Amstel is a name I remember being aware of for years. Then not seeing for years. And just recently seeing advertised on posters again before finding this bottle being sold in a local shop. If it really has been resurrected here in Britain, then that is good to see. If anyone can shed some light on what happened to Amstel, do please leave a comment at the end of the post.
In fairness, it doesn’t look at all bad. It certainly makes a change from all the green-glass bottles from its competitors.
The neck label doe what you expect of a neck label. It has a coat of arms featuring two horses, hops and barley. And the year 1870. Not bad. Not great either.
The big roundel stuck to the front of the bottle does roughly the same thing. Inside the roundel, they helpfully describe it as “Quality Product”. That’s good to know. Around the border, the place of origin becomes the centre of attention. Amstel Bier hails from the “Amstel Brouwerij B.V. Amsterdam Holland”. Time now to check the back to see if this is the real thing, or in fact made over here.
They certainly keep things simple on this side of the bottle. This should take all of two-minutes to read. Which makes a change from the four hours it took to read everything yesterday.
From the very top, my big question was answered. That’s because this was “brewed and bottled by Amstel Brouwerij B.V. for Heineken (UK) Ltd.” It then goes on to give Heiniken’s south-west London address. So… This was brewed in the Netherlands. Excellent.
Ingredients are the next thing they get to. This one lists water, malted barley and hops. No surprises there. Under some of the usual small print, the web address they give is www.ChilledfromAmsterdam.com. At first I hated their website for being slow and Flash heavy, but stick with it. It’s quirky in a Dutch way and has some personality. Not something you find with most big, continental lagers.
Under the barcode are the vital statistics. This tiny bottle is 330 millilitres. And it has huge 4.1% alcoholic volume. Hang on, ‘huge’ was the wrong word. ‘Moderate’ is the one I’m looking for.
There. That’s it. There’s nothing more to say about the outside. Time now to open this bottle and see what it’s like. How will it compare to the lacklustre competition I tried out a while back?
Watch out pourers, this is a head happy bottle. It dies down soon enough, but you’ll still have a thick layer of froth to contend with.
Like nearly every lager, this one is pale yellow. And fizzy. No surprises there.
What about the smell? It has that small of a blend of malted barley and hops that all lagers have. The Amstel take on it is pretty good. It smells light and fresh somehow.
How does it taste? A couple of gulps in, and first impressions are ok. Just keep your expectations low. It has an almost invisible malted barley flavour. And it leaves you with a lingering bitter aftertaste. That bitter aftertaste rolls in, and leaves a semi-harsh, slightly tangy bite in your mouth.
What is there to like here? As someone who likes ales, not a lot. But if I imagine for a moment, that I loved lager, there are a few things to like. For one, it is very light and drinkable. It’s quite refreshing too. The flavours won’t offend anyone. And that lagery “bite” that lager drinkers seem to adore is there and doing its job perfectly well. The whole drink does what a lager should do, very well indeed.
If you’re guessing that there are things I don’t like, you’d be right. The reason it’s so light and drinkable, is because it’s got the consistency of water. Flavour is almost totally absent. And that bitter “bite” doesn’t sit well with me at all. It’s unsophisticated and unnecessarily rough. It’s also a tiny bit gassy. But then it is a lager. So all this criticisms don’t really apply.
If you compare it to all the other lagers out there, especially the other Dutch or northern-European ones, the picture changes. Amstel Bier suddenly looks light, drinkable and good.
So there you have it. If you like continental lagers, you should try Amstel Bier Lager. It’s a fully competent lager. Compare it to a real ale, and it looks laughable. Compare it to other lagers, and it looks respectable. The rating then, becomes meaningless. But, here it is anyway.
Have you tried Amstel Bier Lager? What did you think of it? What reputation does it have in the Netherlands?
Leave your corrections, opinions, insights, requests and recommendations in the boxes below.
Coming next, another bottled lager I don’t expect to enjoy!