Belarus is a landlocked country in the north of Eastern Europe, bordered by Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. Only within the last 100 years has Belarus existed as a nation in its own right. Prior to this time, this land was divided repeatedly by political and military movements, and was only brought into its current outline when it became a constituent republic of the Soviet Union.
Lying between the latitudes of 51 and 57 degrees north, Belarus' climate is far from warm. Average temperatures in January reach as low as 21F (-6C), and rise no higher than 65F (18C) in the cool, wet summers. This is unsuitable for growing vines of most varieties; thus, Belarus produces almost no wine, but has an impressive output of vodka and other grain spirits. About 20 industrial distilleries exist in Belarus, each of which must hold a distilling licence issued and monitored by the government.
A low-alcohol, beer-like beverage, named kvass, is made by fermenting malted brown or black rye bread. As it typically reaches only 1–2% alcohol by volume, it is technically classified as a non-alcoholic drink under Belarusian law. Kvass can be flavored with orchard fruits, berries, raisins and unusual ingredients such as birch sap (which is less intensely flavored than its Canadian equivalent from the maple tree). Kvass is also made in neighboring Latvia and Russia.