Archive for June 4th, 2008

Beer Review: Damm Estrella

4 June, 2008

AFTER a miserable start to my look at beers from the Latin world, it’s time to move on, and see what Damm Estrella can offer.

Damm Estrella bottle

More conventional looking than Sol, you get the impression that this is what the locals would drink. First glances show that Estrella is imported from Barcelona, Spain. And the embossed crest around the shoulder has the date “1876”. So this beer has some heritage.

For some reason, beer bottles from the Latin world try to fit a lot onto the label around the neck. Damm Estrella is no exception. Here’s the front of it…

Damm Estrella front neck label

Is it me, or does the “Estrella Damm” lettering look more north European than Spanish? The ring of repeated “Imported” words is good to see. No “brewed under license in…” here I hope. And under that, “Le Cerveza De Barcelona”. You don’t need to be a linguist to work out what that means.

The all-important vital-statistics appear on the neck-label when you turn the bottle around.

Damm Estrella left neck label

Printed larger than anything else to make sure you can’t miss them are the size of the bottle. Which is the standard, and unimaginative 330 millilitres. And the alcoholic volume. Which is a slightly unusual 4.6%. Not 5%. Not 4.5%. But somewhere in between “moderately strong” and “quite strong”.

Also on this side of the neck label is the address of the brewer. Up to this point, I was under the impression that this beer was called Damm, brewed by Esrtella. Turns out it’s the other way around. The brewer is S.A. Damm. So this must be their Esrtella beer. See, it does pay to read the small-print. There is also a web address which is www.estrelladamm.es. Fortunately, they have an easily findable English language section, which is at http://www.estrelladamm.es/home/home.asp.

Over on the other side of the neck label is some more small print.

Damm Estrella right neck label

There really is nothing to say about it. It’s simply mundane details you find on every product, but repeated in several European languages. Nothing to see on this side of the label.

So we make our way to the main front label.

Damm Estrella front label

And I’m delighted to see that it’s quite tasteful. It’s not a shield or a roundel like you find elsewhere. More an unusual amorphous label shape. And it’s red. Mostly.

There’s a big gold start sitting in the middle. The “1876” date is on there. And under the big name and “Barcelona” pride, lies the news that made this bottle stand out for me on the shop shelf. The word “Imported”.

Over on the back label, and there is a gigantic block of impenetrable multilingual text.

Damm Estrella back label

Fortunately, they left enough room for a brief English language description. Sadly, it’s wasted on marketing speak. We already know that it comes from Barcelona, that it dates back to 1876 and the web address from elsewhere on the bottle.

In the big, impenetrable block of multilingual writing are the odd fact. Like the ingredients which are water, barley malt, rice, maize, hops, yeast and “E-405 stabilizer”. Most ingredients lists are identical from one beer to the next. The rice is a good addition. It’s what beers with interesting flavours sometimes have. But the E number? That’s a first. Most beers pride themselves on natural ingredients. Not this one apparently.

There’s no UK units of alcohol symbol here, but there is something else. The UK isn’t the only place to have something like this. In some unknown country, this bottle is equivalent to 1.2 of their “Standard Drinks”. Without knowing what one of their “Standard Drinks” are, that information is useless. So sorry for wasting your time. But it is still interesting to see how other countries do what we are doing, isn’t it? What do you think?

Time now to open up this bottle and answer the age old question: is this beer any good? And more specifically, is it better than Sol? I certainly hope so.

Damm Estrella poured into a glass

Into the glass, and Damm Estrella comes with a good, if thin head of foam. After a couple of minutes, it died down enough for a hole to appear in the surface. And there’s no worry about it overflowing the glass. You’ll be able to fill your glass nearly all way with this pale yellow and fizzy beer.

Give it a sniff, and you get “generic beer smell”. It’s not bad. Just not exceptional or unusual. Simply the smell of a blend of malted barley, hops and so on. Good though, so long as you like beer.

A couple of gulps in, and I’m liking Estrella. The main flavours are of the blend of arable crops that went into it. The malted barley, the rice and maize are all part of the blend of flavours. And the hops give it a slight bitterness. None of these flavours are strong enough to dominate it, however.

What else can I say about it? Well, the blend of flavours and character is a little different to most of the European beers I’ve tried so far. It remind me a bit of the Asian beers. Probably because of the rice. It’s not at all gassy. It is very easy to drink. And drinkable by all but the most timid drinkers. Served cold, this quality brew can be quite refreshing too.

If I had to look for faults, I would say that Damm Estrella doesn’t take any chances. There’s no bold, strong flavours to make it interesting and truly distinctive. In fact, you could write it off as a boring, generic beer that is unexceptional in any way.

Or would that be unnecessarily harsh? Damm Estrella might be dull, but it doesn’t do much wrong. In fact, it does a lot right. If I were travelling in Spain, I’d be more than happy to enjoy this drink. And over here, if all you want is a decent beer that won’t upset anyone, this is a great choice. One for the party or the barbeque.

Rating: 2.9

Have you tried Damm Estrella? What did you think?
Opinions, corrections, thoughts, ideas, suggestions and anything else you can think of in the usual place please. Thank you.

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