Honestly, I owe Wikipedia for this one. I found out about kvass (or квас) while browsing articles about various homebrewed concoctions, although I probably actually first heard of it in Russian class and then forgot about it along with almost all of my knowledge of the Russian language. Boo!
Anyway, kvass is a low alcohol home-fermented beverage made from bread, used as a summer drink and soup base. I was fascinated by this concept because what do we have in this house? Lots of bread and supplies for fermenting beverages. K. makes beer, N. makes mead and country wine, and I infuse booze and now apparently brew kvass.
There are many recipes and methods for kvass. I used the one on this page with homemade rye bread, which didn’t get stale on its own fast enough and had to be dried out in the oven. I actually baked a batch of rye bread specifically for this crazy drink. Admire either my dedication or devotion to ridiculous plans, whichever. And since the fresh yeast only lasts so long, I used it for the bread and for the fermentation.
The bread gets boiled in water and then cools over the course of the day. Various people approach it, assuming it might be a delicious stew or something else lunchworthy. They are disappointed. Bread comes out, yeast, sugar, and mint go in, then the whole mess is strained again and I make somebody put it out in the compost bin (which is breaking down a bunch of funky stuff right now. Moldy tomato paste! Kombucha mushrooms! The worms don’t seem to mind too much. You know you’re a hippie worm when.)
The funky brew sits in a glass container for several days, while you watch raisins float up and down. When they all gather at the top and the brew is clear (ish), you’re ready to bottle.
Welcome to the basement, where the magic happens (at least with regards to brewing). The guys had just finished bottling a wheat beer and moving the mead to a secondary fermenter when I showed up with my monster brew.
You’ll note the floating raisins, settled yeast sediment, and implicit distate in K’s hand gesture. You’ll also note that the brewery and the laundry room are living in sin.
The clear kvass gets siphoned off the top, leaving the sediment and raisins. You could also pour through a funnel carefully.
And you might as well sample as you go! Which brings me to the taste. It’s hard to describe: “different” works, as does “yeasty.” It’s light, almost a little savory, with kind of a tang to it? Very hard to describe. But unlike most “different” things I prepare, like kombucha, the guys like kvass. We’ll be drinking it on the roof this summer for sure. I brought it to brew night and the verdict was more mixed, but that’s probably partially because it didn’t mesh well at all with the delicious meadowsweet homebrew we were drinking that evening.
Disclaimer: I have never had actual Russian kvass, so I feel slightly ridiculous about this whole adventure and can’t make any claims as to authenticity of taste or technique. OH WELL.