Beer Review: Ursus Premium

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 www.regeleberii.ro. Which doesn’t work. So go to http://www.ursus.ro/ 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 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ursus_%28beer%29. 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.

Advertisements

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

13 Responses to “Beer Review: Ursus Premium”

  1. george Says:

    The freshness of a beginning which develops in a richness of flavors and gets is fulfillment into an slight bitter ending.
    A taste respected all over the world.
    A distinct experience proudly signed: Ursus Premium founded in 1878 in Cluj city.
    King of beer in Romania.
    Blond beer. Pasteurized product. Produced by Ursus Breweries S.A. subsidiary of SABMiller plc. 2-6, Manastur way, Cloj-Napoca city, Romania.
    Ingredients: water, malt, hop, yeast ….
    Alcohol min 5%.
    To be consumed preferably cold.
    We recommend responsible use.

    Personally, I like a lot more Ursus than the draught, low carbonated beers that you prefer in UK.

  2. Radu Says:

    I think your review is a fair one. It definitely depends on your background as a beer drinker. I grew up in Romania where pilsner lagers were the norm (either local or imported) and they are still my favorite beers by far. And from my point of view, Ursus is up there with the best.

  3. Peter Says:

    As an expat real ale drinker, it took me some time to find a decent beer – only lager being readily available here. I have lived in Romania for over 4 years and agree with your findings – I stick to Ursus Premium all the time except when drinking tuica (plum brandy).

    Here the price of a can or bottle of UP (0.5L) is about 60p in the supermarkets and you can double that when you buy in a bar or hotel. It is also relatively cheap to fly to Cluj from Luton; a return flight with Wizzair is about 120 Euro (subject to advance booking, time and date of flight). Many hotels are reasonably priced and 50 Euro will cover bed and breakfast in a comfortable hotel (even cheaper if you stay in a “pensiune”).

    Try “ciorba de burta” (tripe soup), with “ardei iute” (hot chilli), “smantana” (sour cream) and “paine” (bread) all washed down with an Ursus Premium. One of my favorite meals.

    Come and try it.

  4. John Mossman Says:

    Well,having just spent some time in Romania I can tell you there is quite a difference between the bottled and the draught. the draught Ursus is much sweeter, but oddly, girls like the bitter tasting bottled Ursus much more. It seems to be what they’re used to.
    As to Ursus Black. It’s amazing. Draught is a good alternative to Guiness and really hits home.Refreshing, strong, bitter.
    Ursus factory has a newly opened bar/restaurant as is well worth a visit.

  5. Sam Haley Says:

    just got back from staying in cluj the last 3 months, i love Ursus, where can you get it in the UK???

  6. John Mossman Says:

    @Sam you were there for the last 3 months ? No way ! So was I,I got back last week.
    Think the only place is London,been looking online and can’t find any importer to the UK.

  7. Radu Druncea Says:

    Hello from Romania.
    Your review is pretty correct but let me tell you that if you say Ursus is bitter I can tell you that romanian Goden Brau beer ( made by BRAU UNION ) is even bitter. There is also a beer called Neumarkt also made in Romania by a german company that is bitter.
    In my top 10 beers Ursus is situated on place No 5 .

  8. Ovidiu Says:

    Where can I order some from? Do they ship to Wales? I miss this beer so much! 🙂

  9. mircea Says:

    albinuta.co.uk romanian shop online…u can find ursus

  10. mircea Says:

    for me noroc beer its bether then ursus

  11. Neha Wahi Says:

    Hi,
    I would like to get in touch with you, as soon as possible, regarding featuring updated bottle shots of ‘Ursus Premium’ from this post, that we require in our upcoming book. We were wondering if you could supply us the high-resolution image for using in our book. Do let us know if this sounds ok to you. You can contact me at nehawahi.dk.com. Thanks!
    Neha Wahi
    (Art Editor, Dorling Kindersley)

  12. Neha Wahi Says:

    sorry my correct email id is – neha.wahi@dk.com

  13. Pete magerr Says:

    I tried timosoreanu and ursus on draught in romania. I really liked the ursus and im more of a bitter guiness drinker. The timosoreanu was awful

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: