Beer Review: Castle Lager

HAVE you ever wandered if Africa made any beer? And if it was any good? Neither have I. Yet here we have a bottle of Castle Lager.

Castle Lager bottle

The neck label is home to most of the juicy details on this bottle.

Castle Lager neck label front

The front has the Castle logo. Which is, as you’d expect, a castle. Strange though, as most African people didn’t build castles. The name of the “founder brewer” is given as one “Charles Glass”. And around the curvy lip of the neck label is the description “perfectly balanced”. Balance is good. Maybe this won’t be so bad after all?

Turning the neck label to the left, and a few more clues about Castle’s origin are revealed.

Castle Lager neck label left

Under the “no additives” and “no preservatives” is a name an address. Castle Lager was “Brewed by SAB Ltd” in Sandton, South Africa. It’s also brewed under license from SAB Miller Finance BV. The same SAB Miller that Wikipedia tells us came from South African origins to become the worlds largest brewer. Crikey.

Over on the right-hand side of the neck label, and the details are rather more down to earth.

Castle Lager neck label right

Under the “enjoy responsibly” message are the small print details. This little bottle is 330 millilitres. The alcoholic volume is 5%. And it contains malted barley, maize, hops and water. Differentiation isn’t their thing then. All of that is practically identical to hundreds of other beers on the market.

The main front label carries some class in it’s design however.

Castle Lager front label

It features a big, rectangular roundel with a classic wavey banner through the middle. Around the top border, we’re informed that this is “The Premium African Lager”. Does anyone know of any other African beers or lagers? Is Castle number-one or not? Answers in the comments at the end of this post please.

Split by the big Castle logo is a date. 1895 gives Castle more heritage than I expected. A considerably more than many Asian beers. This is a good sign. Besides all the usual marketing speak about “perfection”, “finest quality”, “care” and “natural ingredients”, there are what look like medals. Let’s have a closer look…

One of them is an “AIBA Gold Medal”. The one in the middle is hard to read, but I think it refers to a “Brewing Industry International Award” in 2000. And the medal on the left, in microscopic lettering, has the year 1907. How much faith should we put into an award that is over one-hundred years old?

The back label takes the approach of repeating things from the other label around a large barcode.

Castle Lager back label

Everything on this little label we have already talked about. So without further delay, it’s time to try my first African beer. It’s a lager, so expectations aren’t high.

Castle Lager poured into a glass

There isn’t much to say about how Castle Lager looks once you pour it into a glass. It’s pale yellow and it’s fizzy. Except that the head it comes with froths up very enthusiastically. Beware of this if you try and pour. It dies down a little, but you’ll still have a satisfyingly thick layer of froth sitting atop your glass.

The smell is exactly like every other lager. A faint blend of malted barley. Will that carry over to the taste?

Yes. It tastes exactly how it smells. It has a taste of a blend of malted barley and the other arable ingredients in there. But not in the satisfying ale way. Rather, in the ‘sharp’, light and unsatisfying lager way. Interestingly, the bitterness and sourness lingers longer with this lager than many others I’ve tried.

To its credit, it is clean, crisp and refreshing. It also has a lightness of character that some people will like. It certainly makes it easy to drink. The absence of strong flavours will also be to many peoples tastes. There is not much here to offend the taste buds. The quality of the product shows too.

That said, it is watery and devoid of body and flavour. There is hardly anything distinctive to be found. And in a chiller cabinet next to bottles of other beers and lagers, there isn’t much reason to choose this over the competition.

I liked Castle Lager more than yesterday’s bottle of Kingfisher Premium Lager Beer. This one has a tastier blend. If I was travelling in Africa, I would have no problem cooling down with a bottle of Castle. And over here, it would go very well with a hot meal. Or even for someone looking for ‘just a beer’ that anyone would get along with. One of those situations where you have to buy in some drinks for some friends and don’t know what types of beer everyone likes, so you opt for the least offensive. This could be your choice. But at the end of the day, it is still a tasteless, boring lager.

Rating: 2.65

Have you tried Castle Lager? Or any other Castle beers? Or even any other beers from Africa? What did you think?
Leave your opinions, thoughts, ideas and suggestions in the usual place please.

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18 Responses to “Beer Review: Castle Lager”

  1. Steve S. Says:

    Last year on a trip to Tanzania, I had the opportunity to try 5 beers from Africa. The others were Kilimanjaro, Safari, Serengeti, and Tusker. All of these are lagers. In my opinion, Castle was the best among them followed closely by Safari. I agree that there is nothing about Castle that sets it apart from other lagers, but it satisfied my thirst on more than one occasion when I wanted to have ‘just a beer’

  2. Hannes Diemont Says:

    I have had quit a few beers around the world. Sam Adams, Budweiser, red Stripe and a few others in the USA. A few in Germany, and a couple in Russia. International; beers include Becks, Heineken and Amstell. I hae had a few variations on the Windhoek Brewery from Namibia theme as well. Dos M from Mozambique and the whole range of South African breweries ie. Castle Lager, Castle Milk Stout, Castle Light; Hanse Pilsner, Hansa Marzan Gold, Black Label, Millers Light (under license from the Yanks) Lion Lager, Sterling Light Lager ect. And don’t forget Old Speckeld Hen Guiness and Kilkenny.
    Castle Lager is right up there, if not better than any, of the aboe mention beers. Screw you guys.

  3. Clayton Says:

    I agree. screw you guys

  4. Smuggler's Draft Says:

    First of all, it is not fair to assume that nothing good can come out of Africa. It is not fair to judge Africa based on The Gods Must Be Crazy, or Blood Diamonds. Africa has become a force to recon with. I have traveled around the world and tasted many different beers and must say that I have only found two beers can claim to come close to being as good as castle, Hansa Marzan Gold, and Heineken Draft (the one that comes in a disposable keg). The rest of the beers lack taste, effect and purpose. For example, the famous Guinness beer is bitter and serves no other purpose. Carling Black Label is good beer but a bit on the strong side. Castle is simply balance to perfection.

  5. Carel Says:

    I am from Africa, South Africa to be precice. I don’t like Castle, to popular over here which meens that it sells to quickly and SAB Miller has to put more and more shit in it to keep up with the sales. (That is why they lost Amstel to Windhoek Breweries.)

    My preferred beer is a Black Label. Its cheap, full bodied and tastes great. My other favorite is Amstel (not South African), cost a bit more, but also great taste. Another nice beer over here is Windhoek Lager.

  6. Ingrid Says:

    From your comment “It’s a lager, so expectations aren’t high.” I gather that you’re not much of a lager fan to begin with, so are you really the right person to judge a lager objectively? I have the feeling that you will never find a lager that you really like..

    I myself like the “girly version” of Castle, Castle Light. But’s that’s because well..I’m a girl =)

  7. Hannes Diemont Says:

    Note to Carel. Just a note of interrest. Black Label is a bigger seller than Castle. So according to your reasoning there should be more shit in Black Label than in Castle. Hansa Pilsener is currently the second most popular beer. Or was up untill last year. But trust my, I have been trying to drink Castle back in to contention. Just give me a chance.

  8. Hannes Diemont Says:

    I agree with Smuggler’s Draft that Hansa Marzen Gold is a good beer. Like it myself. On to stout, I have also grown quite fond of Castle Milk Stout. Come on guys, gie it a chance/try/bash. Be objective and you might be surpirised. I was.

  9. Hannes Diemont Says:

    Bring back Lion on a more permanent bases please SAB. Damn, it sounds like I am forgetting my roots. My home is still my Castle. Somewhat dry. Somewhat biiter. Nver Sweat. The taste that stood the test of time.

  10. Paul-Nicholas Says:

    Castle still is the best. From your observations, I gather you really expect nothing good to come out of Africa. That cotton shirt you are wearing probably has the sweat of an African farmer and that of some unfortunate Asian in some dingy factory. The labeling of Castle is among the best..all those european and American come second or are just at par.

    like some have said…screw you guys!

  11. TOPGUN Says:

    I’ve tasted, and enjoyed beer (including lagers) from all over the world. Taste is subjective. I grew up drinking Lion and Castle Lager. They, no (more Lion Lager) will always be my default beer. Everone will have their own personal favourite. I currently live in Ireland, and let me tell you Guinness, like everything here is over-rated. It wouldn’t even make my top 50 beers. Anyone who disagrees is either Irish or brainwashed ( or both).

  12. guzzler Says:

    1) black label
    3)windhoek lager
    then the rest when visiting south africa though hansa is up there.

  13. Tinashe C Hozheri Says:

    all other beers or lager are + or – castle

  14. uluzlu Says:

    What a terrible and ignorant review.

  15. Scoot Says:

    Great review . Lager is dull . South Africans don’t know what good beer is .

  16. nisheeele singh Says:

    Instead of the logo,”it all comes together with a castle”…..why not “we all come togettogether with a castle”…sounds more like castle wants to unite,friends,family and the people of our great country,from an ordinary citizen/customer point of view..crea

  17. Scoot sucks Says:

    Scoot your an idiot.

  18. Ben Says:

    Interesting review. I’m a South African, I drink Castle regularly. I support it because it’s South African, but in a blind taste-test I doubt I could tell it apart from Windhoek, Amstel etc. I’d be willing to bet neither could most other people. All are mass produced and aimed primarily at quenching your thirst on a hot afternoon round a braai (barbeque). Black Label is about as watered-down as they come, and is popular mainly due to its higher alcohol content.

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