OVER the last few months, I’ve tried a lot of big-name lagers. But there’s been one big one missing. Why did I leave Carling out for so long? For one thing, it’s probably going to be another boring big-name lager. Another thing is that it’s always in cans. Or is it? A lot of waiting later, and Tesco finally re-stocked with four-packs of Carling bottles. At £1.77, I had run out of excuses. So here you are, Carling…
There’s not much to say about the cardboard. If you’ve seen the advertisements, you’ll know already know the Carling name and stylised lion logo. And that means you won’t confuse it with much else on the shop shelves. The “Cold Indicator” thing gets a mention. Apparently the bottles are going to use one of the increasingly popular indicators that turn blue when they reach the right temperature. Does anyone really use these?
Taken out from the cardboard, and the bottles look like I do. That is to say, tall, slim and pretty good looking.
There’s no big front label because of the lion logo embossed all the way around. And that means that everything is on the neck label.
The front of which says pretty much all you need to know. If you like lager, it’s probably all that you want to know. Simply that it’s “Best Ice Cold” and has a mediocre 4.1% volume.
Turn the bottle clockwise, and the cold theme continues. For here is that “New Carling Cold Indicator”. There’s a little instruction next to the indicator, helpfully shaped like a bottle. And it tersely communicates “Chill Until Blue”. By the looks of it, my bottle is a long way off. Luckily, I put the bottle I’m going to test in the fridge, so it should be suitably cold by testing time.
The other side of the wrap-around neck holds all the small print. In the absence of any other writing about the history or drink itself, there’s enough room to make everything perfectly readable. Normally when confined to a small neck label, manufacturers unsuccessfully cram in too much tiny text. Not Carling though.
The first fact to be offered up are the origins of Carling. It turns out to be the product of Coors Brewers Ltd and from Burton-on-Trent. For some reason, I thought the Coors name was American, so I did some digging. Their website is at http://www.coorsbrewers.com and their history page at http://www.coorsbrewers.com/aboutus/companyhistory proves me completely wrong. Coors and Carling are some of the most British names out there. In fact, with almost every other big-name lager being, or pretending to be foreign, it’s hard to find one that’s unashamedly British. I hope Carling doesn’t taste awful then.
Next, they offer up their consumer helpline telephone number. Then there’s their website at www.carling.com. You can go there if you want. The ingredients list only goes as far as “barley and wheat”. With only 4.1% volume, this small 300 ml bottle can only muster 1.2 UK units of alcohol. Even so, they act responsibly enough by printing the www.drinkaware.co.uk website and their take on the responsible drinking message with “Enjoy Carling… take it easy”. Thinking about slogans, wasn’t their supposed to be “Belong”? Or have I confused it with another brand?
With nothing left to talk about, it’s time to crack open a bottle. Not this one, but one that’s been in the fridge. What will it taste like? Is it worth your time and money? Expectations are modest as I go for the pour.
Unexpectedly, it did come with a little head. It died down into a thin, patchy layer, but it’s by no means a disaster. Partly because it has a deeper shade of amber than I was expecting. In looks at least, it has a modicum of quality.
How can I describe the smell? With words like ‘fresh’ and ‘biting’. You can almost smell the lagery “bite” before you drink it. Other than that, it’s an adequate take on the narrow blend of odours you can squeeze out of a lager recipe.
What does it taste like? It’s a lager, so you won’t find much flavour. A couple of gulps in, and I was oblivious to any flavour. But even I couldn’t fail to miss the big, lagery taste. The familiar lagery “bite” rolls in, in a big way. The aftertaste it leaves you with is mostly bitter, but there’s tanginess in there too. It caught me off-guard, but it’s not particularly rough or harsh. After a few gulps, the taste is lingering a little, but it’s a very light and airy experience.
What will you like about a chilled bottle of Carling? That all depends if you like lager in the first place. If you do, then you’ll like how light and easy to drink it is. You’ll appreciate how cleanly it delivers the lagery “bite” that you like so much. You will probably also like how cheap and easily available Carling is.
If, however, you don’t like lager, then you’ll struggle to find much to love. There are no interesting flavours. The taste it has is strong and not always pleasant. At least not if you weren’t a fan of lagers to begin with. It’s also a bit gassy.
To sum up, Carling is a lagers lager. It is one of the most lagery lagers you’ll find. If you like lager, you’ll probably enjoy Carling. It’s light and has a tangy bite that leaves no bad aftertaste. On the other hand, it’s a lager, it has no flavour and it’s pretty weak. I’m wandering what to do with the other three bottles from the pack that I’m stuck with. After giving Carling every chance by buying it in a bottle instead of a can, and almost freezing it, it’s just not brilliant.
If you like lager, you’ve probably already tried it. If you haven’t, it all hinges on whether you like lager. At supermarket prices, it’s worth a try.
Have you tried Carling? Probably. What did you think of it?
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