Archive for July, 2010

Beer Review: Ursus Premium

29 July, 2010

AFTER the disappointment of Timişoreana, can Romania redeem itself? Hopes are high for this promising looking green bottle of Ursus Premium. Again, bought for about £1.59 pence from the Romanian shop in Edgware, North London.

Ursus Premium bottle

It’s called Ursus Premium, but how premium is it? Well, it has neck-foil. The beer bottle equivalent of pleasing, melodic front door bell.

Ursus Premium neck foil

Down on the front label, and Ursus Premium sports a conventional roundel.

Ursus Premium front label

The bottom border say “King of Beer in Romania”. Whilst the top border has “Regele Berii In Romania”, which, I think, both mean exactly the same thing. In the middle, “Foundat 1878”, making a wild guess, could possibly mean “Founded 1978”.

Elsewhere, things are kept clear and uncluttered. In the bottom half, there are what look like medals. Squinting closely, it looks like they won the prestigious Monde Selection, international silver medal in 2005. I can tell you, having seen that sort of award on bottles before, that only the good ones get it. Expectations are rising then, for Ursus Premium.

The top half of the roundel has a picture of a bear, for some reason wearing a crown. Head-wear aside, two seconds of Googling reveals a Wikipedia page here, enlightening us that “Ursus” is Latin for “bear”. We can only speculate if either the “King of Beer in Romania” or the Ursus bear was crowned, only after a typo.

Over on the back-label, things are the way I like them. Impossible to understand. Translators, I need your help again. What does it all say?

Ursus Premium back label

There are however, a few things even I can pick out from the label. It’s pasteurised, not draught, for instance. The official Romanian website for Ursus is at Which doesn’t work. So go to instead. It’s a 0.5L bottle, and the alcoholic volume is the usual 5%. Lastly, Ursus Breweries is part of the South-African beer monster, SAB Miller.

In short, there’s nowhere near enough understandable detail on the label to quench my curiosity. So I spent a couple of minutes doing research. By which I mean Googling to read what strangers had to say. A process which quickly led me to the Wikipedia page at Upon which we learn that Ursus comes from the city of Cluj, and that they do make beers I want to try but can’t. Ursus Black, dark lager and Stejar strong beer, for example.

Until those beers turn up in a London Romanian shop, it looks like the medal winning Ursus Premium will be the best we can get. Which returns to my original question… How good is Ursus Premium? What is it like and should you buy it? This is probably a Pilsner style lager, so I’ll be looking for clean, crisp, refreshing, hop tinged, easy to drink beer. So let’s crack it open and see if it is…

Ursus Premium poured

Fridge cold, my bottle of Ursus Premium was easy to pour. The white froth, filling my pint glass to the brim perfectly.

In the glass, the yellow, gold coloured liquid looks clear. And it would be, were it not for the massive carbonation. In the time it’s taken to get this far in the description, that full, white head of froth is already half what it started out as. Hopefully it won’t decay any further. I think it looks good. For a lager.

What does Ursus Premium smell of? Lager. Predictably, it has that familiar odour of blended malted barley, that most big-name lagers suffer from. Living up to its Premium billing, that smell is more delicate and ever-so-slightly more hoppily tinged than it’s cousin, Timişoreana.

Finally, you’ve reached the part of this review that you skipped the rest for. What does Ursus Premium taste like? The first couple of gulps were uneventful. So uneventful, it may be difficult to think up words to describe it. First impressions are that it’s lagery.

To elaborate, my fridge chilled Ursus Premium has a neutral, tasteless impression on the palate. But that’s ok. Most lagers don’t try and do anything there. Instead, it hinges on the all important aftertaste and finish. And Ursus Premium’s aftertaste rolls onto the tongue smoothly, but with increasing intensity. You can feel the carbonation, and you’re left with a long-lasting lagery bitterness.

Where Timişoreana was like being hit in the face with a brick made of taste. Ursus Premium is like that first big drop on a rollercoaster. It starts off slowly and smoothly, but a moment later everything’s intense, and you’re either loving it or wanting to stop.

What am I enjoying about Ursus Premium? A premium Pilsner style lager is usually supposed to be clean, crisp and refreshing. Bonus points if it’s also easy to drink and has some distinctiveness like hoppiness. Ursus Premium, to its credit is pretty clean, crisp, refreshing and easy to drink. At least while cold. Lager boys will like it’s lagery taste, an might even call it distinctive, compared to the big-name lagers. I’m just pleased to have found a drinkable Romanian lager. And that will earn you social points for originality, should you decide to bring it to a social gathering or family occasion.

What don’t I like about Ursus Premium? Not everyone is going to like that taste. I can’t imagine many girls enjoying that intense, bitter taste. That strange ‘taste curve’ it has probably won’t go well with curry, although leave a comment if you’ve tried it. It is one of the fizziest beers I’ve ever tried, so it will make you burp. And, if you’re not in Romania, it’s going to be imported, hard to find and very expensive. For the premium you’ll pay, there will be much better tasting ales to buy instead.

To sum up, Ursus Premium is a perfectly drinkable, strangely tasting lager that I’ve warmed to over the course of this review. Nearly at the bottom of the glass now, and I’ve gotten over that unusual bitterness rush. If you’re in Romania, I have no problem recommending it. If you’re anywhere else though, there are much better beers and ales for the price. And that makes it one mostly for the beer explorers and Romanian ex-pats.

Rating: 3.7

Have you tried Ursus Premium? What did you think of it? Can you translate anything from the labels? Got and recommendations of your own, or places to buy? Then leave a comment here.

Beer Review: Timişoreana

22 July, 2010

HAVE you tried Romainian beer? Neither have I. To remedy that, I brought back two interesting looking bottles from the Romanian shop in Edgware, North London. This is the first one, Timişoreana.

Timişoreana bottle

Breaking with Big Log tradition, I did some research first. And by research, I mean spending a couple of minutes Googling what strangers have to say. The net result is that the official Romanian language website is at And the best English language summary is on the Real Beer Blog; on which we learn that this is probably Romania’s oldest beer (or “bere” as they prefer to call it). And that it’s now owned and run by the makers of the Romanian beer that I’ll post about next. Everything else, we can glean from the bottle labels themselves. I hope.

Timişoreana neck label

The neck label has a picture of a frothy tankard and some writing. Correct me if I’m wrong, but “Anno 1718” means that’s the date the brewery dates from. Quite impressive for the region.

Down on the main front label, they’ve opted for a big roundel with an even bigger letter “T” in the middle.

Timişoreana front label

In the middle of it all are what look like medals. The one of the left looks like a prize from “1891”. The big middle one is a “Grand Prix” from 1908. And the one of the right is un-readably small.

I learnt somewhere that the Romanian language is much like the Latin world languages of Italian, French, Spanish and Portuguese. Let’s put that, and my limited knowledge of Latin Indo-European linguistics to the test by attempting to make sense of the words around the edges of the label. The bottom one, I think, means something like “Best” or “First” “Made Beer in Romania”. The top border might mean something about “Very” and “Traditional”. Translators, help me out. What does it all mean?

If the front label left me struggling, I might as well give up on the back one.

Timişoreana back label

Translators, I need your help again.

Ignoring the writing, there are things even I can understand. The 5% alcoholic volume for instance. The web address of and telephone number. The best before date. That this is a 0.5 litre bottle. And that it’s owned by Ursus Breweries and brew-zilla, SAB Miller.

Digging a little deeper into the Romanian language, I spot the words “Bere Blondă Pasteurisată”. So, it’s pasteurised, not draught. Fine, but “Blondă”? Is this going to impress me by being a blonde ale and not a Pilsner style lager?

Next comes the address of the brewery. Timişoara must inspiration behind the name Timişoreana. Then comes the list of ingredients, and I’m all out of linguistic talent again.

So, big thank you to the translators out there who’ve done most of the describing for me, this time around. Now it’s on to the fun bit. What does Timişoreana taste like?

Timişoreana poured into a glass

I take a chance on it being a lager, and wait until it’s fridge-cold until opening. Pouring is a doddle. That big frothy head is as controllable as any, so no counter tops to wipe down afterwards.

In the glass, it’s a very fizzy looking yellow, gold colour. The head is snow white. On the nose, you get a big whiff of that malted-barley formula that most big-name Pilsner style lagers deliver. Quite grainy and ever so slightly hoppy. I’d describe it as lagery.

What does Timişoreana taste like? The first gulp was easy enough. So I promptly took another swig. Then the aftertaste hit me. First impressions are that Timişoreana is going to be a lager as subtle as Mel Gibson.

On the flavour and taste side of the equation, you get a reasonable sourness and initial bitterness. This you can skip by gulping it down, if that’s your style. On the feel and aftertaste side of the equation, you get hit by just a block of lagery, malted barley bitterness. No quirks or flourishes. Just a block of simple, lagery bitterness. So brute force is it, that it’s a long lasting finish. No hoppiness as far as I can tell. Just that another twist on that familiar malted barley formula.

What am I enjoying about Timişoreana? Cold from the fridge, it’s easy enough to drink. It’s an honest, simple, down to earth lager. That taste is distinctive. And if you judge your beers by quantity, Timişoreana could easily be your friend over the course of a football match or night out.

What don’t I like about Timişoreana? It’s not the most sophisticated lager I’ve tried. That taste is as enjoyable as meningitis, and only gets worse as it reaches room temperature. A good lager is clean, crisp and refreshing. Even while cold, it is barely refreshing. After a couple of bottles, your mouth would quickly feel like a muddy puddle. It’s a little on the gassy side, too.

How can I sum up Timişoreana? If you’re in Romania, where, hopefully, it’s much cheaper than it is here in Britain, and you want a sub-standard lager, this is the one for you. If you have no choice and you prefer quantity over quality, Timişoreana is adequate. For the premium you pay in this country, and even in the depths of Romania, it’s hard to think of a reason to choose Timişoreana over something better. If you can think of a good reason to buy Timişoreana, leave a comment. Otherwise, treat yourself to something less ghastly.

Rating: 2.1

Have you tried Timişoreana? What did you think of it? Can you translate the labels? Then leave a comment here!

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