Good news, fizz fans – my epic search for the taste of true kvass finally seems to have hit paydirt.
While perambulating upon my velociped recently in Riga’s delightful Kengarags district (exquisite, if you’re into grey concrete), I spotted a little beer pump parked outside the local market.
On closer inspection it proved to be a kvass fountain able to dispense chilled kvass to order, and even offering a variety of differently-sized plastic bottles to put it in.
Surely, the taste of true kvass was within my grasp? Might I finally get to sample the elixir that causes all Latvians of more than 30 years of age to say: “Today’s kvass isn’t as good as the real kvass we used to have…”
My hopes of a taste of times past were raised further by the presence of a genuine miserable Russian girl operating the pump. My various questions concerning where the kvass was produced, how much got sold in a day and so on were met with nothing but a shrug, a disinterested sigh and a wave of the hand – excellent!
Resisting the temptation to guzzle my litre of what resembled chilled Brent Crude, I popped it into my knapsack and pedalled home as fast as my little legs would carry me.
Back at base, I felt it was only fair to let the first sample go to one of those people who had waxed lyrical about how great old-time kvass was. Pouring out a draught with trembling hand, I offered a glassful with the sort of reverence usually reserved for priests dishing out the plonk at holy communion.
My taster sloshed it around her gob for a second or two.
“Yes, that’s exactly the way it used to taste,” she said. To my surprise she did not become misty-eyed at this Proustian revelation. “Where did you get it?”
“A pump at Kengarags market.”
The kvass was spat out into the sink rather more quickly than it had gone in.
“That place?! There used to be all sorts of stories about what they put in it!”