IT wasn’t only Russian beer I picked up from west-London, Russian shop, Kalinka. Here’s my first beer from the formerly Soviet Ukraine: Obolon Premium.
The gold labels on the green bottle look good. And embossed on the shoulder is the Obolon name in Cyrillic. The labels even have some English. So everything is looking rather more export worthy than Zhigulovskoye.
The swooping neck label looks good too.
Even if it doesn’t say anything. Really. It doesn’t. Just the name of the beer.
The roundel is a little quirky too.
For some reason, there’s a small curve protruding from the top-right corner. It looks a bit like a growth or a handle. Unnecessary, but a strangely welcome addition to an otherwise conventional label.
It features a powerful looking crest. It has griffins and everything. The “Obolon” logo looks unusual and Ukrainian, at least in my uninformed opinion. Unusually, they’ve elected to write the size of bottle right in the centre. So you’re there’s little reason to miss the fact that this is a 500 millilitre bottle, or 1 pint, or 0.9 Fl. Oz.
Back around the edges and some sanity returns. Around the top, is that ever so welcome text “Brewed & Bottled By Obolon Brewery, Kiev, Ukraine”. That god it wasn’t brewed in Luton or Edinburgh like so many so-called foreign imports.
Around the bottom border are what look like medals. Just slightly too small for me to read, they look real. Obolon Premium is award winning. Excellent. The alcoholic volume is down there too. This bottle comes in at a slightly above average 5.2%.
Over on the back label, and the interesting facts keep on coming. And in English too.
Although this was brewed and bottled in Kiev in the Ukraine. It was “specially made for” Gary Magan & Co Ltd London, UK”. What’s going on? Maybe the web address it lists at www.garymagan.co.uk will answer some questions. And it does. It turns out that Gary Magan is a UK imported of Ukrainian drinks. Their page on Obolon is at http://www.garymagan.co.uk/obolon/beer_obolon.htm. But I must warn you, that page will make you want products that you don’t have.
Back to the label, and they describe Obolon Premium as having been made “using classic technology and special recipe”. The ingredients are part of the same sentence. And those ingredients are “select malt, high quality hop, brewer’s yeast and pure spring water”. Top marks for effort. I’ve never seen a label try so hard.
It’s trying so hard, that they even add details you never thought to ask about. Did you know that per 100 grams, this beer has 45 kcal or energy? Or that it’s best kept between 5 and 20 degrees C? Did you care? Me neither, but I’m glad they thought to put all that on there.
As there’s nothing left to read. Or make fun of. It’s time to discover exactly what Obolon Premium is like. As it’s the first Ukrainian beer I’ve tried, it’s going to set the bar for all others to follow. Will it be better than Polish, Czech, Lithuanian and Russian beer? Let’s find out.
Well, it pours easily enough. It comes with a head, but there’s nothing uncontrollable about it. After a few minutes, it settles down into a blotchy layer of cream. Sitting on top of the amber coloured liquid, it all looks quite acceptable.
It smells ok too. Kind of malty and hoppy. I little like that of the better lagers out there.
But how does it taste? A few gulps in and, I’m not enjoying it. It’s bitter. And with a lingering bitter bite that doesn’t let go. The flavour is a little malty in a malted barley lager kind of way. But that diminutive flavour is dwarfed by that brutal aftertaste.
I desperately want to like Obolon Premium. So, there must be something I like here. But what? Well, it is crisp. And somewhat refreshing. But I can see that vanishing after you’ve had a bottle or two. What else is there? It is strong enough. I’m about three-quarters of the way through now, and starting to forget about the horrid aftertaste. I’m also finding it surprisingly easy to drink.
As you’ve probably guessed, Obolon Premium has downsides. Let’s start with that taste. First, there’s little in the way of flavour. Then you get an overwhelming, bitter bite. As usual, the fanatics will leave comments saying that I’m a clueless clod. But to me, that taste is as cheap and nasty as a students diet. Besides that, it’s a little too carbonated and gassy.
So where does all this leave Obolon Premium? It’s a disappointment. Not as easy to drink or interesting as I wanted it to be. You’ve got to pity Ukrainians if this is typical of what’s available there. Compared to competitors from the old Eastern-Block, things don’t look good. Obolon Premium tastes ghastly. But it’s good enough to make me want to try some other Obolon beers. Try it just to tell people you’ve had a Ukrainian beer.
Have you tried Obolon Premium? Or another Obolon or Ukranian beer?
Then leave your corrections, opinions, thoughts, requests and recommendations in the comments boxes below.