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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Have you tried Kingfisher? What did you think?
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