When I wasn’t touring palaces or Kremlins my time in Russia was spent visiting a number of companies. My three favorites were a juice factory, a brewery and a cigarette factory.

First off, the word juice in Russian is сок, umm yes, I know what it sounds like, but apparently it’s pronounced “Sok,” that said, the jokes were abundant.

Fittingly, our first factory stop was Multon Juice, started in 1995 it’s the second largest juice company in Russia and was acquired by Coca Cola in 2005. They make 4 different brands of сок’s under various brand names. The high-end brand is called Rich. The plant manager said they named it Rich to appeal to wealthy Russians. Makes sense!

Since they don’t grow many fruits in Russia (as in NONE) they import juice concentrate from around the world (including cranberry!) and mix the juices at their factory in St. P. Before our plant tour we got to sample a few, my favorite was the mixed fruit, sorta fruit punchlike, but not too sweet.

Then we had to suit up, perhaps the most fascinating machine at the place was the “bootie-putter-on-er” (technical name tbd), you stick your foot in the bottom and a cloth bootie snaps on your foot, so cool!

Once suited up we began to tour, they were making apple that day. We saw the whole assembly line, from the mixing machines to the juices being boxed up and prepared for shipping.

The next manufacturing facility we visited was the British American Tobacco Company, yup, your guessed it, they make cigarettes. Among their brands are Lucky Strike and Pall Mall, not cool, but still a fascinating visit. They are one of the largest cigarette manufactueres in Europe and their warehouse is huge. They make every part of a cigarette from mixing the tobacco, to making filters and assembling the cigs. They say that the tobacco mixtures are all “food based” no formaldajyde and any of those other things that are supposed to be in cigarettes, but I don’t really know who to believe. We did get to smell a mixture, and it had a faint chocolate and charcoal smell, hmmm.

We couldn’t take pictures inside, but got to snap a few out front.

Some interesting things I observed are that their is no smoking in the factory (ironic, see pic below), their tobacco is sourced from countries like Malawi, Uganda, India and Cambodia, and tobacco leaf actually smells quite good, sort of sweet. And, lastly, the most smokers are in China (and the Chinese state owned factory has 41% of the Globe’s market share, but all in China).

However, in good news, the worldwide cigarette market is slowly shrinking, wahoo!

A no smoking sign, at the cigarette fac (sing to tune of Alanis’s “Ironic”)

Our last beverage stop was Baltika Brewery, thanks to Russia House in DC I have had the pleasure of sampling Baltica’s products before, so I was supah excited to visit. It’s the largest brewery in Eastern Europe, and second only in size to Heineken (on the European Continent). Carlsberg of Denmark owns an 89% share in the company, so aside from their own Baltika branded brews they also make Carlsberg and Tuborg among others.

Baltika was founded in 1990 in St. Petersberg and has been growing rapidly ever since. They name their beers by number, from 1 to 9 (no double digits yet), my favorites are #7  (a pale lager) and #8 (a wheat beer). They’ve been the market leader in Russia almost since their founding with a 40% market share at press time.

#8, so great!

The tour was fun and our guide was very knowledgable, we couldn’t take pictures inside this factory here either, but the coolest part was the warehouse where men drive around on little trucks and use RFID technology to load cases of beer on trucks for shipment, I could have watched them driving around all day!

At the end of the tour they had a small museum, in Soviet days, when there were no brands, you just got your beer from a truck, filling your own container from home. After perusing the museum the tasting room called… We drank all the brews from 1 to 9 (just a taste of each mind you) and washed them down with Carlsbergs and Tuborgs.

Not BYOB, but rather BYOJ (bring your own jug)

So many Baltika’s, so little time…

Quite a fun way to end the academic part of our trip!