Readers like you keep news free for everyone.

More than 5,000 readers have already pitched in to keep free access to The Journal.

For the price of one cup of coffee each week you can help keep paywalls away.

Support us today
Not now
Thursday 7 December 2023 Dublin: 10°C
Alamy Stock Photo Pravda's Putin Huylo beer, which translates to Putin is a Dick
beer and bombs

Molotov cocktail-making brewers from Ukraine arrive in Ireland for Sligo beer festival

As well as being known for their award-winning brews, Pravda also have a reputation for political messaging on their labels.

BEERMAKERS FROM A Ukrainian brewery are bringing their wares to the Hagstravaganza beer festival in Sligo this weekend. The trip to Ireland’s west coast offers the brewers a welcome respite from the air raid sirens and power outages that have become the norm across Ukraine.

When Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine began in February last year, the immediate defences were largely improvised and lacked top-down military control as many civilians found ways to help the war effort.

Pravda Brewery in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv found a new use for their beer bottles in the early days of the war – Molotov cocktails. 

Molotov cocktails, also known as petrol bombs, are improvised incendiary devices, usually made by filling a glass bottle with flammable liquid and stuffing it with a cloth fuse. 

Originating in Finland, they were named after former Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov, who was the subject of ridicule among Finns during the Winter War of 1939, when the USSR invaded its neighbour. 

The company’s export manager Andriy Korol spoke to The Journal about what it’s like to go on working as normal in less-than-normal circumstances. With airports shut across Ukraine, he and his colleagues had to take an indirect route to get here.

“We drove to Krakow in Poland and then flew to Ireland, so it was a bit of a trip,” he says. 

Lviv has managed to avoid the worst of the fighting, most of which is focused on the front in the east of the country, so Pravda’s bombs were not needed in the end and the brewers have since gone back to doing what they do best – making beer. 

“Fortunately we did not have to use them in our town. Lviv is in the very west of Ukraine, so it’s one of the safer areas right now, but at the beginning we just didn’t know what was going to happen. 

“We were ready for tanks to come into our city and our military was not ready at the time so we were kind of creating a civilian defence, studying how to make Molotov cocktails and how to use them.” 

This, he says, was not at the instruction of the government or military but done on their own initiative. 

“At the beginning, it was chaos. As a brewery, we decided ‘we have lots of bottles, so let’s do that’.” 

Making improvised explosives also seemed like a good use of the company’s resources because in the early days of the war there was a prohibition on alcohol in Ukraine. 

This didn’t stop Pravda from getting beer made though, as they published their recipes and asked for beermakers around the world to produce it for them. A proportion of the money made from that was sent to aid people fighting on the front lines. 

As well as being known for their award-winning brews, Pravda also have a reputation for political messaging on their labels. 

One example is their ‘Putin Huylo’ beer, the name of which translates to ‘Putin is a Dick’. It was first released back in 2014 when Russia first invaded Crimea in eastern Ukraine and it is the brewery’s best-selling beer internationally. 

“We have other labels. We’ve done that over the years. We’ve always tried to push the envelope and be provocative in our messaging,” he explains. 

Since the chaotic beginnings of the war, things have settled down to some degree but this is partly because the sights, sounds and hardships of the conflict have become somewhat normalised for people across Ukraine. 

“Last winter for example, we had problems with electricity. We were losing electricity 50% of the time.” 

Power outages can ruin the brewing process, which takes hours. Another thing that disrupts life for working people in Lviv is the sound of air raid sirens.

“We have our air raid alerts, that’s where we’ve got to go to the shelters. Yesterday there were five of them (in Lviv).

“Well, what can we do? We keep working. We can’t afford to be going to the shelter every air raid so unfortunately we have to take the risk. It’s necessary to keep working, and that’s not just for a brewery, that’s most Ukrainians who are in a situation like that.” 

The air raids, while disruptive, have become a normal and exhausting part of life during the war, he says. 

“I have three children and we have to wake up at 2 or 3am and get all the kids down to the bomb shelter, wait there for  few hours and go back, and then we’ve got to go again. It’s a stressful living situation.

“And then you have work to go to… but most Ukrainians are powering through it. It’s become a norm after a year now.”

“As a brewery or as any business… if we don’t keep going then our economy falls apart.” 

Some of the Pravda staff have gone further than just keeping the business going though, with a number of male employees travelling to fight on the front lines. 

“We definitely have a number of people that are on the front and we always try to take care of our people first in terms of what their needs are. We keep in touch. If they need certain equipment or things like that, we put our money up for that.

“Luckily we haven’t had any casualties.” 

The trip to Ireland is a break from the day-to-day environment of the war, even though it’s never far from their minds. 

“It’s nice not listening to air raid sirens all the time. Everything that sounds like a siren to us, even when we’re not in Ukraine, we’re like, ‘air raid siren’?” 

The Hagstravaganza festival takes place in Ballymote in south Co Sligo this Saturday. 

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel