Beer Review: Kingfisher Premium Lager Beer

WHEN I looked at Indian beers at the beginning of the month, I thought I had done them all. There was Cobra, with its interesting if average taste. And there was Tiger which was simply average. Both of which are sold nearly everywhere. But they aren’t the only games in town. In the off-licenses of Brick Lane, and, seemingly nowhere else, is another Indian beer: Kingfisher Premium Lager Beer.

Kingfisher Premium Lager Beer bottle

There aren’t many green hued glass bottles around these days. This means that Kingfisher has a unique look. This one is the small 330 millilitre versions, but in the same chiller cabinet was an enormous 660 millilitre version.

The neck label is… well, it has a neck label.

Kingfisher Premium Lager Beer neck label

It has the Kingfisher logo. Which features a kingfisher. And the description “Premium Lager Beer”. High expectations aren’t going to be a problem here.

The front label is nearly as uninspired, apart from one or two points.

Kingfisher Premium Lager Beer front label

Around the top border, it reads “India’s Premium Lager”. And around the bottom border, “The Finest Malted Barley & Hops”. No, wait, that’s not special at all. Maybe it’s the alcoholic volume? Next to the “330ml”, an in tiny writing, we’re informed that this has 4.8% volume. At 0.2% less than both Cobra and Tiger, that’s not working to Kingfisher’s favour either.

Under all of that though, is one small detail that does raise Kingfisher above it’s Indian counterparts. It’s heritage. Dating to 1857, that blows its twentieth century competition out of the water.

The back label holds a few more interesting facts. Some in it’s favour, some not.

Kingfisher Premium Lager Beer back label

First, it tells us that Kingfisher is the world’s number-one selling Indian lager. A surprise to me. Especially as I hardly ever see Kingfisher on sale anywhere. Then we’re told that Kingfisher has won “several international awards for its quality and taste”. Again though, we don’t know what they were. Come on, tell us what awards you won exactly.

Then, we learn that Kingfisher is a brand of the glamorously named United Breweries Group of Bangalore, India. Sadly, here’s were the news turns sour. Kingfisher wasn’t imported. Instead, it’s been brewed and bottled under license by Shepherd Neame of Faversham in Kent. The same Shepherd Neame behind the rather good Bishops Finger and Spitfire Kentish Ales. I hope they’ve not skimped on the quality just because it isn’t their name on the front of the bottle. This could be quite good after all.

That’s about it from the back label. Apart from the ingredients which include barley malt. And the UK units of alcohol. Which are 1.6. Only 1.6? Either drink a lot of this, or get yourself a decent bottle of ale. Then again, 4 units of alcohol isn’t supposed to be a target. Is it?

Now time to answer the important questions. Is Kingfisher Premium Lager Beer any good? Or will it be another bland and average Indian lager? Or will it surprise us all?

In the glass, you hope that it’s going to have a head. And there is one for a few moments. But give it a minute, and it becomes nearly as headless as a cider. The colour is like most other lagers. That is to say, bright and yellowy. And it looks very carbonated. Not a good sign.

Kingfisher Premium Lager Beer pourd into a glass

The smell won’t inspire you. Like most lagers, it has that ‘sharp’ blend of malted barley in the smell.

And the taste isn’t any better. One gulp in tells me that this is another indistinctive lager. It has the same ‘sharp’ malted barley blend of flavours as nearly every other lager. This brings with it that familiar, lagery bitterness too. No points for originality then.

Putting my anti-lager prejudices aside for one moment, I’ll try and find some positives to report. Well, if you do as the label says and serve it cool, it can make a refreshing beverage. Good for those hot and spicy meals as all Indian beers seemed designed to be. Along with that comes refreshing-ness as well.

The blend isn’t as yucky as some lagers out there. This isn’t a cheap lager, which is a big plus. Normally, I ignore the word “Premium”. In most cases it’s meaningless, but some quality does shine through in this case. Even if it is a lager. And that makes it easy and even slightly pleasant to drink. It’s not as gassy as I feared, either.

On the debit side, it is still a lager. That means it’s lacking in taste. It’s hard to have character, a full-body or full flavour from a lager. Even Kingfisher Premium Lager Beer is no exception. There’s little distinctive or unique here either.

Maybe I’m judging Kingfisher too harshly? All most people want from an Indian lager is a refreshing drink to go with their curry. That might be true, but Cobra did it with some character. And as this is my blog, it comes with a healthy dose of anti-lager prejudice. Do yourself a favour and buy a proper beer.

Rating: 2.45

Have you tried Kingfisher? What did you think?
Got any corrections, opinions, ideas or suggestions? Then do please leave a message in the usual place please.

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13 Responses to “Beer Review: Kingfisher Premium Lager Beer”

  1. Ian Says:

    I’ve tried Kingfisher and your opinon pretty much sums it up.

    However, to provide some background info on this beer. In India, this beer is HUGE and I mean HUGE. They sell nearly maybe 10 million bottles a day! (They sell them in 750ml bottles only, no cans, no 330ml either!) Maybe more in the summer. You can find this same “Kingfisher Premium Lager” literally anywhere they sell alcohol in India. From a cheap, dingy shack in the backwoods of nowhere to the Seven-star palace hotels in Mumbai(Bombay).

    The primary reason for its success in India is not because of the taste or it goes well with spicy food but rather because it is the cheapest decent beer. A 750ml bottle is nearly 1 GBP and that is pretty much how much. Also, add to this cheap price the fact that there are no foreign beers allowed to be sold without exorbitant taxes on them and the two or three other Indian competitors offering the same quality of beer are more expensive than Kingfisher. (BTW, Kingfisher’s slightly better alternative is called “Royal Challenge”; a descent beer which is a bit milder than Kingfisher Premium but it’s a lager nonetheless! )

    If you want strong Indian beer, at the 10% range, you have beers like “knock Out”, “Hayward’s 5000″, “Cannon 10000″, “Kajuraho” and “zingaro” and a few others I cant remember. You are unlikely to ever come across these beers outside India but should you happen to find them, try them out.

    • The Grey Lizard (@Mhatre1611) Says:

      Lets get some facts straight. Kingfisher in India is sold in 650 ml bottles along with 330ml pints and 330 ml n 500 ml cans. I feel one would be able to assess this beer more fairly if they were to have it in India. Even in India, the taste varies from city to city owing to the difference in the source of water used during production. Mumbai, Bangalore & New Delhi would probably be the best place to sample it. There are at least 10 variants under this brand. Kingfisher Draught & Kingfisher Ultra are my personal favourites along with the classic Premium Lager.
      As far as the labelling info. is concerned, it should have been revised to suit foreign markets as the most of the quality claims would in all probability not hold true in western countries.

  2. Mary in India Says:

    You forgot to mention most Indian beers have a high concentration of glycerol (nearly 10-15%, unheard of in Europe or U.S.) which causes severe headaches/hangovers. Especially for westerners who are used to having *ahem* quite a few beers rather than one or two with dinner.

    I found a video circulating on how to remove this from Kingfisher (should you like to try it without this additive). Apparently this sugar compound helps Kingfisher last longer in the Indian heat and humidity, acting as a preservative. I doubt Kingfisher would last long in the weather conditions here without it.

    I’ve had a Kingfisher hangover before, it’s quite nasty.

  3. Mary in India Says:

    Forgot to attach the link!

  4. akash choudhury Says:

    i success for this job.

  5. jay900 Says:

    It smells promising, but tastes of little.
    There are far better beers for drinking with a spicy meal.

    I concur. Thanks for the review.

  6. JazzK Says:

    It didn’t foam too much? And the foam didn’t stay too long? Then maybe something was wrong with your bottle. Coz this beer foams and sticks around for a good while. At least all the ones I’ve had.

  7. vlad Says:

    Hello, distinguished gentlemen!

    I collect bottle caps, I have them more than 1000.
    Urge to send you to send me yours bottle caps, old and new.
    With sincere regards and hope, Meerits Vladimir.

    My address: Novosibirsk, street Zorge, house 66, apartment 146. (Новосибирск, улица Зорге, дом 66, квартира 146).

    Best regard,
    Merits Vladimir.

  8. Anand Says:

    I can agree with Mary the hang overs are extreme and as the blog also mentioned the head dissapears very quickly too. last weekend I was show the trick of how to remove the glycerol from the bottle and it improved the taste immediately.

    Anand

  9. Debdip Says:

    Good beer I never had hangover even after drinking till late night

  10. NIRMAL BHUIYA Says:

    ULUBERIA,HOWRAH,WEST BENGAL Sir, I am interested to open a beer shop in my village 8 k.m from Uluberia town (HOWRAH,WESTBENGAL). Please help me to get the details that how to get license & how much amount need for license. Who is the dealer of beer in HOWRAH(WEST BENGAL) & how can i contact them. How much money need to start this business. Please help me,I am helpless!Please help me my dear friends

  11. Johnny Says:

    U mention Tiger…. I thought Tiger came from Singapore ??

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