THE final leg of my tour of green-bottled lagers from North-West Europe (until I find more) brings me to Grolsch Imported Premium Lager. A bottle you probably know better as “the one with the funny top”. There was no way I could look at bottles of beer without this one. The traditional “Swingtop” give it style points right out of the starting blocks. A normal bottle top trumps a screw top. This trumps a normal bottle top. But a traditional “Swingtop” is top of the pile… until someone mass produces beer with wine bottle style corks.
Of course you can get regular size and shape Grolsch bottles with normal tops. But they aren’t imported. And don’t have the novelty opening mechanism. First impressions then, are outstanding. The downside is that the off-license where I bought this were charging £1.99 pence for the privilege.
Apart from the bung and metalwork up top, there is much more to admire. The bottle is larger than its rivals. It dispenses with front and back labels, favouring instead elaborate embossment. There’s the large “Grolsch” name embossed on two flatter sides. There are what look like grips on the other two sides to help you to grab hold of the bottle.
And there’s the “G B” crest. The one that features the G and B initials and hops, with the year 1815 either side. A date that gives it competitive levels of heritage of its rivals.
With most of the bottle dedicated to style, the neck label is where it all happens.
And it all looks very nice. The familiar “Grolsch” logo is there, helpfully reminding you of all the advertising they have. At this point, I must say that I do like the name “Grolsch”. It’s impossible to say out loud without making you sound Dutch. Try it yourself. Unless you are a native Dutch speaker, in which case you’ll sound perfectly normal when you say it.
Back to the label, and I’m glad to see the words “Premium Lager” standing out for all to see. Look a little closer though, and the crest above it is different to the crest embossed on the bottle. Why is that?
Squint even harder and you can make out some interesting words around it. The top says “Royal Grolsch Holland”. Does that make it as royally approved as Carlsberg, which is famously by “appointment to the Royal Danish Court”? Sadly, the writing around the bottom doesn’t answer any questions. Can someone out there translate “Vakmanschap Meesterschap” please?
I like the strip of label that extends upwards displaying the text “The Original Swingtop” and “Imported”. But, isn’t it in the way of the swinging metalwork? We’ll see how it fares later on.
As you would expect, the neck label wraps around the bottle and is crammed full of details. Here is just the left-hand-side of it.
The only details worth noting on there are some of the most important. That is to say, the vital statistics. This bottle is the ever so unusual 450 millilitres (45 cl) capacity. So, be ready with a pint glass, but don’t expect it to be filled. The alcoholic volume is sadly rather less interesting. You could tell before you even picked this bottle up in the shop that it would be the continental favourite of 5%. On the plus side, at least it isn’t a weak, domestically produced lager. A fact reinforced on the other side of the label.
That is because, buried deep in a multi-lingual morass of text are the words “Brewed and Bottled by Grolsche Bierbrouwerij, Enschede – Holland”. The other small-print on this side is the ingredients list. For the curious, they are “water, malted barley, hops”. Nothing you wouldn’t expect.
With that done, it’s time to delight in the unusual opening of this bottle and sample the contents within. Not forgetting of course to answer the big questions of our time. Questions such as what it Grolsch Imported Premium Lager like? And how does it compare to Bavaria Holland Beer, Heineken Imported Lager Beer, Beck’s Imported and Carlsberg Export?
That was exciting. The neck label duly gave way to the swinging metal work. And the bung unbunged itself with a loud pop. That’s an experience every beer and ale should give you.
Grolsch Imported Premium Lager is head happy, so you have been warned. Fortunately it does settle down fast enough so as to not leave you waiting for long. And some careful pouring on your part could mean you don’t have to stop at all.
So it has a good thick head. But what about everything else? The colour is a pale amber. But better looking than the anaemic yellow of most other lagers. Although this ones does look very fizzy.
The smell is weak. There isn’t much smell, but sniff hard enough and you can detect a whiff of malted barley and hops. The best way I can describe the smell to you is with the word “clean”.
This is a lager with flavour. And that flavour is… well… lagery. Much stronger and more prominent than I was expecting. I didn’t expect it to taste any different to its rivals, but it does. It tastes as different as it looks.
The overwhelming taste is bitter. From the first taste to the lingering aftertaste. It’s not as “sharp” as some cheaper and nastier lagers. More full and, relatively for a lager, intense. What about the flavours within that taste? They are the usual lager flavours of malted barley and hops. Probably. I can’t actually detect much beyond Grolsch Imported Premium Lager’s bitterness.
What do I like about Grolsch Imported Premium Lager? It’s not as gassy as I feared. Three quarters of the way through the bottle and I still haven’t burped. This is a lager with flavour which is unusual in itself. And, even more unusual, that flavour is one you can grow used to. Its high-quality, and drinkable. And, it comes in a fun bottle.
What don’t I like about Grolsch Imported Premium Lager? I’ve been here before. With a good quality lager trying to scoot around the fact that I don’t like lager. So yet again, the taste and flavour that is has, is off-putting to anyone who isn’t already a fan of lager. It’s also quite expensive.
Where does all of this leave Grolsch Imported Premium Lager compared to the competition? Unlike with other green-bottled Continental lagers, you can tell it apart from the competition. Unlike other strongly flavoured lagers such as, say, Michaelob Lager, it’s made well enough for you to get to used to the taste without pouring it down the drain in disgust.
If you like your lagers strongly flavoured or with an interesting bottle, then this is the lager for you. Recommended for the “Swingtop” if nothing else. Good lager too.
Have you tried Grolsch Imported Premium Lager? What did you think of it?
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