Archive for May 7th, 2008

Beer Review: Cobra Extra Smooth Premium Lager Beer

7 May, 2008

NEXT on my round-up of Asian beers is Cobra Extra Smooth Premium Lager Beer. But since I’ve not seen any other Cobra beers on sale, you’ll probably know it simply as Cobra. Or as the beer you get when you go for a curry.

Cobra Extra Smooth Premium Lager Beer bottle

I like the look of this bottle. It’s got an attractive, Indian style yellow colour-scheme. It has a big neck-label and a small wrap around label further down. But best of all, the glass is embossed with all manner of images. There’s a scales, a snake charmer, a boat, some text I can’t understand, elephants, palm trees and a building. Having all of those in the form of raised glass around the bottle is excellent. It’s the first one I’ve seen that actually has a texture. You can feel the raised glass when you wrap your hand around the bottle. This could be the new trend in beer bottles. You saw it here first.

The bottle top squeezes in a surprising amount of text.

Cobra Extra Smooth Premium Lager Beer bottle top

There’s the usual marketing material about natural ingredients, authentic recipes and prizes. But the origin is proudly announced as Bangalore, India.

The neck label is where most of the facts are, so let’s get stuck in.

Cobra Extra Smooth Premium Lager Beer front neck label

The front of the neck-label gives us all the main facts. The Cobra name is there. With the words “Extra Smooth” above it. And presumably the same words in an Indian language below it. Can anyone out there confirm what it says please?

Also prominently on there are the alcoholic volume; which is a respectable 5%. And the size of the bottle, which is 330 millilitres. Although I have seen larger in the shops.

It is a little confusing about what type of Cobra beer this actually is. You see, under the logo are the words “Premium Beer”. So is this Cobra Premium Beer? But above it, we’re told that this is “Double Filtered For An Extra Smooth Taste”, and that this is “Extra Smooth”. So is this actually called Cobra Extra Smooth instead? In the absence of any confirmation, I’ll call this one Cobra Extra Smooth Premium Beer. That covers everything.

Turning the bottle around, and we can see some more of the neck label.

Cobra Extra Smooth Premium Lager Beer left neck label

Just like Asahi Super Dry, we’re in for a let down. It isn’t imported, but bottled and brewed in the EU for Cobra Beer Ltd in London.

The web address on this side of the label is On this side of the label is also the story. And unlike most of the label, it isn’t repeated in lots of different languages.

Buried in the marketing-speak are some surprising facts. As well as the usual blend of barley malt, yeast, maize and hops, this beer has rice. Yes, rice is part of the blend. What effect that will have on the taste, I’m looking forward to finding out.

As well as boasting the typical distinctiveness, cleanness and smoothness, Cobra also goes on the boast something unusual. Yet also very welcome. The slogan “Cobra – The Less Gassy Bottled Beer” is outstanding. I’ve never seen a beer sell itself on how un-gassy it is. A very clever selling point, if you read the label thoroughly enough to find it. This should be much more prominent.

Going by what it goes on the mention, my guess is that they’ve got the blend of unusual ingredients just right. You see, Cobra have won the Gold Medal of the Monde Selection, World Quality Awards in Brussels from 2001 through to 2006. That’s five years running. A staggering achievement.

Over on the other side of the neck label, there’s the usual small print.

Cobra Extra Smooth Premium Lager Beer right neck label

If you’re interested, this bottle has 1.7 UK units of alcohol. But next that that label were a couple of little symbols I thought were nice touches. There’s a tiny, circular “Premium Extra Beer” symbol. And a little, rectangular picture of a cobra. What the point of them are, I don’t know. But quirky beers are good beers in my book.

The front of the thin, wrap-around label in the middle of the bottle features all the medals it’s won.

Cobra Extra Smooth Premium Lager Beer centre of middle label

And the words “The Most Celebrated Beer In The World” raise keep your expectations sky-high.

Cobra Extra Smooth Premium Lager Beer left middle label

The left-hand-side of the narrow label tells the origin of Cobra. Dating back to 1989, it doesn’t have heritage. But it does have Karan Bilimoria deciding that the world needs a different kind of beer. The world needs more Karan Bilimoria’s. Good on him.

The right-hand-side of the narrow label expands the story still further.

Cobra Extra Smooth Premium Lager Beer right middle label

We learn that Cobra is now made in five different countries. And that it’s Indian, British, global and local. You’ve got to admire their ambition and diplomacy.

After all of that, I feel like I know Cobra quite intimately. And that’s before we’ve even got to the taste testing. Without further delay, let’s crack open this intriguing little bottle.

After opening the bottle, I was surprised to see something printed on the inside of the bottle top. This time a “CoolBrands” award from 2006/07, awarded for “Innovation”, “Style” and “Desirability”. This is the first time I’ve seen anything printed on the inside of a bottle top.

After pouring, there was a fizzy head, but that soon died down to practically nothing.

Cobra Extra Smooth Premium Lager Beer poured into a glass

The drink itself is a lager-y amber colour. And with a typical amount of bubbles rising to the surface.

Perhaps because of the blend, the smell is a bit different. It does smell of malted barley, yeast and hops. But, there’s more to it that I can’t put my finger on. And it’s not in the same proportions as it is with other beers.

This is reflected in the taste. Which is equally unusual in its blend of tastes. This is going to take much more than the 330 millilitre in this bottle to figure out.

The main tastes that I’m picking up are a slight, but not lingering bitterness. Then you notice, or start to notice all the things that went into the blend. Hints of the arable, like the malted barley, maize, hops and yeast are there. I think. It’s hard to be sure. I certainly can’t rule out some hint of rice being in there too.

This truly is an unusual beer. It doesn’t taste like any other, let alone any other lager. Yet none of the flavours really jump out at you. They’re all surprisingly subtle. Yet because of everything in there, it has a fuller-flavour than most beers. Nearly up to the level of an ale.

Other things to say about it are that it isn’t gassy. Exactly as promised on the bottle. Although I still managed a couple of burps, thanks to this bottle. I can also see why it’s one of the curry beers of choice. Without having strong flavours of it’s own, it would be just what you want with your vindaloo.

To look for downsides, I’d say that it’s not so great on its own. Without a meal to go with it, it’s lacking. You find yourself wishing that one of its many flavours would stand out and give you something to focus on.

I liked Cobra. And I can see why it won so many awards. I was expecting another bland Asian approximation of a beer. But instead, Cobra Extra Smooth Premium Lager Beer was a very pleasant surprise. It is distinctive and unusual. But also refreshing and drinkable. Surprisingly good stuff.

Rating: 4

Have you tried Cobra? What did you think?
Got any translations, correction, ideas or suggestions? Then leave a comment in the comments box!


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