HAVE you ever tried a Cypriot beer? I haven’t. That’s why this little bottle from Cyprus caught my eye in one of the thousands of international mini-marts in Bethnal Green.
It’s not the most attractive looking bottles on the market. But it looks cheerful enough. Let’s start in the usual place with the neck label.
Usually, when a brewer has won an award, they hide it away. There might be some small medals printed somewhere. Or perhaps a reference to it being ‘award winning’. But I’ve never seen a bottle that puts so much emphasis on one award it won over twenty years ago. Yet that’s exactly what Keo Premium Beer does with its “Golden Award Brew ’87 UK”. It really does take pride of place. Up here on the neck label, we learn that it won the “Gold Medal for Excellence Brewing International Awards”. We also learn that this is “Cold Filtered”. I hope that’s a good thing.
The front label may not be classy. It doesn’t bring centuries of heritage from monastic beginnings. But I do like how cheerful and Cypriot it all is.
For a start, there’s enough Cyrillic text to convince you of its origins. There’s a meaningless crest made out of hops. And the “Golden Award” proves that they are trying ever so hard.
Elsewhere, they describe it as “Cyprus Exclusive Quality Beer”. And in the middle of the roundel, they proudly announce that Keo was “Brewed on the Island of Cyprus”. And that’s good news. It means that it’s imported, and, hopefully, not brewed in Luton or Edinburgh like so many others.
Happily, the back label is half Cyrillic and half English. It doesn’t do much else though. It’s not what you would call over laden with detail.
Most prominent are those vital statistics. The bottle is the standard 33 cl. And the alcoholic volume is a moderate 4.5%.
In the English half of the description, they go with “KEO is an exceptional lager beer, traditionally brewed and matured, bottled fresh and unpasteurized, to retain its natural flavour, aroma and freshness”. Helpful or vague and meaningless? Leave your opinion in the comments at the end of the post. Personally, I’m none the wiser about what to expect. It does sound good though.
For those who really must know, it contains water, malt, maize and hops. There’s no need to worry about those tiresome units of alcohol either. That’s because there are none. At least not any printed on the label. Lastly from the label is that oh-so welcome confirmation of where Keo came from. Not only is it a “product of Cyprus”, but it gives the Cyprus addressed it was brewed in as somewhere called Limassol.
What do I expect from Keo Premium Beer? Not that much. Coming from the European part of the Mediterranean, it’s up against Latin competition from Damm Estrella, Peroni and Peroni Nastro Azzurro. None of which are much good. Sure, they were competent enough. But if you had the choice, you’d choose the wine from those countries instead. Expectations are low then, as I crack open the bottle to discover how it tastes.
The head needs a few small pours before you’ve filled the glass enough to drink. It dies down to a decent layer of froth, but watch out for it when you pour. It doesn’t smell to bad for a lager. Sure, it has the same malted barley blended smell as every other lager. But it get’s the strength and richness right.
How does it taste? Not bad. Lots of the lagers I’ve tried recently have no flavour, then hit you with a rough bitterness. Keo Premium Beer does it differently. It delivers the bitter “bite” almost right from the start all the way through to the lingering aftertaste. It’s leaving a fuzzy tanginess in my mouth. That taste also seems a little more flavourful than most. Maybe it’s the maize? That’s an ingredient I don’t see listed much elsewhere. The taste isn’t particularly strong, but you certainly can’t accuse it of being weak and tasteless. I’m going to describe it as rich but not too strong or harsh.
There are a few things I’m enjoying about Keo Premium Beer. The way it delivers the taste is different to any lager I can remember trying. The Keo take on the familiar lager blend is surprisingly tasty and drinkable. There does seem to be a bit of arable flavour mixed in with the familiar lager “bite”. I’m about two thirds of the way through the bottle now, and it all seems very drinkable and competently put together. For a lager.
What of the downsides? Well, it is gassy. I can tell that from all of the burping. Then there’s the flavour. Yes, I am enjoying it. But it is lingering and strong enough to stop it from being crisp and refreshing. Much more than a couple of bottles, and your mouth will start to feel very unpleasant indeed.
To sum up, Keo Premium Beer is a surprisingly full-flavoured and drinkable lager. I hope Keo make ales. I think they’d be good at it. As it is, this lager does a good, competent job of being drinkable. That said, it is still a lager, so if you want real flavour from a bottle of beer, there is much else to choose from. If you’re on holiday or doing a stint with the Armed Forces in Cyprus, Keo will provide more than acceptable refreshment.
Have you tried Keo Premium Beer? What did you think of it?
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