Posts Tagged ‘anheuser-busch’

Beer Review: Harbin Lager

17 August, 2008

I sampled many beers during my gap-year travels. China’s ever popular Tsingtao, and also, China’s second most famous beer, Harbin. Both of which you can now get over here. And the second of which, I have here, ready to try for the first time since my travels in 2006. Here is a small bottle of imported Harbin Lager.

Harbin Lager bottle

And it looks a bit different. The last time I had a bottle, I was not long out of Harbin, and the front of it looked like this…

Real Harbin front label

Aside from all the extra Chinese writing, quite a different look I’m sure you’ll agree. But you’ve got to like the look of this one. The green glass and mostly green labels give it an excellently green look.

It’s not ruined by a tasteless piece of neck foil either. That’s because this one is green and matches everything else.

Harbin Lager neck foil

And, under the plain and simple “Harbin” banner logo are the three words that the beer adventurer longs to see; “Imported From China”. And that is welcome because of the large quantity of beer that play on their Asian heritage, but were brewed in the neighbouring postcode.

The front label is… well it’s very good. Better looking than the real thing from Harbin itself a couple of years ago.

Harbin Lager front label

I like it. It’s stylish and hasn’t jettisoned any Chinese-ness in the process. The little logo is an odd looking thing though. It looks like a horse pulling a cart laden with barrels, in front of what could be the brewery. Perhaps the most complicated logo I’ve seen so far.

The slogan for Harbin is “China’s Treasured Lager”. Suitably vague, but you can’t knock it for that. Around the bottom border of the roundel are what look like medals. But they’re just too small to read. If anyone out there knows anything about them or can translate any of the Chinese writing, make sure to leave a comment at the end of this post.

Back inside the roundel, and there’s a hint for the less well travelled about where this came from. That’s because this was “Inspired by the Tradition and Culture of China’s Most Northern Province of Heilongjiang”. Harbin, if you didn’t know, is the biggest city of that province. And probably for a good part of northern China too. Being so near Russia, it’s popular with Russians. But not, as far as I could tell, those with tanks. Yet.

The back label is a Post-It note sized sticker. Which means that there’s little else on there apart from the small-print. This beer from the Harbin Brewing Co., Ltd., China was imported and distributed by the always busy Anheuser-Busch based down in Surrey, England.

Harbin Lager back label

What else? Well, it contains barley malt. This bottle is the ubiquitous 330 millilitres. And the alcoholic volume is an unexceptional 4.8%. Not high. Not standard continental strength. And not weak either.

That’s about it. All that remains is to open up this little green bottle and try to answer some questions. Questions like will it taste familiar? Will it be better than the other Asian beers I’ve tried? And is it any good?

Harbin Lager poured into a glass

This is a head-happy lager. It took literally a few pauses between pours before the glass became mostly liquid. It does settle into a very good, thick, consistent layer of froth though. Not bad at all. What about the colour? Well, it’s lager. That means pale yellow and lots of fizz are the order of the day.

The smell, not normally a feature of lagers, surprisingly, is with Harbin. It smells much more of barley than most others do. And that gives it a little more character than most of the competition. Not much, but enough to count.

A few gulps in, and it’s all going down very well indeed. For a lager. The taste is of much the same blend of malted barley and hops as most lagers are. But Harbin leans a little more in the barley direction with the taste. All of which is followed by a remarkably lightly bitter aftertaste.

There’s plenty to like about Harbin Lager. I like the taste. Which is a tiny bit more interesting than I expected. I like the aftertaste. Which wasn’t as stringing and lingering as I feared. It’s not gassy. I like that it is refreshing, crisp and very easy to drink. And remembering my anti-lager prejudice, Harbin Lager has done rather well.

What about the things I don’t like about it? Well, it is a lager. And that means it will never be an interesting and delicious as other bottles on the shop shelf. Specifically the ones that are ales. That also means the taste will wear thin after a while, and quickly stop feeling so refreshing. It’s also not that easy to find. At least not here in the Britain. So far, I’ve found one shop, the Bethnal Green Food Centre on Bethnal Green Road selling it for £1.10 pence.

To sum up, I like Harbin Lager. It’s a tiny bit distinctive. It’s drinkable and a good all-rounder. I can’t report that it was distinctive enough to remember to taste. Nor that it’s much better than the shop-shelf worth of other Asian beers. But it is good enough to say that it’s worth your time and money.

Rating: 3

Have you tried Harbin Lager? What did you think of it?

Do please leave your translations, corrections, opinions and recommendations in the boxes below.

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Beer Review: Bud Ice

26 July, 2008

WITH regular Budweiser proving unexpectedly drinkable and Budweiser Budvar proving a disappointment, where does that leave Bud Ice? Let’s answer that question as I turn my cynicism to this little bottle.

Bud Ice bottle

This one cost £1.19 pence from a shop on Brick Lane. I think it looks good. From the transparent glass to the ice shaped surface around the shoulder, this is a beer for the trendy young drinker. It’s also quite a lot different to either Budweiser or Budvar. Just have a look at the logo on the neck label.

Bud Ice neck label

And how different everything looks on the front label.

Bud Ice front label

The big “Bud ICE” logo is slightly reflective. Everything is trimmed down from the regular Budweiser style. But it remains jolly American and unmistakable “Bud”. Look a little closer and you’ll spot some familiar sights. Near the top there’s the Anheuser-Bush logo of an eagle colliding with a large, stylised “A”.

Getting down to the details on there, the alcoholic volume is clearly labelled at 4.7%. A deliberate attempt to separate itself from the established premium beers perhaps and go head to head with the likes of Corona Extra and Sol? Perhaps. Or maybe I’m reading too much into it.

Under the big “Bud” logo we get a concise and informative sentence about what this drink is supposed to be all about. And I quote “Our exclusive ice brewing process produces a rich smooth taste that’s remarkably easy to drink”. Is this “ice brewing process” something real or just marketing speak? Whatever it is, “rich smooth taste” and “easy to drink” are two very welcome qualities. Let’s hope it pulls it off.

Under that, we get the name and address of the producer proudly displayed. “Anheuser-Busch Inc., St. Louis, Mo., U.S.A.”. Does that mean this is imported? Why else would it have that on the front label? Alas, I’ve already checked the back label, and can reveal that it’s all just marketing. I’m as disappointed as you are.

Last detail worth mention from the front is that this is a 330 millilitre bottle. That makes it the same size as Budvar. And 30 millilitres more capacious than Budweiser.

Over on the back label, and the “Born On” date makes a welcome return.

Bud Ice back label

As with regular Bud, this one has its “freshest taste within 110 days”. But there’s something you should know about the paragraph underneath it. The entire “Fresh Beer Tastes Better” paragraph is exactly the same as that on the Budweiser bottle. Only the name “Budweiser” has been changed to “Bud Ice”. Whether that affects how “clean, crisp” and “refreshingly different” it purports to be, I’ll have to investigate. I’m feeling rather mislead at this point.

Elsewhere on the label, the only address we get is the one from Richmons, Surrey, England. So you’ll know who to write to, to ask them to import the genuine article instead. It includes barley malt. And gives us no clue about how many UK units of alcohol there are. Not that you need those daft symbols to tell you that more than three or four in a night is too much. I recommend everyone at some stage in their lives be a student and work such things out for themselves in the environment of halls of residence or the student union.

Back to the beer, someone’s got to “pry off” the cap of this bottle and pass judgement on the contents. Any volunteers? Oh okay. I’ll do it then.

Bud Ice poured into a glass

Once in the glass, it looks more like Budweiser than Budvar. That is to say, it is an anaemic yellow. Rather disappointingly patchy head on it too.

The smell is like every other cheap lager in the world. Some generic blend of malted barley and hops. Not as rich as Budvar nor as well-rounded as Budweiser. Just a cheap lagery smell. I think I can see where this is going.

And sure enough, a couple of gulps proves this to be an undistinguished cheap lager. It tastes lagery. Not the premium continental lagery or the quality independent or craft brewer lagery. Just lagery. You get a brief taste of malted barley before you receive a lingering bitter taste.

To its credit, that lingering bitterness isn’t as strong and unpleasant as with Budvar. It is rather muted in comparison. The label describes it as “smooth” and “easy to drink”. I can’t really disagree. It’s smooth. And it’s inoffensive enough to be easy to drink. Well I had no problem throwing back each gulp of the wretched stuff. As for the taste it leaves, at least it leaves a taste at all. And it’s a taste that isn’t up there with the worst of them.

Unfortunately, Bud Ice can’t hide the fact that it’s just an ordinary cheap lager. The taste doesn’t stand out at all from all the other cheap lagers. And compared to the lagers that have rice in the ingredients list, this one reaches sub-mediocrity at best.

In summary, Bud Ice is a slightly gassy, run of the mill lager. Not as distinctive as Budvar, not as tasty as Budweiser. This is actually what I expected Budweiesr to be like. But instead, Bud Ice receives the honour of being most pointless Budweiser in the small range available in east-London off-licences. There is no rational reason for you to choose this over the alternatives.

Rating: 2.15

Have you tried Bud Ice? What did you think of it?
Leave your corrections, opinions, ideas and recommendations with the world in the little boxes below.

Beer Review: Budweiser

24 July, 2008

WHY do I keep subjecting myself to American lagers? Miller Beer and Michelob Lager were abysmal. Scraping the bottom of the barrel even further then, is this bottle of the ever-popular Budweiser.

Why end my self-imposed abstinence from big-name American beer? Simple. Because I’ve also got a bottle of Budweiser Budvar Czech Imported Lager and Bud Ice. What’s the difference between them? And which one is best? Find out when I try them in my next posts. But first, I must get through this.

Budweiser bottle

As a product, it doesn’t look at all bad. All that marketing and product placement in movies make it as familiar as air. From the red “Budweiser” neck label to the front label with a peculiarly complicated layout, I feel like I’ve had hundreds of these bottles. When in fact, I’ve only ever two or three, eight years ago.

Budweiser neck label

What can I say about the “Budweiser” and crown logos? Nearly as iconic as a certain Irish harp logo. You’ve got to respect this triumph of marketing.

The main front label is an overcrowded mess of symbolism and hard to read text. But yet again, the Anheuser-Busch marketing machine makes that fact easy to overlook.

Budweiser front label

They modestly call themselves the “King of Beers”. And the old style imagery around the top calls it “The World Renowned Budweiser Lager Beer”. At an unimaginative 5% alcoholic volume you begin to wonder if it’s all head and no beer. But a closer look gives you reason not to give up hope.

The banner across the top does something unexpected by raising hopes about the care and quality of this big-name American lager. It informs us that they used a “Beechwood Aging” process to give it “taste”, “smoothness” and “drinkability”. Then there are the ingredients they talk about. Again, all squashed into that front label. Not only does it have the usual hope and barley malt, but also rice.  Something that always adds a little extra to an otherwise bland lager. May it won’t be so bad after all?

The little back label is another marketing masterpiece.

Budweiser back label

The top corners remind you that this is 5% volume. And that the bottle is the rather less common 300 millilitres. Then there’s the familiar Anheuser-Bush trick of making a deal over the “Born On” and “Best Before” dates. Apparently that’s because it has its “Freshest Taste within 110 Days”. Unnecessary and idiosyncratic, but I like it for that reason.

Not content to leave it there, this label gives us a full paragraph on why they do the 110 days gimmick. And it’s worth reading because they describe what they think the beer in this bottle will taste like. And that’s good because it gives us something to judge it by. Unfortunately, none of the words “clean, crisp”, “fresh taste” or “refreshingly different” earns it brownie points for originality. But they’re perfectly welcome from a lager.

Down in the small print, there is the ubiquitous web address. This one is www.budweiser.co.uk. And there are the facts you probably guessed but hoped weren’t true. Not only can you send them your comments to their address in Richmond, Surrey, England. But that is also where this famous American brand was brewed. Something that makes a mockery of the words “Genuine” on the front labelLeaving my prejudices behind, it’s time to crack open this bottle and sample the contents within. Will it be as good as its competitors? Or, will it be drinkable? Let’s find out.

Budweiser poured into a glass

This is one to drink from the bottle. That’s because, at 300 millilitres, it will either leave your pint glass looking unfulfilled. Or, you’ll be left with dregs at the bottom of your bottle that can’t quite fit into your half-pint glass in one pour.

First impressions are that it looks a very pale yellow. You’ll want to keep it hidden in the bottle to stop yourself from being reminded how cheap it looks. But it’s not all bad. It does have a little head. And one that stays around even after a few minutes have passed.

As lager smells go, it’s not too bad. There are some odour-less and foul smelling lagers out there, but astonishingly, this isn’t one of them. Possibly from the “Beechwood Aging” or the rice, Budweiser smells surprisingly good. It has a well rounded smell of malted barley, possibly with a hint of those hops and the rice. Best of all, it’s neither too weak nor overpowering.

A couple of gulps in, and it doesn’t taste as bad as I had expected either. Most lagers have an unpleasant lingering bitterness. Not so much with Budweiser. Like the smell, the taste is good because it’s not too rough, and not totally absent either. Again, I’ve got to attribute it to the rice. The flavour is of that blend of malted barley and hops, but the hint of what is probably rice holds it all together. The taste is mildly bitter and it will linger. But it simply isn’t as unpleasant as I was expecting.

All this makes Budweiser drinkable. And that’s something I didn’t expect to say. If I had poured it before it had warmed up so much, it could quite easily have been crisp and refreshing too. Around two-thirds of the way through at this point and I haven’t burped either. So it’s none too gassy.

What about the downsides? Well, it’s still a lager. And, even with the addition of rice, it still tastes much like any other lager. And that makes it uninteresting. Especially if your shop shelf has British ales and European beers to choose from. Also, despite the taste and flavour, which I very much like, it’s still on the watery side. This isn’t a big solid drink to get your teeth into.

In conclusion, Budweiser, at least this English brewed cousin of the famous brand isn’t as bad as you might expect. It’s hard to find any reason to hate the way it tastes, and it’s surprisingly drinkable. Well worth a try if you like lagers. And try this with an open mind even if you don’t normally like lager. That said, it is still a lager.

Rating: 3

Have you tried Budweiser? Sure you have. Everyone has. But what did you think of it? Leave your comments for the world to read in the little box below.
And don’t forget to leave your corrections, opinions, thoughts, ideas, suggestions and recommendations here too. Look out for two more Buds soon.

Beer Review: Michelob Lager

25 June, 2008

A few days ago, I wrote about the seismic shifts in the brewing industry when European mega-brewer InBev made an offer for American brewing giant, and home of Budweiser, Anheuser-Busch. I wanted to mark the occasion by trying an American beer from the Anheuser-Busch stables, but was deterred by Budweiser being a cheap lager. So I cheated and had an unrelated and equally cheap Miller Beer instead.

Since then, London taxis have continued advertising a new, and different looking beer from Anheuser-Busch. So, after much procrastination, I relented and picked up a bottle of Michelob Lager.

Michaelob Lager bottle

And it’s not a bad looking bottle. All the black and gold offers a premium look. And a nice change compared to the shouty look of other American beers. The dark coloured bottle even has a Coca-Cola-esque middle. And the name “Michelob” is subtly embossed upon the surface. All unusually classy.

The bottle top isn’t something I normally dwell on. But this one deserves mention because it’s a screw top. The quality of the bottle just went down a notch for me. But what do you think? Leave your opinion at the end of the post.

With no front or back labels cluttering up this stylish bottle, what we do have is a very large neck label. Something I think makes the bottle look like it’s wearing a spangly dinner-jacket.

Michelob Lager front label

I like the font of this neck label. And that’s because it has all the words the convinced me that it would be worth trying. Even though it’s a lager that comes from somewhere with a poor reputation for mass-produced beer. Starting with the gold coloured top, it describes itself as “a classic all-malt lager brewed with noble European aroma hop varieties”. I’m salivating already. Malt is good. European hops can be good. As for this being a lager, well, I’m staying open minded about this one.

The “Michelob” brand is new here in Britain. And I’d be interested in learning what reputation is has across the pond. To me, the discreet little flag, and typeface sum up elegance. They also remind me of after dinner mints.

Even after vowing not to bother with lager again, there are some things that get me interested. And the word “Imported” does just that in this instance. The Miller Beer turned out to have been brewed “under license” over here. That’s no good. I want to review real American beer. And beers genuinely from other countries for that matter. So this one fits the bill nicely.

Just like the cap, the best before dates aren’t something I normally mention. But this time I will.

Michelob Lager left of neck label

Some countries require food and drink to have a best before date. Others require the date that the food or drink was produced on. Because this is the export version, it sensibly has both. It has a “Born On Date” and a “Best Before Date”. Adding a belt to those braces are the words “Freshest Taste within 110 Days”. This isn’t something I’ve seen on many other beers. Not those from Europe, Africa or Asia at least.

Over on the other side of the neck label is all of the small-print.

Michelob Lager right of neck label

After seeing so many faux foreign beer that turn out to be brewed in the UK, the St. Louis address for Anheuser-Busch, Inc., is a welcome sight. This really is from the USA and imported to me, via Richmond in Surrey.

This bottle is the usual volume of 355 millilitres. But the alcoholic volume is a rather typical 5%. It contains, surprise surprise, barley malt. And there is a UK postal address for comments. Unusual not to see an email address or consumer helpline though.

With that out of the way, its time to answer the big questions of our time. Namely, are there exceptions to the rule of big-name American beers generally being terrible? And does Michelob Lager taste as good as it looks?

Michelob Lager poured into a glass

Be careful if you decide to pour it. The head fizzes up almost uncontrollably, so keep an eye on your enthusiasm. It does end up as a good, thick layer after a few moments though. The other thing you’ll notice, if you went for the half-pint glass, is that it wasn’t big enough. Frustratingly, 355 millilitres is somewhere between half a pint and full-pint.

The colour is typical for a lager. It’s a pale yellow. It’s also filled with bubbles. Oh dear.

The label talked about “European aroma hop varieties”. And I’m delighted to report that the smell is not bad. Even compared to European lagers, it smells good. It has a much more rounded smell of barley and hops than many others. Not quite up to the levels of a proper ale, but not bad.

The first gulps were hindered somewhat by the thick layer of foam. First impressions aren’t too bad. I liked that it was smooth. I liked the initially light taste of lager. I was starting to think that it wasn’t a bad example of a lager.

Then the aftertaste hit me, and everything changed. The initial taste of a light blend of malted barley and hops vanishes. To be replaced by an intense, sour and bitter aftertaste. It feels like it’s clinging on to every surface of your tongue. And it is ghastly. You might expect this taste if it were a 9% super-strength lager, but for a premium, imported lager, it cannot be excused.

I truly wanted to enjoy Michelob Lager. My expectations were modest, and achievable. It looks the part. And smells the part of a quality, premium lager. But that taste. It is one of the worst and most unpalatable I’ve tasted.

How can I sum it up? This is a beer for people who have spent their lives drinking Budweiser, and want to imagine that they’re experiencing a European quality beer. When in fact, all this is doing, is perpetuating the reputation that big-name American brewers produce urine and get away with it.

Rating: 1

Have you tried Michelob Lager? What did you think? What reputation does it have elsewhere in the world?
Leave your corrections, opinions, thoughts, ideas and suggestions here please. I’m looking forward to hearing what you think.


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