Archive for July, 2008

Beer Review: Foster’s Ice

30 July, 2008

AFTER the miserable Bud Ice a few days ago, I’ve foolishly decided to give the ‘Ice‘ themed bottled lager another try. Say hello to this little bottle of Foster’s Ice.

Fosters Ice bottle

First impressions are that it looks a lot like Bud Ice. The glass is transparent. And the logos and labels are slanted and trendy. But this is no Anheuser-Busch mega-brand. No. This mega-brand comes from an entirely different mega-brewer.

As a product, it’s hard to fault the packaging. The top has the Foster’s logo of an ice-skating kangaroo. And that’s a logo you don’t see very prominently in their television commercials these days.

Fosters Ice bottle top

The neck label has the familiar Foster’s “F” logo with the gold, red and blue colour scheme that goes with it. The words “Premium Quality Beer” raise a smile. Will that prove to be ironic? Or will it surprise me?

Foster’s Ice neck label

What I like about the little neck label though, is that they’ve managed to stick it onto the bottle at the same slanted angle as the main front label. And that’s good packaging.

Foster’s Ice front label

It’s hard to fault this label. Sure, it dispenses with the anything remotely traditional. In fact, it makes the whole thing look more like an alcopop. But since it’s probably aiming at the alcopop drinker, that’s forgivable.

Under the gigantic logos and brand name are the facts you need to know. Carefully placed in a little silver bar along the bottom is the description “For A Clean Crisp Taste”. This is a lager then, clearly aiming for the basics. Next to that, in red no less, is the alcoholic volume. Which at 5% isn’t notable in any way.

Because the back label is the size of a postage stamp, they’ve carefully put some of the small-print on the sides of the front label. On one side, we’re informed that this is a 33 centilitre bottle. That it’s a “Premium Quality Ice Brewed Beer” that contains barley and wheat.

Over on the other side are the UK units of alcohol. You probably won’t be interested to know, that this little bottle contains all of 1.7 units. But if you are, they also print the recommended daily units for men and women. Which are four and three respectively in case you are the curious type.

Around on the back of the bottle, and the barcode dominates the Post-It Note sized label.

Foster’s Ice back label

Fortunately, they don’t try to cram much else on  there too. What there is, is a quick description about what this drink is. And the address of where it was made. The description describes it as “Ice Brewed and Superchilled”. And that this is to “Produce a Smooth Refreshing Lager” that has a “Uniquely Clean, Crisp Taste”. All good qualities. And with expectations as low as mine, maybe it won’t disappoint.

Sadly, the address of the place where this was made does. That’s because Foster’s comes from UK brewing giant Scottish & Newcastle in Edinburgh. That makes this bottle of Foster’s Ice as Australian as deep-fried Mars bars.

Still, it’s now time to crack open this bottle. And to sample the lager within. In a London hotter than the Earth’s core, I truly hope this one is as refreshing at it promises.

Fosters Ice poured into a glass

Once in the glass, you won’t be surprised by the colour. Which is pale yellow. But you knew that already from the transparent glass bottle. What I was pleased to see was a proper head. A little patchy, but better than expected.

It has a richer smell than expected, too. You don’t need to sniff hard to get a good whiff of malted barley. I like it.

A couple of gulps in, and I must admit, it is no where near as bad as I had been expecting. It has a solid, lagery taste of malted barley with a lightly lingering, but not unpleasant bitterness. Not very strongly flavoured and not so weak as to be un-noticeable.

I didn’t expect to have any positives to report, yet, here they are. The taste and flavour is as inoffensive as you can get for a lager. And that makes it very easy to drink. If you’ve got a chilled bottle, it should be as “refreshing” and “clean” as promised. It’s also smooth and none too gassy.

Being a lager, there is no chance that it can escape fault. For starters, it tastes of lager. Compared to ale or beer in any other form, this means it tastes cheap and it boring. That’s a fact that is true however good the lager in question is. Then there’s the taste itself. That lingering bitterness will stop Foster’s Ice from being so refreshing after a bottle or two.

In summation, Foster’s Ice is a good example of the “ice brewed” lager phenomenon. Think of it like the whole “white cider” boom. Both this and Bud Ice are lagers stripped of real flavours, apparently designed to be as easy to drink as possible. If you have to make a choice, then choose Foster’s Ice over Bud Ice. Alternatively, choose a real beer instead.

Rating: 2.6

Have you tried Foster’s Ice? What did you think of it?
Leave your corrections, opinions, thoughts and recommendations with the world in the little box below.

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Beer Review: Bud Ice

26 July, 2008

WITH regular Budweiser proving unexpectedly drinkable and Budweiser Budvar proving a disappointment, where does that leave Bud Ice? Let’s answer that question as I turn my cynicism to this little bottle.

Bud Ice bottle

This one cost £1.19 pence from a shop on Brick Lane. I think it looks good. From the transparent glass to the ice shaped surface around the shoulder, this is a beer for the trendy young drinker. It’s also quite a lot different to either Budweiser or Budvar. Just have a look at the logo on the neck label.

Bud Ice neck label

And how different everything looks on the front label.

Bud Ice front label

The big “Bud ICE” logo is slightly reflective. Everything is trimmed down from the regular Budweiser style. But it remains jolly American and unmistakable “Bud”. Look a little closer and you’ll spot some familiar sights. Near the top there’s the Anheuser-Bush logo of an eagle colliding with a large, stylised “A”.

Getting down to the details on there, the alcoholic volume is clearly labelled at 4.7%. A deliberate attempt to separate itself from the established premium beers perhaps and go head to head with the likes of Corona Extra and Sol? Perhaps. Or maybe I’m reading too much into it.

Under the big “Bud” logo we get a concise and informative sentence about what this drink is supposed to be all about. And I quote “Our exclusive ice brewing process produces a rich smooth taste that’s remarkably easy to drink”. Is this “ice brewing process” something real or just marketing speak? Whatever it is, “rich smooth taste” and “easy to drink” are two very welcome qualities. Let’s hope it pulls it off.

Under that, we get the name and address of the producer proudly displayed. “Anheuser-Busch Inc., St. Louis, Mo., U.S.A.”. Does that mean this is imported? Why else would it have that on the front label? Alas, I’ve already checked the back label, and can reveal that it’s all just marketing. I’m as disappointed as you are.

Last detail worth mention from the front is that this is a 330 millilitre bottle. That makes it the same size as Budvar. And 30 millilitres more capacious than Budweiser.

Over on the back label, and the “Born On” date makes a welcome return.

Bud Ice back label

As with regular Bud, this one has its “freshest taste within 110 days”. But there’s something you should know about the paragraph underneath it. The entire “Fresh Beer Tastes Better” paragraph is exactly the same as that on the Budweiser bottle. Only the name “Budweiser” has been changed to “Bud Ice”. Whether that affects how “clean, crisp” and “refreshingly different” it purports to be, I’ll have to investigate. I’m feeling rather mislead at this point.

Elsewhere on the label, the only address we get is the one from Richmons, Surrey, England. So you’ll know who to write to, to ask them to import the genuine article instead. It includes barley malt. And gives us no clue about how many UK units of alcohol there are. Not that you need those daft symbols to tell you that more than three or four in a night is too much. I recommend everyone at some stage in their lives be a student and work such things out for themselves in the environment of halls of residence or the student union.

Back to the beer, someone’s got to “pry off” the cap of this bottle and pass judgement on the contents. Any volunteers? Oh okay. I’ll do it then.

Bud Ice poured into a glass

Once in the glass, it looks more like Budweiser than Budvar. That is to say, it is an anaemic yellow. Rather disappointingly patchy head on it too.

The smell is like every other cheap lager in the world. Some generic blend of malted barley and hops. Not as rich as Budvar nor as well-rounded as Budweiser. Just a cheap lagery smell. I think I can see where this is going.

And sure enough, a couple of gulps proves this to be an undistinguished cheap lager. It tastes lagery. Not the premium continental lagery or the quality independent or craft brewer lagery. Just lagery. You get a brief taste of malted barley before you receive a lingering bitter taste.

To its credit, that lingering bitterness isn’t as strong and unpleasant as with Budvar. It is rather muted in comparison. The label describes it as “smooth” and “easy to drink”. I can’t really disagree. It’s smooth. And it’s inoffensive enough to be easy to drink. Well I had no problem throwing back each gulp of the wretched stuff. As for the taste it leaves, at least it leaves a taste at all. And it’s a taste that isn’t up there with the worst of them.

Unfortunately, Bud Ice can’t hide the fact that it’s just an ordinary cheap lager. The taste doesn’t stand out at all from all the other cheap lagers. And compared to the lagers that have rice in the ingredients list, this one reaches sub-mediocrity at best.

In summary, Bud Ice is a slightly gassy, run of the mill lager. Not as distinctive as Budvar, not as tasty as Budweiser. This is actually what I expected Budweiesr to be like. But instead, Bud Ice receives the honour of being most pointless Budweiser in the small range available in east-London off-licences. There is no rational reason for you to choose this over the alternatives.

Rating: 2.15

Have you tried Bud Ice? What did you think of it?
Leave your corrections, opinions, ideas and recommendations with the world in the little boxes below.

Beer Review: Budweis Budweiser Budvar Czech Imported Lager

25 July, 2008

BACK when I started this blog, I knew nothing about beer. Now, two years and hundreds of beers later, I now know almost nothing. A slight improvement over where I was before. The upshot of this is that my early posts weren’t always very good. My first attempt at ‘reviewing’ Budweiser Budvar for instance had so many mistakes, that the entire Internet felt compelled to leave angry comments. So, I replaced it with what you’re reading now.

Before going any further with a less erroneous ‘review’, I’ve got to get something embarrassing off my chest. I don’t much care for Budweiser Budvar. I’ve enjoyed can after can to try and figure out why it has such a dedicated following. It is an excellent Pilsner lager, but that distinctive, bitter aftertaste just doesn’t do it for me. Pilsner Urquell on the other hand has deliciously hoppiness, flavour, and a rich, smooth character. Budweiser Budvar does an outstanding job of being a different kind of pilsner lager and one I don’t like as much. It’s only one point of view. No doubt the comments at the end of the post will fill up with anger over my ‘wrong’ opinion.

So why bother with this ‘review’? Well, the detail junkies need to be fed. While the old version was up, it was one of the most popular on the blog. And this new version is a chance to upgrade the photos.

So, here we go again. With a big-ish bottle of Budweiser Budvar Czech Imported Lager.

First impressions are that it’s a big, upmarket bottle of lager. Unless you buy the smaller bottle. In which case it’s a small bottle of upmarket looking lager. Either way, it’s a green bottle with some fancy foil wrapping.

Neck foil isn’t normally worth a look, but they went to the trouble of putting a picture of a stamp on there. So let’s take a quick peek.

It features a picture of what looks like castle towers with a crest in front of them. And around the border it says “Budweiser Budbrau”.

The front label is a funny thing. Stuck half way between a tasteful European style and the in-your-face American Budweiser style. I think it gets away with it.

The top has a clearer version of the logo on the neck foil. But this time, around the border is written something different. Thanks to ‘Adam’ for explaining that “Sigillum Civium De Budiwoyz” is “coat of arms of Budějovice (or Budweis), or city seal of Budweis literally”.

Behind the logos is a crest. Not of a lion or dragon this time, but two medieval characters standing next to to a shield. And down at the bottom of the label is confirmation of the fact that sets this bottle apart. That’s because this has been “Brewed and bottled by the brewery Budweiser Budvar, N.C. České Budějovice (Budweis, Czech Republic”. Thank goodness it doesn’t mention a certain provincial town or city the keeps popping up on imitation foreign beers.

Over on the back label, and the original Budweiser remains that much classier than the one with all the advertising.

Budweis” has “Protected Geographical Indication” status. And that’s important because it means you won’t find anyone else pretending to sell and Budvar. At least not legally.

The little ‘story’ paragraph gives away a lot of juicy details as well. That Budvar has some 700 years of heritage. That they use Saaz Aroma Hops, which are new to me. That they have “carefully selected Moravian Malt” and use soft water from their own wells. All very welcome details indeed. But where is the rice? Without that, this will taste radically different to normal Budweiser.

Further down, and they get to the small print. That this is a 5% alcoholic volume lager. Little surprise there. The ingredient list is not a complicated one, giving only with only water, malt and hops.

There is also a web address which is www.original-budweiser.cz where you can tempt yourself with beers in their range that you can’t buy over here. Darn it. Lastly, you are told in no uncertain terms that this unremarkable 500 millilitre bottle (unless you bought the 330 ml one) is to be served cold. So I will.

This time around, it was a synch to pour. No uncontrollable fizzing at all. Just smooth pouring and a thin, patchy white head. It’s a slightly darker shade of amber than regular Budweiser. Much less head too. By the way, this time the bottle has been in the fridge. Not sure quite how much that will change things.

What does Budweis Budweiser Budvar smell like? The few cans of this I’ve tried seemed to have almost exactly the same smell of blended malted barley as every big-name lager. But this bottle right here is changing that. Maybe it’s the coldness? Whatever the reason, this time around, I can smell malted barley and hops! That would be the Saaz Aroma Hops at work then.

A couple of gulps in to my very cold glass of Budweis Budweiser Budvar, and things are turning out very differently to the first few times I’d tried it. This time , the old familiar “bite” is replaced by something else. Namely, a nice, clean, crisp and refreshing malted barley (that would be the Moravian Malt) and a bitter finish that tastes a tiny bit hoppy.

Before opening the bottle, I expected to find the same taste that put me off it again and again. Then to leave the ‘review’ there and just post it up to the photo above. But this time, possibly because of how cold it is, it smells and tastes utterly different. Now, at last, I can see what everyone was banging on about.

So, now that my Budweis Budweiser Budvar is sufficiently cold, what am I enjoying about it? At last, it’s doing the things that a lager should do. It’s clean, crisp and refreshing. It has a distinctive taste of malted barley and hops that I can’t remember finding elsewhere. It’s different to the other high-end lagers. You can taste how well made it is. And now you can buy it from many more shops than you used to.

What aren’t I enjoying about Budweis Budweiser Budvar? You can’t ignore how important it is to serve it cold. Most beers say on the label or can to serve it cold, but it’s not absolutely necessary to enjoy it. This time, when the label shouts “Serve Cold!”, they mean it. It tastes nowhere near as good at room temperature. Even at if just chilled. It needs to be cold; properly cold for it to taste right. And that’s not always easy. Especially in summer when you want a refreshing lager and can be sure that it won’t stay cold for long. Besides that, this one came out on the gassy side, although others I’ve tried weren’t.  And that malted barley taste, as it warms up when you get to the bottom of the glass or bottle won’t be as refreshing anymore.

So how can I sum up this re-review of Budweis Budweiser Budvar. In a word, a surprise. When I started re-writing it, the plan was to stop after the photo of it all poured. “I’m not going to enjoy drinking that” I thought. Only this time, the Budvar was much colder than before. And that suddenly made it delicious.

So how can we sum up a cold bottle of Budweis Budweiser Budvar? It’s a fine lager, that’s for sure. It goes a different direction from some other fine lagers. Pilsner Urquell and Samuel Adams Boston Lager are like lagers pretending to be ales. Budweis Budweiser Budvar on the other hand is more like a mainstream pilsner lager that just does what it does very very well. Watch out for the coldness of your glass or bottle though. Without the rice that regular Budweiser has, it quickly looses it’s smoothness as it warms up. Well worth trying if you haven’t already.

Have you tried Budweiser Budvar Czech Imported Lager? What did you think of it? Leave your personal opinions, corrections, opinions and recommendations in response to my personal opinions, here in the comments.

Beer Review: Budweiser

24 July, 2008

WHY do I keep subjecting myself to American lagers? Miller Beer and Michelob Lager were abysmal. Scraping the bottom of the barrel even further then, is this bottle of the ever-popular Budweiser.

Why end my self-imposed abstinence from big-name American beer? Simple. Because I’ve also got a bottle of Budweiser Budvar Czech Imported Lager and Bud Ice. What’s the difference between them? And which one is best? Find out when I try them in my next posts. But first, I must get through this.

Budweiser bottle

As a product, it doesn’t look at all bad. All that marketing and product placement in movies make it as familiar as air. From the red “Budweiser” neck label to the front label with a peculiarly complicated layout, I feel like I’ve had hundreds of these bottles. When in fact, I’ve only ever two or three, eight years ago.

Budweiser neck label

What can I say about the “Budweiser” and crown logos? Nearly as iconic as a certain Irish harp logo. You’ve got to respect this triumph of marketing.

The main front label is an overcrowded mess of symbolism and hard to read text. But yet again, the Anheuser-Busch marketing machine makes that fact easy to overlook.

Budweiser front label

They modestly call themselves the “King of Beers”. And the old style imagery around the top calls it “The World Renowned Budweiser Lager Beer”. At an unimaginative 5% alcoholic volume you begin to wonder if it’s all head and no beer. But a closer look gives you reason not to give up hope.

The banner across the top does something unexpected by raising hopes about the care and quality of this big-name American lager. It informs us that they used a “Beechwood Aging” process to give it “taste”, “smoothness” and “drinkability”. Then there are the ingredients they talk about. Again, all squashed into that front label. Not only does it have the usual hope and barley malt, but also rice.  Something that always adds a little extra to an otherwise bland lager. May it won’t be so bad after all?

The little back label is another marketing masterpiece.

Budweiser back label

The top corners remind you that this is 5% volume. And that the bottle is the rather less common 300 millilitres. Then there’s the familiar Anheuser-Bush trick of making a deal over the “Born On” and “Best Before” dates. Apparently that’s because it has its “Freshest Taste within 110 Days”. Unnecessary and idiosyncratic, but I like it for that reason.

Not content to leave it there, this label gives us a full paragraph on why they do the 110 days gimmick. And it’s worth reading because they describe what they think the beer in this bottle will taste like. And that’s good because it gives us something to judge it by. Unfortunately, none of the words “clean, crisp”, “fresh taste” or “refreshingly different” earns it brownie points for originality. But they’re perfectly welcome from a lager.

Down in the small print, there is the ubiquitous web address. This one is www.budweiser.co.uk. And there are the facts you probably guessed but hoped weren’t true. Not only can you send them your comments to their address in Richmond, Surrey, England. But that is also where this famous American brand was brewed. Something that makes a mockery of the words “Genuine” on the front labelLeaving my prejudices behind, it’s time to crack open this bottle and sample the contents within. Will it be as good as its competitors? Or, will it be drinkable? Let’s find out.

Budweiser poured into a glass

This is one to drink from the bottle. That’s because, at 300 millilitres, it will either leave your pint glass looking unfulfilled. Or, you’ll be left with dregs at the bottom of your bottle that can’t quite fit into your half-pint glass in one pour.

First impressions are that it looks a very pale yellow. You’ll want to keep it hidden in the bottle to stop yourself from being reminded how cheap it looks. But it’s not all bad. It does have a little head. And one that stays around even after a few minutes have passed.

As lager smells go, it’s not too bad. There are some odour-less and foul smelling lagers out there, but astonishingly, this isn’t one of them. Possibly from the “Beechwood Aging” or the rice, Budweiser smells surprisingly good. It has a well rounded smell of malted barley, possibly with a hint of those hops and the rice. Best of all, it’s neither too weak nor overpowering.

A couple of gulps in, and it doesn’t taste as bad as I had expected either. Most lagers have an unpleasant lingering bitterness. Not so much with Budweiser. Like the smell, the taste is good because it’s not too rough, and not totally absent either. Again, I’ve got to attribute it to the rice. The flavour is of that blend of malted barley and hops, but the hint of what is probably rice holds it all together. The taste is mildly bitter and it will linger. But it simply isn’t as unpleasant as I was expecting.

All this makes Budweiser drinkable. And that’s something I didn’t expect to say. If I had poured it before it had warmed up so much, it could quite easily have been crisp and refreshing too. Around two-thirds of the way through at this point and I haven’t burped either. So it’s none too gassy.

What about the downsides? Well, it’s still a lager. And, even with the addition of rice, it still tastes much like any other lager. And that makes it uninteresting. Especially if your shop shelf has British ales and European beers to choose from. Also, despite the taste and flavour, which I very much like, it’s still on the watery side. This isn’t a big solid drink to get your teeth into.

In conclusion, Budweiser, at least this English brewed cousin of the famous brand isn’t as bad as you might expect. It’s hard to find any reason to hate the way it tastes, and it’s surprisingly drinkable. Well worth a try if you like lagers. And try this with an open mind even if you don’t normally like lager. That said, it is still a lager.

Rating: 3

Have you tried Budweiser? Sure you have. Everyone has. But what did you think of it? Leave your comments for the world to read in the little box below.
And don’t forget to leave your corrections, opinions, thoughts, ideas, suggestions and recommendations here too. Look out for two more Buds soon.

Beer Review: Grolsch Imported Premium Lager

10 July, 2008

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.

Grolsch bottle with swingtop

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.

Grolsch Imported Premium Lager 3/4 bottle view

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.

Grolsch Imported Premium Lager neck and top

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.

Grolsch left neck swingtop label

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.

Grolsch right neck label swingtop

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?

Grolsch swingtop bottle poured

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 Premium Lager poured into a glass

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.

Rating: 2.7

Have you tried Grolsch Imported Premium Lager? What did you think of it?
Share your corrections, opinions, thoughts, ideas, suggestions and recommendations with the world in the little box below.

Beer Review: Carlsberg Export

9 July, 2008

DID you read my posts on Continental lagers in little green bottles a few days ago? Bavaria Holland Beer, Carlsberg, Heineken Imported and Beck’s Imported were all dull and about average. But, there were some gaping holes in my roundup. Specifically, a Grolsch and Carlsberg Export shaped holes. Righting that wrong, I’m delighted to have here bottles of each. Check back tomorrow for imported Grolsch, because today, I’m opening a bottle of Carlsberg Export. Will it be stronger and less bland than the domestic version? I sure hope so.

Carlsberg Export bottle

The bottle itself is identical. It’s the fetching silver labels that give it that “premium” look. A big improvement in looks at least.

There’s no back label again, so the neck is where to look for the details.

Carlsberg Export front neck label

The most prominent thing on the front of the neck label is a piece of good news. This bottle of beer is 5%. Nothing that special when you remember that nearly every European lager out there is also 5%. But a welcome improvement in the woeful 3.8% of its domestic cousin.

The bit above the alcoholic volume isn’t bad either. It has all the familiar branding and details neatly placed on top of each other. The big “C” logo, picture of a crown, the “Carlsberg” and “Export” logos are all there reminding you of which heavily marketed brand of beer this is. The year 1847 is on there too, as are the immortal words “Premium Lager”.

The barcode side of the neck label has a few details. Details I think would be best placed together with the other details. But for some reason, they are orphaned by themselves out here.

Carlsberg Export neck label barcode side

Most prominent is the all important bottle capacity. This one is the less-common, but not unusual 275 millilitre size. And the ingredients are given as “water, malted barley, hops, carbon dioxide”. Dry facts, but they’ve included more than most others. Look for yourself how many willingly admit to water being the chief ingredient, and carbon dioxide having been pumped into it. You’ve got to admire the honesty.

Over on the other side of the neck label, and there’s an alarming piece of small print.

Carlsberg Export neck label details side

That’s because, Carlsberg are being ambiguous about just how imported this lager is. The name Carlsberg Export means that this bottle has travelled all the way from Denmark, right? You’d expect so. So what then, are they doing writing “Brewed in the UK & Denmark”? Was it brewed whilst on the ferry from Copenhagen to Felixstowe? The address they give is “Carlsberg Breweries Copenhagen, Denmark”, but can it be trusted?

The consumer helpline number is a UK number. And the website address, www.carlsberg.co.uk is plainly a UK address. For the worried, you need not worry about the number of units of alcohol, because this bottle has only 1.4 UK units.

The front label is unusually good looking. The roundels on Beck’s, Heineken and that weird Dutch Bavaria are utilitarian compared to this silver work of art.

Carlsberg Export front label

Just look at it. The silver is eye catching and classy. The entire design is build around the big Carlsberg “C”. “1847 Premium Lager” does it’s bit to raise expectations. And in case you didn’t know, Carlsberg is “By Appointment To The Royal Danish Court”.

With no back label to whiter on about, it’s time to open the bottle and answer some questions. Does it taste as good as it look? Does it taste better than domestic Carlsberg? And is it any better than its rivals?

Carlsberg Export poured into a glass

This lager is prone to frothy head. But a combination of patience and the laws of physics pertaining to surface tension ensured that this bottle went into my half-pint glass without too much argument. It looks quite good. The frothy head looks good. And pale yellow is good because it’s more opaque than its cheaper rivals. And it doesn’t look as fizzy.

The same can’t be said of the smell. I gave it a few good hard sniff and couldn’t detect much more than a faint blend of malted barley and hops. Better than many lagers, but not outstanding.

The taste is mildly bitter with a lightly lingering bitter aftertaste. The flavour is of a blend of malted barley and hops. Not almost invisible and not particularly strong.

There is plenty to like with Carlsberg Export. I like the softness of the flavours. The unpleasant ‘sharpness’ that causes me to loath most lagers is hard to find. The flavour it does have is neither so weak as to be a complete waste of time. Nor is it so strong as to be offensive. All of which makes Carlsberg Export is high-quality and drinkable lager beer.

This being a lager however, there are inevitably things I dislike. Calling a flavour “inoffensive” is never going to be a true compliment. Peter Mandelson is inoffensive, yet I hate him. And it’s a similar story with Carlsberg Export. You won’t necessarily hate how it tastes, but if you like good beer and ale, you won’t love it. In fact, you’ll have a hard time finding any discernable difference compared to its other green bottled rivals.

To sum up, Carlsberg Export is very good. For a lager. But again, it’s only a lager. If you enjoy this, you could buy any of its rivals and enjoy them equally as much. If I were shopping for lager, there are worse choices. This is a good example of what a quality lager should be like.

Rating: 2.6

Have you tried Carlsberg Export? What did you think of it?
Leave your corrections, opinions, thoughts, ideas, suggestions and recommendations here for the entire world to read.

Comparison: Cider with Ice vs. Cider without Ice

8 July, 2008

AS proof that I do read your comments, here is a request. The question to answer is simple… Which tastes best? Cider with ice or without?

Now, I have thought about doing comparisons before. For example, comparing domestically churned out lager with the imported version of the same brand. But that would be like comparing council tax with income tax. Whatever the outcome, you’ve lost out. Not having the things to hand has also been a problem.

It is with both the means (the four-pack of Gaymers Original Cider) and the will (Gaymers Original Cider is pretty good), that we get this comparison under way. If you read yesterday’s review, you’ll know that this cider does a reasonable job of representing all the ciders out there where the manufacturers want you to use ice. So this isn’t just comparing Gaymers with and without ice. It’s comparing all ciders with and without ice.

Hypothesis:

I’ve always had the suspicion that adding ice makes it a little more refreshing, but waters the thing down. Especially by the time the ice has melted. And, if you’re buying your cider, or any other drink from a bar, you get worse value if they add ice because it leaves that much less room in the glass for drink. You can try it the next time you get a cola with your fast-food meal. When your body is cursing you for having a Big Mac with cheese, at least you’ll be smug about getting good value from your soft-drink.

Back to the cider. I started out with two glasses roughly equally filled.

 Cider with Ice vs. Cider without Ice - No Ice

Next step was to add four ice cubes to one of the glasses. I added them to the glass on the right-hand-side if you couldn’t tell.

 Cider with Ice vs. Cider without Ice - With Ice

You might have noticed how one of the glasses is now nearly full. The next time you order a drink and it arrives with ice, just imagine a quarter of it being water. In these tough economic times, you may want to pass on the ice.

First Test: Smell

Yes they do smell different. The glass with no ice has a much fuller smell of apples. The glass with ice has a very weak smell of apples. No surprise considering the quarter of a glass of water sitting on top.

Second Test: Taste

Glass without ice tastes of tangy, citrusy and rather dry cider. The glass with ice tastes of… not much. It tastes watery with a hint of apples. The character is completely different. With the ice, it’s no longer as tangy and citrusy. Which is bad. But it’s not longer so dry in character and it’s much more refreshing. Which is good.

Observations

The difference is bigger than I expected. It changes the character and nature of the cider in a big way. If it affects the typical example of Gaymers that I used, you can be sure it will affect any other brand in much the same way. And that would go for pear or fruit cider too, I would imagine.

Which is best?

That depends on your taste. And how hot the day is. Hot day, I’d go for the ice option. You probably need the re-hydration anyway. If you’re not sweaty, then enjoy a civilised and flavourful glass of cider without ice.

Conclusions:

This shocking result nullifies all my past cider reviews. Some of them were with ice and others weren’t. That immediately makes my comparisons wonky. If you do trawl the archives of this blog, compensate for the cider reviews where I added ice by imagining that I was more complementary about the smell and flavour. I certainly won’t be adding ice for any more reviews.

Where do you stand on the ice vs. no ice debate? Leave your opinion here for the world to see.

Cider Review: Gaymers Original Cider

7 July, 2008

ON sale for half-price at only £1.67 from Tesco, I couldn’t resist this four-pack of cider. Especially as this is one of the newly popular original ciders from one of the biggest cider producers in the country. If you’ve had one of the white ciders or super-strength ciders, then chances are that you’ve had a Gaymers without realising. I’m happy then, to have Gaymers Original Cider. A Gaymers that doesn’t hide behind a different brand name.

Gaymers Original Cider 4-pack

The four-pack itself isn’t particularly flashy. But it does the job. Sort of. That’s because after carefully removing one of the bottles, it was like removing the keystone from a bridge. Bottles falling all over the place.

The bottles themselves, and remember, there are bigger versions on sale, look different to the competition. Gone is the dark, elegant curves of the competition. Because here is a stocky, robust looking green bottle. A bottle with “Est 1770” and “Gaymer Cider Company” embossed upon it.

Gaymers Original Cider bottle

It has a big, wrap around neck label. One that is gold and makes the bottle look as though it’s wearing a dinner jacket.

Gaymers Original Cider front of neck label

Under the Gaymers logo, the one that looks like a crown with flames shooting out of each side, we learn that this is “Cold filtered”. What that means, I don’t know. But this is the first cider I’ve seen that is. It goes on to explain that this is “for a crisp refreshing taste”. Sadly, the back of the neck label doesn’t offer any more of an explanation.

Gaymers Original Cider back of neck label

All we get is the standard “drink responsibly” message and website. Look hard enough though, and you do see one thing that is unusual. There is a tiny symbol saying that Gaymer is a member of “The National Association of Cider Makers”. Never heard of it, but I’m glad that there is one.

The main front label is nothing out of the ordinary for a cider.

Gaymers Original Cider front label

Everything is clear and readable. Just lacking the character and personality of a beer or ale bottle label. There’s little on here that isn’t elsewhere on the front of this bottle. The established date is worth returning to, however. That’s because 1770 is a seriously long time ago. It means that when Gaymer first started producing cider, we had a mad king, and much of North America. Amazing.

Besides all the facts on the front label that we already know, are a few that we don’t. The vital statistics are on there. That this is a 330 millilitre bottle. And that it has 4.5% alcoholic volume. Nothing exceptional there then. The same goes for the prominent, capitalised words “Serve Over Ice”. I think that there may be some bandwagon jumping going on here.

Spinning the bottle around reveals a miniscule label.

Gaymers Original Cider back label

It’s a cider so there’s nothing to read, right? Wrong. For the first time, there is a proper, beer style description on the background of Gaymers Original Cider. We get to learn that this cider, established in 1770, is made with traditional cider pressing methods. That is made from English apples. And that it has a particularly crisp, refreshing and smooth taste. No mention of the word ‘dry’, so I’m happy.

There are a few other juicy details on the back too. This bottle has 1.5 UK units of alcohol. It contains sulphites. And it describes itself as a “Medium Cider”. Considering how strong it is, I can’t disagree with that.

With all of that out of the way, it’s time to answer some questions. What is Gaymer Original Cider like? And is it better than my current favourite, Magners Irish Cider?

Gaymers Original Cider poured into a glass with ice

I opted for a handful of ice cubes in the glass this time. The colour is a deep-ish golden-yellow apple colour. There’s no head and not that much fizz in the glass. The smell is apple-y. Much as you would expect and hope for from a cider. I like it. Even though it’s not particularly natural. It reminds of that other Gaymer cider, K. Which is exactly what I was hoping for.

The taste however, reminds me more of those less satisfying Gaymer ciders; the white ciders. It does have a taste of apples. But one that is light in character, and one that doesn’t taste particularly high-quality.

But don’t get me wrong, there is plenty to enjoy with Gaymers Original Cider. The light, apple-y taste is still very nice. The character isn’t dry, but sweet. Especially when you have plenty of ice in the glass. Something I like a lot. It also checks those other important cider boxes by being crisp and refreshing. What with the added smoothness by not being gassy, it does everything it promises on the label.

Even with all these good things, I can’t quite topple Magners from its perch as top Medium Cider. It simply doesn’t have enough flavour for my liking. And there is something about the quality of ingredients that seems synthetic.

Where does this leave Gaymers Original Cider? It’s very good, but just short of excellent. If you can find it at the price I did, then it is excellent value and well worth trying.

Rating: 3

Have you tried Gaymers Original Cider? What did you think?
Leave your corrections, opinions, thoughts, ideas, suggestions and recommendations here please.

Beer Review: Beck’s Imported

6 July, 2008

NEXT up in my look at big-name beers in little green bottles that all seem to come from north-west Europe is Beck’s Imported. Now, I’ve tried some Beck’s before. It was alright, but quickly became lousy. That however, was probably not the imported stuff. So it’s with… not an open mind. More a mind that is slightly ajar that I approach this small green bottle of Beck’s Imported.

Becks Imported bottle

First impression is that this little green bottle looks almost identical to its competitors. The glass is green. The bottle is the same shape. And the front label all ensures that you confuse it with every other bottle of premium continental lager.

But this bottle has a secret weapon. Neck foil.

Becks Imported neck label

Not the sort of gold foil that wraps all the way up to the bottle top. This one is solver and simply wraps around the neck. It doesn’t say much either. Simply have the “Beck’s” name; the unusual logo featuring a key on a red shield; and the all important word, “Imported”. Not fancy, but it achieves its goal.

The front label looks familiar. Haven’t we seen a roundel like this before?

Beck's Imported front label

Yes we have. Heineken and Stella Artois are just two that you’ll confuse this bottle of Beck’s with. Sticking to tradition or being unoriginal? Leave your thoughts in the comments at the end of this post.

As for what the label itself says, the borders are always the best place to start. The top gives the name of the brewery as “Brauerei Beck & Co”. With the bottom giving the place of origin as “Bremen Germany”. We get a proper look at their “Reg Tm” which is unusual indeed. Does anyone out there know what the key on the red shield means?

This beer also appears to be an award winner. Something about Bremmen in 1874. And an award from the International Exhibition at Philidelphia in the USA from 1876. That’s a reasonable heritage. But should we be worried by their lack of competitive success over the intervening 130 years?

Over on the back label, the restraint from the front is replaced by the multi-lingual blocks of text that we’ve become familiar with, with exported beers.

Beck's Imported back label

Just underneath a dozen different languages for the word “beer”, is something unusual. And German. In a little box entitled “Beck’s Quality”, we learn that this has been “Brewed Under the German Purity Law of 1516”. Because in Germany, even the concept of purity has order and rules.

The ingredients that we’re told about are “water, malted barley, hops”. Oddly, the vital statistics for this bottle are almost hidden away. You need to go looking for them in order to discover that this is a 33 centilitre bottle with an alcoholic volume of 5%. On the other hand, you probably already guessed both of those details.

For the curious, there are addresses on this label too. There a the full German postal address. And a website address, which is www.becks.com.

So, is Beck’s Imported going to be another indistinctive yet well-made lager? Probably. But I better check to make sure. Time to crack open this bottle.

Becks Imported poured into a glass

As has been the case with most of these lagers, this one comes with an excellent head. Not too frothy or uncontrollable. Yet it leaves a good, fairly consistent layer of foam on top of your drink.

This colour is little surprise either. It’s a pale yellow. Maybe a shade darker than its near competitors. It’s a similar story with the smell. There is the slightest of aromas of malted barley. Very lagery. But somehow fuller than either Carlsberg or Heineken. Not as much as Stella Artois however.

The taste, regrettably, is on the cheap and horrid side of average. It might not say “lager” anywhere on the bottle, but that’s definitely what I’m tasting. And it’s below par. The flavour is surprisingly strong and full-on. Unlike the few I’ve tried recently. It tastes of a blend of malted barley and hops. But all you end up noticing is the ‘sharp’ and lingering bitterness.

After a few gulps, I can see a few reasons why you should consider trying Beck’s Imported . It has flavour. More so than some of the watery lagers I’ve tried recently. Even if that bitter lagery taste isn’t to my taste, it will be for some of you out there. The quality of the product is roughly where I expected it to be. All of which gives it a clean and fairly drinkable character.

Predictably though, there’s a lot to put you off. I found the taste vile. Something you will too, if you don’t much like lager anyway. If you drink a lot of these on a night out and forget to brush your teeth before going to bed, you are going to have monumentally toxic breath the next morning. And it will make you burp.

How can I sum up Beck’s Imported? Or for that matter, the domestically produced Beck’s? Well, it’s adequate. Barely. But ultimately, not something you drink by choice. This is something you drink because it’s the only beer the bar serves, or because your local supermarket or off-license has a good deal on the caseload. In other words, it’s what you drink because you have to. If, however, you get a choice in the matter, then choose something better.

Rating: 2.35

Have you tried Beck’s Imported? Or ordinary Beck’s? What did you think of it?
Leave your corrections, opinions, thoughts, ideas, suggestions, recommendations and requests here please.

Beer Review: Heineken Imported Lager Beer

4 July, 2008

NEXT in my look at little green bottles of cheap beers from the north-west corner of the continent is another big name. If you’ve ever looked at a shelf of beers in a shop, you’ve probably seen the name Heineken. Well, here’s a little green bottle of Heineken Imported Lager Beer.

Heineken Imported Lager Beer bottle

The neck label says everything you need to choose this bottle over the domestically produced equivalent.

Heineken Imported Lager Beer neck label

The most prominent word on it is “Imported”. It is perhaps the best word ever to be printed on any beer bottle, as you know you’ll be getting the genuine article. Apart from with ales. We definitely make the best ales in the world.

Back to the neck label, and it holds other positive information too. The Heineken red star name and logo help you recognise it. But I must be totally honest with you; the green-ness of the colour scheme always makes me confuse it with Carlsberg.

Again I digress. Back to the welcome information on the neck label. The date 1873 gives it some heritage. The alcoholic volume is that publicised continental 5%. But with so many other beers being at least that, this one hardly stands out from the crowd any longer.

Down to the front label, and we get a traditional green roundel.

Heineken Imported Lager Beer front label

Starting from the outside and working in, the outer-outer-outer border has some tiny words written on it. And those words are “The Original Quality” and “Brewed with Natural Ingredients”. The border inside that describes it as “Heineken Lager Beer” and “Premium Quality”. Inside that, is another border formed, I think, of French language text. This being a Dutch lager, that threw me at first. Until I realised that the text, medals and other bits of writing were referring to some awards won in Paris. Apparently, it won the “Medaille D’or Paris 1875” and the “Grans Prix Paris 1889”. Plus some other things I can’t quite interpret in 1883 and 1900. A prize is still a prize, but nothing for the last century?

The back label keeps things simple.

Heineken Imported Lager Beer back label

Around the outside is much welcome confirmation of this bottle’s origins: “Brewed and Bottled by Heineken Brouwerijen B.V., Amsterdam, Holland”. Besides the barcode, logo and 5% volume, one of the most prominent things on this side is their sponsorship deal. If you already enjoy watching a few men running up and down a field, trying not to dirty their haircuts, you probably already know that Heineken are the “Proud Sponsor of” the “UEFA Champions League”.

Also fairly prominent are this bottle’s vital statistics. This little bottle is the typical 330 millilitres in size. And because of it’s 5% volume, it has 1.7 UK units of alcohol. Thoroughly unremarkable.

The ingredients list mentions water, malted barley and hops. Little unusual there. What is unusual is that they give two different web addresses. The most prominent, and one that say “Please visit:” is at enjoyheinekenresponsibly.com“. An address that re-directs you to Heineken International homepage at http://www.heinekeninternational.com/homepage.aspx. The other address on the label, www.heineken.co.uk re-directs you to the homepage of their draught keg product at http://draughtkeg.co.uk/.

At this point, I would normally say “that’s everything on the label, now time to open it”. But something caught my eye on the Heineken International homepage. That is because, it’s big industry news. With Belgian brewing giant InBev making moves on American brewing giant Anheuser-Busch, this one slipped under the radar. It appears that Heineken recently made a successful offer on our on big brewer, Scottish & Newcastle plc. It’ll be interesting to see how this consolidation plays out. As far as I know, S&N spend most of their time making licensed versions of foreign beers. It would be nice if this deal brings more innovation to the market place. Sadly, all this consolidation can’t be good news for out numerous favourite little breweries up and down the land. How do you think it will work out?

A paragraph later than normal, it’s time now to get to the fun bit. To open this bottle and discover what Heineken Imported Lager is like. Is it better than Carlsberg or will I find their tastes as identical as their branding?

Heineken Imported Lager Beer poured into a glass

In the glass, you get a good, controllable head. No uncontrollable frothing, nor patchy bubbles here. And because it’s lager, it has a weak yellow hue. There is however, next to no smell at all. This has possibly the weakest smell of any beer of lager I’ve tried.

And the taste isn’t much stronger. It has a light tasting blend of malted barley and hops, leaving a slight, lingering hoppy bitterness. It is all very mild stuff.

There are things to like about Heineken Imported Lager. I liked how mild and inoffensive the flavours were when compared to the cheaper and nastier lagers. I liked how easy to drink it is, and how crisp and refreshing it is.

But that is all the usual faint praise you can give a premium lager. That’s because this, like every other premium quality continental lager can only ever be an average beer. The taste, though drinkable, is not one many people, myself included, would choose over something better. And, over the course of a few drinks, it would quickly stop being refreshing and start leaving a nasty taste in my mouth. It’s rather gassy too. Then there’s the question of what makes Heineken stand out. Not much as far as I can tell.

Rating: 2.55

A good quality premium lager. But barely distinguishable from other premium quality continental lagers. And distinctly average as a beer.

Have you tried Heineken Imported Lager? How does it compare to regular Heineken?
Leave your corrections, opinions, thoughts, ideas, suggestions and recommendations with the world here please.

Beer Review: Carlsberg

3 July, 2008

YESTERDAY’S snooze-worthy Bavaria Holland Beer got me thinking. Are there any better green-bottled beers and lagers from north-west continental Europe? To answer that question, I’ve picked up bottles of Becks from Germany; Heineken from Holland and Carlsberg from Denmark. First up, is a little green bottle of Carlsberg.

Carlsberg bottle

Of the three green bottles I purchased today, this is the only one that didn’t say “imported” anywhere on it. I figure it’s best to get the worst out of the way first. An inverted attitude, since this is the very same Danish lager that goes by the slogan “Probably the best lager in the world…” It’s also not to be confused with its sister lager, and alcoholics favourite, Carlsberg Special Brew. You really wouldn’t want to get the two of them confused.

With no back label, the neck is where it all happens.

Carlsberg front of neck label

The front of the neck label does everything possible to make sure you recall the brand. First, it has the big Carlsberg “C” logo. The crown for the Royal Danish Court. And the words “Carlsberg Copenhagen Since 1847” all there to remind you of this brewers name and Danish heritage.

If that fails, there’s the slogan prominently printed. If you’ve watched any commercial breaks on television over the last few years, you can’t fail to be familiar with the slogan “Probably the best lager in the world…” I like how they made a virtue of fact that it could, “probably” be the best lager in the world. Instead of definitely the best lager in the world. Incidentally, leave your nominations for the actual best lager in the world in the comments at the end of this post.

The left-hand-side of the neck label kicks off the fine print.

Carlsberg left neck label

Next to the barcode, is the symbol telling us how many UK units of alcohol this bottle contains. And you won’t believe this. It has 1.0 UK units of alcohol. Not a decimal point more or less, but dead on 1 unit. Did that happen by accident? Or did they tweak the volume and bottle size until it reached 1.0 exactly?

The ingredients list is brief to say the least. It contains malted barley. But you knew that.

Over on the right-hand-side of the neck label, we get all the other small print details.

Carlsberg right neck label

Most prominent of all, are this lagers vital statistics. The bottle holds the less than common 275 millilitres. And you’ll need to drink plenty of them, because the volume is a paltry 3.8%. This is not going to be a strong, premium lager. Not by a long-shot.

The side-ways text informs us that this was brewed in the EU for Carlsberg’s UJK subsidiary. And it gives their Northampton postal address. Brewed in the EU? So it could have been brewed in Denmark or elsewhere on the continent? Or, the most likely option, it wasn’t. Is it me, or is the phrase “Lager brewed and bottled in the EU for Carlsberg UK” deliberately vague?

Also written sideways are the ever present words “Enjoy Responsibly”. You really have no choice with a lager this weak. There’s a consumer helpline telephone number. The drinkaware web address. And the Carlsberg web address, which is www.carlsberg.co.uk. After having a poke around, I can see where I’ve gone wrong with this bottle. This is regular Carlsberg. What I need is their strong export version, Carlsberg Export. I’ll have to look out for a bottle. Not a can though. Cans make every beer taste of aluminium.

Down to the front label now.

Carlsberg front label

And in contrast to the crowded neck label, everything is calm, peaceful and Danish. I like the green-ness. It goes well with the green bottle glass. The “Carlsberg” name and crown prominently hint at the heritage. As do those reassuring words “By Appointment To the Royal Danish Court”. Presumably, that means someone in the Danish Royal household is procuring Carlsberg’s products. But which ones? My money is on their Special Brew.

What else can I say about the front? Not much. There’s a strange looking leaf type symbol. And the words “Copenhagen Denmark”. There is nothing more to describe. Which means that it’s time to open this bottle of lager. And to answer the question… is this the best lager in the world?

Straight after opening the bottle, and before I could pour, something strange happened.

Carlsberg opened

This happened. The head tried to escape from the bottle. It didn’t want to sit still when it came to pouring either.

Carlsberg poured into a glass

The glass had a good thick head. Fortunately, it settled down in a couple of minutes, leaving my half-pint glass nicely brimming.

The colour is what you would expect from a lager. A pale yellow colour with lots of fizz.

The smell is barely worth describing. It smells like virtually every other lager. That is to say, it has a faint smell of a blend of malted barley and the usual lager ingredients.

How does it taste? After a couple of gulps, I’d say it tastes of lager. To see what I mean, simply try any other lager, anywhere in the world. The taste is mostly, and lightly of malted barley. And it leaves a mild, hoppy bitterness on your tongue.

Unexpectedly, there are some things that I like about Carlsberg. The taste isn’t all that bad. Certainly not as bad as some lagers. The bitterness for example, isn’t as horrible and lingering as, say, the appalling Michelob. It’s surprisingly easy to drink. Served cold, it would also be light and refreshing.

But, there is plenty to hate here too. The taste is lingering enough for it to stop being refreshing fairly quickly. The flavours, although not totally offensive, really aren’t something to get enthused about. The lightness, and refreshing-ness come from how weak and watery it is. You’d need to drink a lot of this to get a full taste of it, and to feel the effects. But you wouldn’t want to drink much of it.

Just like yesterday’s beer, and like so many lagers, drinking this is like eating mashed potato. It has a bland, yet mostly inoffensive taste. And it’s something most people consumer only because they have to. Is it the best lager in the world? No.

Rating: 2.55

Have you tried Carlsberg? What did you think? Is it better or worse than Export?
Leave your corrections, opinions, thoughts, ideas, suggestions and requests with the world here please. And check back tomorrow for more green-bottled blandness.

Beer Review: Bavaria Holland Beer

2 July, 2008

NORMAL service is resumed tonight with another bottle of beer. Four bottles of beer in fact. That’s because Tesco was offering this four-pack of little bottles of Dutch beer for half-price. Even if it’s only mediocre, which I expect it to be, that’s going to be £1.94 pence that’s well spent. But how good is it? Lets find out.

Bavaria Holland Beer 4-pack

If the cardboard packaging that holds the bottles in place doesn’t do it for you, then neither will the bottles themselves. All four of them are thoroughly unremarkable, green bottles.

Bavaria Holland Beer bottle

And it gets worse. The tops aren’t proper bottle tops. Instead, in tiny writing, it tells you to “Twist to Open”. It’ll never catch on.

What about the neck label?

Bavaria Holland Beer neck label

Well… it has one. It has an inoffensive green shiny orange colour scheme. It features the strange “Bavaria” logo, with what looks like barley either side of it. And the words “Bavaria Holland Beer”. And that in itself it a mystery. I checked on Google Earth earlier today, and I’m happy to report that Bavaria is still located in southern Germany. Is it cashing in on the famous German region? Or an honest geographical blunder? What is going on here?

The front label garishly answers some questions.

Bavaria Holland Beer front label

The top of the roundel proudly gives us the good news that this is “Genuine Imported”. But from where? “Produced in Holland” follows the curve of the top border. Although we had already guessed that by the name “Bavaria Holland Beer”.

To it’s credit, we do get what I think is a place name. That’s because inside the border is the name “Lieshout Holland”. Has anyone reading this ever been there? What’s is like?

The top half also has an “Anno”. This one dates back to 1719. An early date, hinting at decent heritage. The bottom border of the label roundel has the ever re-assuring words “Family Brewed Premium Beer”. Maybe I’m being too harsh on this one?

Over on the back label, the mystery surrounding this beer isn’t exactly cleared.

Bavaria Holland Beer back label

The morass of poorly laid out foreign languages makes it a pain to pick out anything I could understand. Fortunately, the vital statistics are prominent for all to see and understand. This bottle is the typical 33 centilitres (330 millilitres) and has an alcoholic volume of 5%. That makes this possibly the most typical bottle I’ve ever had.

There is a block of text, which I think has the address of the brewery. But it doesn’t have it in English, so I can’t be sure. So, as you’re busy trying to pick out some recognisable words, you’ll miss the web address, which is listed at www.bavaria.com. The front page is the usual, with a place to enter your age and country. If you want to skip that, then go straight to www.bavariahollandbeer.co.uk where you can discover that is uses Flash and doesn’t work well with your Firefox web browser.

Amongst the multilingual block dedicated to ingredients, there is, lo and behold, an English language section. For the curious, the ingredients are “purest mineral water, barley malt, wheat, hops”. With my expectations suitably levelled, it’s time to open this bottle and investigate what lies within. Not forgetting to answer the big questions of what it’s like and is it any good?

Bavaria Holland Beer poured into a glass

This beer comes with a head. A big one. So watch out for that when you pour. It also stays around for longer than some others. The photo doesn’t show it clearly, but the colour is a very lagery pale yellow.

What about the smell? It’s not a bad beer smell. A more rounded smell of barley and wheat than most lagers. But less interesting than many beers. And blown away by any ale. This one doesn’t have a strong smell. But at least it has one.

And the taste? Does it taste like a lager? In a word; no. The taste is light, and of the barley malt and wheat. A taste that is quickly followed by an equally light hoppy bitterness. The interesting thing is, it doesn’t have that ‘sharp’, unpleasant bitterness of a cheap lager. Instead, the bitterness is light and lingers only a brief time.

Unexpectedly, there are some things I am liking about Bavaria Holland Beer. First, it doesn’t appear at least to be a lager. That means, instead of having the taste profile of a puddle, it tastes of beer. You can taste many of the ingredients, and none of them jump out and surprise you. It isn’t gassy. I’d go as far as to say that this is a refreshing and easy to drink beer.

On the other hand, there’s plenty to dislike here. The word “Premium” on the front is practically false advertising, because this beer tastes cheap. Although the flavours aren’t unpleasant, it doesn’t taste as refined and well crafted as I would like. The flavours themselves, whilst inoffensive, aren’t exactly delicious. As for the drinkability, that comes from the watery-ness of the thing.

To sum up, Bavaria Holland Beer is cheap but drinkable. Especially if you can buy it at half-price. If you can afford it though, do yourself a favour and buy something better.

Rating: 2.55

Have you tried Bavaria Holland Beer? What did you think of it? Are you thinking of trying it? Or have I put you off it completely?
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