THIS IS Super Bock. I bought it from a shop in Dalston. And it’s Portuguese. It’s the first Portuguese beer I’ve tried. And I can’t wait to find out if it’s worse than the beer produced by neighbouring Spain.
First impressions are okay. It looks good. But what about that name? What is a “Bock”? And why is this one “Super”? The neck-label answers neither question.
What it does have are pictures of what look like medals. Is Super Bock award-winning? Then there’s a couple of words you read all over the labels. They are even embossed into the glass. “Sabor Autêntico”. Portuguese speakers, do please leave your translations in the comments at the end of the post.
The front-label is a funny looking thing. A straightforward roundel wasn’t enough. So they attached a couple of blocks either side in which to cram the barcode and various small-print. Once again, translators, you are called into action.
Around the border of the roundel are some words I can almost understand. Something about winning 23 consecutive medals. Maybe this is award-winning?
Also on the border is a website address of www.superbock.pt. If you’re reading this blog in English however, you might want to go to http://www.superbock.pt/EN/home.html instead. Because that is where they have an English language website. A bit more poking around reveals that they are not just another Euro-fizz manufacturer, because they also have stout and what could be an ale.
Elsewhere on the front label, you can find the vital statistics. This bottle, as you probably guessed, is the ubiquitous 33cl. But the alcoholic content gives you a surprise. It comes in at 5.6% volume. Super Bock is shaping up to be a surprise.
There’s also a link to “Unicer” at www.unicer.pt. No, not a Portuguese UNICEF, but apparently the parent company behind Super Bock among other things. The English language version is at http://www.unicer.pt/gca/index.php?id=209&lng=en. The other web address on there didn’t work at all. If you can get through to www.serresponsavel.com, do please leave a comment saying what it’s all about.
Here is the back label.
It doesn’t say anything useful whatsoever. Actually, it does. But you would be hard pressed to find any in that big block of multilingual text.
The ingredients are “water, barley malt, unmalted cereals (maize), glucose syrup, hops”. Good on them for have a full ingredients list. Too many hide behind just ‘malted barley’. Finally, it was produced by Unicer S.A. in Leça Do Balio in Portugal.
What does Super Bock taste like? Is it as good as I’m hoping it will be? Or as bad as I’m cynically expecting? Should you buy it? Let’s find out…
Watch out for the head. It settles down after a minute, but it’s still much frothier than others. If it were sitting atop a darker hued beer, you wouldn’t mind. But on top of this pale yellow fizzy liquid, you must admit; it’s not what you’d call classy.
What does it smell of? It smells the way it looks. Lagery. Not bad. Just that ever-so-familiar blend of malted barley. Yes, there is a bit of variety between lagers. But this one isn’t an exception. It smells of nice, rich malted barley. But you’ve smelled the same thing dozens of times before. Not bad, just uninspired.
What does it taste of? The first couple of gulps are pleasant ones. For a lager. Which must be what this is. Even though the bottle doesn’t say the word “lager” anywhere on it, a lager must be what Super Bock is. There is no flavour. As you’d expect. Fortunately, the bitter “bite” that many lagers deliver isn’t really present either. What you get is a gentle bitter aftertaste that lingers for about half a minute.
What do I like about Super Bock? I like how inoffensive and easy to drink it is. Not as gentle and pleasant as yesterday’s Kirin Ichiban, but gentle for a lager nonetheless. And I like it for that. The drinkability must reflect the quality of the ingredients. Something that also gives it that clean, crisp and refreshing quality that lager style beers should aim for. It’s not gassy either, despite that erupting head. Best of all, it’s not licensed. This is the genuine article imported from Portugal. Not Luton, not Bedford, not Newcastle and not Edinburgh. And it didn’t cost any more to buy either. There’s a lesson in there for the brewing industry.
What don’t I like about Super Bock? As it appears to be a lager style of beer, quite a few things. The complete absence of flavour for one. The uninspired aftertaste for another. The utter lack of imagination that went into this beer is another. There’s so little taste or body, the experience is much like drinking water. In shops here in London, it’s also still a rare right, so hard to find for the time being.
How can I sum up this little bottle of Super Bock? It deserves a place on my list of good lagers. Not as interesting or as easy as some, but so many times better than others. It has the quality. When I visit Portugal, I’ll happily drink some more. And I think it would go well with a spicy takeaway. But, if you’ve got a shop shelf full of interesting bottles, you can do so much better.
Have you tried Super Bock? Can you translate anything? Do you work for Unicer? Do please leave a comment with your translations, opinions, corrections, requests, recommendations and places to buy.