liquor sales and domestic violence.

MOSCOW — Dr. Azat Asadullin, chief doctor at a clinic in south-central Russia, is scrambling to prepare for an influx of patients. He is ready to deploy spare beds and stocking up on medication and disinfectants.

The affliction Dr. Asadullin is girding for is alcoholism.

Across the world, the coronavirus pandemic has sparked fears of increased alcohol abuse, as people locked in and anxious turn to drink. In Russia, two weeks into a nationwide partial lockdown, those fears are becoming reality as evidence mounts that a spike in alcohol sales is fueling a rise in domestic violence.

“The patients are dour, irritable and aggressive,” Dr. Asadullin said, describing the people he is treating during the pandemic. “Over New Year’s they’re more compliant and happy.”

Reducing the country’s passion for inebriants has been one of the government’s main public health goals under President Vladimir V. Putin, and the most recent official statistics showed Russians consuming about one-third less alcohol per year than they did in 2003.

But dayslong drinking binges are still a habit for some people, especially during holidays. In late March, when Mr. Putin obliged with a nationwide paid week off to combat the spread of the coronavirus, the habit kicked in.

Sales of vodka in Russia shot up 65 percent in the last week of March, compared with a month earlier, according to the market research firm GfK. Domestic violence activists registered a spurt in reported incidents, particularly by intoxicated men.

And in Yakutia, a region of Siberia four times the size of Texas, the authorities said a spike in crime by drunken individuals included the stabbing to death of a family of four.

“Some people perceived this week off as though it was an extended holiday,” Aysen Nikolayev, the governor of Yakutia, said in a phone interview. “Unfortunately, this began to lead to bad consequences.”

To head off a crisis, Mr. Nikolayev banned all alcohol sales for a week in the regional capital of Yakutsk, with a population of some 300,000, and in several other districts. Around a dozen of Russia’s 85 regions — largely rural areas that have struggled with substance abuse — have also limited alcohol sales.

“I’m sorry if anyone doesn’t like this,” Rady Khabirov, governor of the Republic of Bashkortostan in south-central Russia, said in a social-media post at the beginning of the month announcing that alcohol sales would be banned from 6 p.m. to 10 a.m. “History will be the judge.”

Anti-alcoholism activists say the whole country needs to restrict alcohol sales for the duration of the social-distancing measures being imposed to fight the pandemic. So far, the response has been piecemeal, and activists and some doctors blame poor messaging on the part of the government for making matters worse.

“Unfortunately, the government didn’t work to get out in front of this issue,” said Sultan Khamzayev, head of the Sober Russia activist group. “There was practically no outreach being done.”

Part of the problem is a widespread, false belief across the former Soviet Union that drinking vodka can treat or prevent diseases.

“I’ve recently been joking that you shouldn’t just use vodka to wash your hands,” the president of neighboring Belarus, Aleksandr Lukashenko, said last month. “You should probably also take in 40 to 50 grams of the equivalent of pure alcohol to kill this virus. Just not at work.”

Mr. Khamzayev said his organization tried for two weeks to get the Russian Health Ministry to state publicly that alcohol consumption was harmful in fighting the virus.

But it was only on Monday, April 6, that the health minister, Mikhail Murashko, told an interviewer on state television that “trying to treat all this with alcohol” would lead to a coronavirus patient being admitted to the hospital in a state in which “they can’t be saved anymore.”

The coronavirus has been slower to spread in Russia than in many Western countries, but the country has seen its caseload double over the last five days. On Tuesday, the Russian authorities announced their highest one-day count of new cases — 2,774 — bringing the total to 21,102 confirmed infections and 170 deaths.

In Moscow, Russia’s hardest hit city, officials have warned that the health system risks being overwhelmed, and lines of ambulances have formed outside hospitals waiting to admit suspected coronavirus patients.

Moscow and many other regions are allowing residents to leave their homes only for urgent matters or to walk their dog within 100 yards of their front door. Mr. Putin has declared that all Russians in nonessential jobs must be allowed to stay home, with pay, for the entire month of April.

But many people who don’t work for the government or in deep-pocketed state enterprises face economic devastation nevertheless.

The resulting boredom and anxiety threaten to set back Russia’s long-running battle against alcoholism, doctors and officials across the country said.

“The lid is still on, for now, but the pot is already boiling,” Dr. Aleksei Kazantsev, head doctor of a private addiction treatment center in Moscow, said of the pandemic-induced bout of alcohol abuse. “We haven’t seen the peak yet in Moscow.”

Dr. Asadullin, who works in a state-run addiction treatment clinic in Bashkortostan, said he was anticipating a wave of patients on par with the onslaught he usually gets during Russia’s extended New Year’s holiday period in early January.

While during the winter holidays it’s typically the celebrations that set off drinking binges, this time, it’s anxiety, he said. Alcohol’s disinfectant properties serve as a convenient excuse.


The Newest Beverage Trend Is Hoppy Drinks That Aren't Beer

Hops aren&rsquot just for beer anymore. Here are 7 hoppy teas, sparkling waters, and sodas to look for.

There are few things more satisfying than a cold IPA on a warm afternoon. But if you’re trying to cut back on drinking right now (or you just don’t drink, period), you don’t have to give up that delicious hoppy-beer flavor entirely. Breweries and beverage companies are experimenting with new drinks that incorporate hops, the green, pinecone-shaped flowers that serve as one of the four main ingredients in beer.

They’re combining hops with sparkling water, tea, and soda to create refreshing non-alcoholic drinks, often with no calories or added sugar. Most are tasty on their own, but they also make great cocktail mixers for when you are drinking.

These new hoppy beverages differ from non-alcoholic beers, which are basically just normal beers with the alcohol removed. Sparkling hop waters and teas, on the other hand, are made using a totally different process that doesn’t produce alcohol, period. They’re also made without grains. Alongside hard seltzers and 100-calorie IPAs, these hoppy beverages are part of a growing trend toward drinks that are light and generally better for you.

When the world opens back up again, you can try hoppy non-alcoholic drinks on tap at breweries like Third Space Brewing in Milwaukee and Fulton Brewing in Minneapolis. Until then, you’ll have to check your local liquor and grocery stores or see if you can get some of the below drinks delivered.

Hoppy Refresher 

Lagunitas makes Hoppy Refresher, a non-alcoholic beverage inspired by their flagship IPA that’s made with three types of hops, natural flavors, and a pinch of yeast. If you’re feeling more adventurous, Lagunitas also makes cannabis-infused hoppy sparkling water called Hi-Fi Hops that’s available at dispensaries in Colorado and California at the moment.

For something a little different, try HopTea, which is carbonated, dry-hopped tea made in Boulder, Colorado. It tastes like a cross between sparkling water, iced tea and a tasty IPA, but without the alcohol or the calories. There are a handful of hopped teas available, including black tea, green tea, chamomile, and white tea, so you can decide whether you want caffeine or not. In addition to the zero-calorie options, Hoplark also makes grapefruit and lemon flavors with a tiny bit of sweetness.

Paul Tecker was an early pioneer in the world of hop water. As an avid homebrewer, he began growing his own hops and decided to experiment with a beer that contained just two ingredients—hops and water. Thus, H2OPS was born. Though many people expect it to be harsh or bitter when they take their first sip, it’s anything but. “We use aroma hops, not bittering hops, so it has complex citrus flavors,” Tecker says. “It’s not trying to mimic beer, it’s something entirely new.” The alcohol-free drink is unsweetened and has zero calories, no carbs and no gluten.

Snake River Seltzer

This hoppy sparkling water from Snake River Brewing in Jackson, Wyoming, is made with just three ingredients: water, hops and ascorbic acid. It’s non-alcoholic and has zero calories and zero carbs. The brewery serves it with vodka and a grapefruit wedge at its taproom, which is a real treat after a day of skiing at Jackson Hole or exploring in Grand Teton National Park.

Made in Germany, Hopster is a non-alcoholic tonic-like drink made with mineral water, hops, tea, and lemon flavors. It’s slightly sweet and made with four types of hops grown in Bavaria’s Hallertau region, the largest hop-growing area in the world. Tasting notes include rose, ginger, lychee, pineapple, lilac, elderflower, and plum. It also makes a great mixer.

UCBC Sparkling Hop Water

Urban Chestnut Brewing Company in St. Louis started making its unsweetened, non-alcoholic sparkling hop water in 2018 to have something available for people at a local festival who weren’t drinking. The brewery was blown away by how popular the beverage was and decided to start canning and distributing it. Today, they’re also making ginger and grapefruit flavors, as well as hop water infused with CBD.

This one is a little different, since it’s a soda, but deserves a mention nonetheless. Hop Soda, made by Proper Beverage Co. just outside of Grand Rapids, Michigan, is a non-alcoholic, hop-flavored soft drink. It’s made with hops and cane sugar, so it has 140 calories per can, but since it’s non-alcoholic, no one will look down on you for drinking one in the middle of the workday.


Trondheim and Bergen lift alcohol serving ban

From Friday, Bergen will also allow alcohol serving alongside food. The decision was made by Bergen’s City Council during a meeting earlier in the day.

Trondheim also decided to lift the alcohol serving ban. Now, the municipality’s residents can have a beer with their food before 10:00 PM.

In the future, alcohol serving will stop at 10:00 PM Trondheim restaurants and bars.

Infection rates in Trondheim have improved significantly in recent weeks after the major outbreak before Christmas.


Shutterstock

We get it you're totally excited to add beer to some of your favorite dishes—but not so fast! Dumping the entire bottle into your simmering concoction can lend your dish an overwhelmingly bitter taste. Avoid this rookie mistake by pouring sparingly. Remember, it's much harder to reduce the beer's flavor once you've over-poured than to add some more later on. Plus, the longer you cook the beer, the stronger its flavor becomes, which is more of a reason to overestimate the beer's potency and start light.


Latest Updates

Clinical trials of the Covid vaccines that are currently approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration did not specifically look at whether alcohol had any impact on the effectiveness of the vaccines, Dr. Hewlett said. It’s possible that there will be more information on that in the future. But for now, most of what is known comes from previous research, including studies that examined how alcohol affects the immune system in humans and whether it hinders the immune response in animals that received other vaccines.

One thing that is clear from studies is that heavy alcohol consumption impairs the immune response and increases your susceptibility to bacterial and viral infections. It prevents immune cells from traveling to sites of infection and carrying out their duties, like destroying viruses, bacteria and infected cells makes it easier for pathogens to invade your cells, and causes a host of other problems.

In contrast, moderate drinking does not seem to have this effect. In one study, scientists exposed 391 people to five different respiratory viruses and found that moderate drinkers were less likely to develop colds, but not if they were smokers.

In another study, Dr. Messaoudi and colleagues provided rhesus monkeys access to alcoholic beverages for seven months and then looked at how their bodies responded to a vaccine against poxvirus. Much like humans, some rhesus monkeys enjoy alcohol and will drink a lot, while others show less interest and will limit themselves to small amounts. The researchers found that the animals that were chronically heavy drinkers had a weak response to the vaccine. “They had almost a nonexistent immune response,” Dr. Messaoudi said.

The animals that consumed only moderate amounts of alcohol, however, generated the strongest response to the vaccine, even compared to the teetotalers that consumed no alcohol at all. Studies in rats have found a similar pattern: Those consuming large amounts of alcohol have only a weak immune response to infections compared to animals given moderate amounts of alcohol or none at all. Other studies have found that when people drink moderately, it seems to lower inflammatory markers in their blood.

Another reason to moderate your alcohol intake is that heavy drinking — along with the hangover that can ensue — can potentially amplify any side effects you might have from the Covid vaccine, including fever, malaise or body aches, and make you feel worse, said Dr. Hewlett of the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Dr. Hewlett chose not to drink after getting the Covid vaccine. But she said that people should feel free to imbibe so long as they drink within reason.

“Having a glass of champagne probably won’t inhibit any immune response,” she said. “I think having a celebratory beverage in moderation is fine.”


Carlsberg warns of flat sales amid Russia sanctions and new drinking laws

Carlsberg has warned that problems in Russia will harm its profits more severely than previously thought.

The Danish brewer, which earns around one-third of its profits from Russia's bestselling Baltika brand, said Russian sales were likely to fall in the second half of the year, as distributors cut back their orders.

"Unfortunately, we believe the eastern European beer markets will be impacted further as consumers are facing increased challenges and this will impact the group's profits negatively this year," said Carlsberg chief executive, Jørgen Buhl Rasmussen.

The brewer is expecting a low to mid single-digit percentage decline in reported operating profits, compared to an earlier forecast of low growth.

The announcement sent Carlsberg's share price tumbling 5%, although the stock had recouped some of its losses by mid-morning.

While Carlsberg will be seen as a litmus test for how sanctions will hit western companies, not all the brewer's problems are the result of geopolitics.

The Russian government has been tightening regulation of beer and spirits to curb alcoholism and binge drinking. In June, the Russian parliament voted to limit the size of plastic beer bottles, a measure that will come into force on 1 January. Politicians have already banned the sale of beer in street kiosks, banished beer advertising from newspapers, TV and outdoor billboards, and reclassified beer as an alcoholic drink.

The Russian beer market has fallen by 25% since 2008, while Carlsberg said in May it had underestimated the impact of the ban on selling beer from street kiosks.

Carlsberg's flat performance contrasts with its rival Heineken, which reported a better-than-expected 10% increase in operating profits to €1.5bn (£1.26bn) for the first half of the year.

Heineken has a much smaller presence in Russia, which makes up only a small part of its central and east European division, in turn around 15% of revenues.

The company said total beer sales in Russia had fallen because of weaker economic growth and consumer confidence, although it some premium beers were making gains in the country.

Heineken, which employs 3,000 people in Russia, making its best-known brands and two dozen local varieties, said it was concerned that geopolitics could damage consumer confidence.


What Actually Happens with the Donations?

Companies are always eager to share how much money they’ve raised and donated, but what are they actually doing with the money?

Mitten Brewing is helping to fund new additions to Richmond Park to make it fully ADA accessible for nearly 9,000 children with disabilities in their community. The sale of their “Teddy Rasberry” wheat ale is specifically raising funds to restore Historic Hamtramck Stadium, one of only five remaining Negro League baseball stadiums.

Down in Charleston, South Carolina, Palmetto Brewing Company is providing life-saving surgeries for animals in critical care. After partnering with the Charleston Animal Society during a naming contest last fall, they raised over $70,000 for the shelter. In addition, $1 from each pint of “Rescue Brew” sold is going directly back to the shelter.

Through the “Raise a Pint, Lend a Hand” program at Holidaily Brewing Company in Golden, Colorado, the fire department was able to purchase additional equipment not covered in the city’s budget. The brewery hosts the event on the last Thursday of each month, each time benefitting a different local organization.


The Queen's exciting new launch that Prince Philip would have loved

Calling all beer lovers - a new royal alcoholic drink has just been unveiled, as Queen Elizabeth launches her very own beer brewed from plants grown on her Sandringham estate in Norfolk.

In a touching tribute to her late husband the Duke of Edinburgh, the newly launched Sandringham Estate IPA would have been a favourite of Prince Philip's &ndash who was known for his love of beer.

WATCH: Surprising foods the royals love to eat

The launch of the royal-approved tipple was announced on Sandringham Estate's official Twitter page, in a tweet that read:

&ldquoWe&rsquore thinking ahead to Fathers Day and what better way to celebrate than with one of our new Sandringham Beers. Sandringham Estate has developed an IPA and a Bitter from organic Laurette Barley grown on the wider Estate and is available to buy now from the Sandringham Shop.&rdquo

The newly launched royal beer was brewed at Sandringham Estate

Former palace chef, Darren McGrady, previously shared a tribute to the Duke of Edinburgh on his YouTube channel, talking fondly about the prince's foodie side and his unexpected love of a nice cold pint.

Darren revealed: "It wasn't just amazing foods that we served at the palace, but the wines were incredible too &ndash gorgeous wines &ndash but Prince Philip wasn't really a wine drinker. He just liked a beer. He loved his IPAs and really enjoyed those. Even at banquets."

Two flavour varieties have been launched. The first, a cold-filtered traditional English bitter, costs £3.99 per bottle and has 4.3% ABV. The second is a golden IPA that comes in slightly stronger at 5% ABV &ndash produced from three different types of hops that marry to create a &ldquosubtle&rdquo but &ldquostrong&rdquo flavour.

Brewed at The Queen's very own country retreat Sandringham Estate, the much-loved private home has housed four generations of British monarchs since 1862.

Labels on the bottles state: &ldquo[the] Sandringham Estate is a wildlife haven for pheasants, hares, owls and many other species thrive in the wood and farmland habitats.&rdquo The perfect refreshing drink for a warm, sunny evening.

Prince Philip often opted for a beer at royal banquets

The news of the Queen's alcohol launch is not a new venture, Buckingham Palace has also just launched a new sloe gin in time for summer &ndash and it sounds delicious. The Queen's latest tipple is made from hand-picked whole sloe berries steeped in Buckingham Palace Gin, which caused a sell-out when it launched last June.

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Jhonel Faelnar

Wine Director, Atomix and Atoboy

New York City

Faelnar didn’t grow up drinking wine.

“Beer was definitely the drink of choice, and that was just the culture there,” he says of his childhood in Manila. He worked in retail in Japan for a few years before he moved to the U.S. in 2013. It was then that he began to develop interest in wine.

“It was a small gateway to the rest of the world that I had been wanting to learn more about,” says Faelnar.

He applied for an assistant sommelier role at a New York City restaurant, but with no prior experience, he didn’t get the job.

“I instead took on a more beginner role in the restaurant and quickly rose through the ranks, from polishing in the back to eventually landing at the bar making cocktails,” he says.

Things moved quickly from there. He enrolled in the intensive sommelier program at the International Culinary Center. Soon after, joined The Nomad as sommelier. Since 2018, Faelnar has been wine director at Atoboy and Atomix. The latter has earned two Michelin stars.

“There are always challenges when people decide to move and live elsewhere,” he says. He’s one of few Filipino or Asian-American sommeliers in the U.S.

“Being Filipino or Asian in the wine world can simply mean that you might be in the minority, and to many people, that can be disconcerting,” he says. “I was always comfortable being different in the room.”

Favorite Filipino food and wine pairings: Chicharon and sisig with Champagne kinilaw with Trocken Riesling kare-kare with Godello from Spain laing with Smaragd Grüner Veltliner from Austria chicken adobo with garlic rice with Grand Cru Red Burgundy.