Innis & Gunn Oak Aged Beer was one of the first, and most interesting bottled beers I have ever tried. Being oak aged by a Scotch whisky producer made it different and delicious. Because of this, I leapt at the chance to snap up a four-pack of Eiken Artois Oak Aged Lager from Tesco at the discounted price of £1.99.
This though, is a completely different kettle of bananas to Innis & Gunn. That’s because this isn’t from a tiny, Scottish whisky producer at all. Far from it. This is from the massive Artois family. Or as they call it on the cardboard, “La Famille Artois”. The same Artois behind the infamous Stella Artois lager. This then, is one of they’re attempts to distance the Artois brand from Stella’s bad reputation. All of which begs the question… what do the Belgians know about whisky or oak aged anything?
Whatever the case, they certainly know how to make a good looking product. The cardboard bottle holder looks very classy indeed. Probably because most of it is just blank space. About the only thing you’ll find besides the logos are a small picture of a glass and bottle, and description of this beer as “A Refreshing 4.6% ABV Oak Aged Beer”. They also say something about the Artois horn being the symbol of the Den Hoorn brewery in Leuven, Belgium. It’s so minimalistic and good looking, I had no idea it was related to Stella Artois until I got it home.
Sadly, things don’t continue that way after you’ve prized a bottle out from the cardboard holder. Things start to look familiar. It looks like a Stella again.
The neck label must have received about two minutes of thought before being slapped on the bottle.
The front label doesn’t add much sophistication either. It looks like much the other Artois roundels. But I do like the oak tinged colour scheme. It hints at oaky-ness without being cheesy.
It’s all very straightforward. The familiar Artois horn logo and “Anno 1366” are present. As are the descriptions that it’s an “Oak Aged Lager” and “Premium Lager”, from “Leuven” The alcoholic volume is perfectly clear too. This one is a reasonably 4.6%. Strong enough to be worthwhile. Mild enough to distance it from Stella.
Just like the neck label, the back label is hardly a masterpiece. From such a big name, you expect a little more presentational polish. This is just a plain white label with some writing on it.
The bulk of what’s on there is the Eiken Artois story. A story that manages to connect their “six centuries of brewing” to their very recently “crafted Eiken Artois”. They then expand on their description of the beer as being “a deliciously refreshing yet full flavoured lager”. I really hope they’ve pulled that feat off. Not least because coming from a four-pack, I have three other bottles of the stuff now waiting to be drank.
They’re rather keen on you serving it cold. Hence the “Serve Cold” in capital letters. The next detail is their web address which is www.artois.co.uk. Yet again, it’s a totally Flash dominated experience. Why can’t brewers create proper web sites for us? Slow loading sound and animation may sound like a good idea in marketing brainstorming sessions, but it stops the rest of us finding information quickly and easily.
After the responsibility and www.drinkaware.co.uk messages, we’re get down to the small print. This 4.6% drink is in the standard 33 centilitre bottle. That makes it a modest 1.5 UK units of alcohol.
On the other side of the best before date is a very welcome little detail. And one I didn’t expect. That this was “Brewed in Belgium”. I must be getting cynical. Without the word “Imported” anywhere, I full expected this to be another Bedfordshire beer putting on an imitation accent. Instead it was only distributed by InBev UK of Luton. The last two details that could be remotely of interest are the UK “Consumer Helpline” and the list of ingredients. Which isn’t a list at all as it only mentions “Malted Barley”.
If you like a good read from your bottle while you drink, you won’t find one here. And, with nothing else to describe, we’ve reached the fun part of the review. It’s time to see what Eiken Artois Oak Aged Lager is like. Will it match Innis & Gunn? Should you try it? Let’s find out.
Try to pour it, and you’re rewarded by a big head. Which promptly disappears into a thin and disappointing patchwork of bubbles. The colour isn’t bad though. It’s a darker shade of amber than the usual lagery colour. Which is exactly what I was hoping for. I think it looks a bit like ginger beer.
It smells better than most lagers do, too. Not as oaky as I had hoped for. More like a richer version of the smell you usually get from a lager. In other words, it smells of a blend of malted barley and hops and things, only richer and more interesting than with most other lagers.
It’s much the same story with the taste. It does have a mild, oaky flavour. Which briskly blends into a tangy, oak tasting but ultimately ordinary lagery aftertaste. As usual with lager, you’ll struggle to find much flavour. It’s the tangy, mildly oaky and lagery aftertaste that you notice most. And, to its credit, isn’t bad. Nothing about it is strong, and it doesn’t linger anything like as badly as some lagers.
What is there to enjoy about Eiken Artois Oak Aged Lager? If you’re main complaint about lagers is that they’re all the same and have a boring taste, this could be the answer. It’s got a bit of flavour. It’s got some taste. And that taste happens to be a little unusual. The whole thing is very easy to drink and refreshing, too. As well as the rich taste, for a lager, it’s also quite smooth. And as I haven’t burped yet, not too gassy either.
What won’t you like about Eiken Artois Oak Aged Lager? It’s got some nice taste, and its drinkable, but that comes at a price. There’s not nearly enough flavour and taste because it’s so light and watery. A few gulps of this, and you’ll forget what you’ve been drinking. I’m nearly at the end of the bottle, and I’m having trouble remembering if I’ve been writing a post about beer, or drinking diet ginger beer. But then, it is a lager, so all of that could be by design.
So what is Eiken Artois Oak Aged Lager all about? It’s no Innis & Gunn, that’s for sure. It simply can’t match it for flavour and strength of taste. They don’t say how long they left this stuff to mature in oak, but I’m guessing it was more like minutes than days. What it is, is an above average lager. If you like lager, you might have found a new favourite in Eiken Artois Oak Aged Lager? It certainly fixes some of my big complaints about lager. If you don’t like lager, but have no choice but a shop shelf full of them, this is a good compromise choice.
Have you tried Eiken Artois Oak Aged Lager? What did you think of it?
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