Posts Tagged ‘artois’

Beer Review: Eiken Artois Oak Aged Lager

17 September, 2008

Innis & Gunn Oak Aged Beer was one of the first, and most interesting bottled beers I have ever tried. Being oak aged by a Scotch whisky producer made it different and delicious. Because of this, I leapt at the chance to snap up a four-pack of Eiken Artois Oak Aged Lager from Tesco at the discounted price of £1.99.

Eiken Artois Oak Aged Lager 4 pack

This though, is a completely different kettle of bananas to Innis & Gunn. That’s because this isn’t from a tiny, Scottish whisky producer at all. Far from it. This is from the massive Artois family. Or as they call it on the cardboard, “La Famille Artois”. The same Artois behind the infamous Stella Artois lager. This then, is one of they’re attempts to distance the Artois brand from Stella’s bad reputation. All of which begs the question… what do the Belgians know about whisky or oak aged anything?

Whatever the case, they certainly know how to make a good looking product. The cardboard bottle holder looks very classy indeed. Probably because most of it is just blank space. About the only thing you’ll find besides the logos are a small picture of a glass and bottle, and description of this beer as “A Refreshing 4.6% ABV Oak Aged Beer”. They also say something about the Artois horn being the symbol of the Den Hoorn brewery in Leuven, Belgium. It’s so minimalistic and good looking, I had no idea it was related to Stella Artois until I got it home.

Sadly, things don’t continue that way after you’ve prized a bottle out from the cardboard holder. Things start to look familiar. It looks like a Stella again.

The neck label must have received about two minutes of thought before being slapped on the bottle.

The front label doesn’t add much sophistication either. It looks like much the other Artois roundels. But I do like the oak tinged colour scheme. It hints at oaky-ness without being cheesy.

Eiken Artois Oak Aged Lager front label

It’s all very straightforward. The familiar Artois horn logo and “Anno 1366” are present. As are the descriptions that it’s an “Oak Aged Lager” and “Premium Lager”, from “Leuven” The alcoholic volume is perfectly clear too. This one is a reasonably 4.6%. Strong enough to be worthwhile. Mild enough to distance it from Stella.

Just like the neck label, the back label is hardly a masterpiece. From such a big name, you expect a little more presentational polish. This is just a plain white label with some writing on it.

Eiken Artois Oak Aged Lager back label

The bulk of what’s on there is the Eiken Artois story. A story that manages to connect their “six centuries of brewing” to their very recently “crafted Eiken Artois”. They then expand on their description of the beer as being “a deliciously refreshing yet full flavoured lager”. I really hope they’ve pulled that feat off. Not least because coming from a four-pack, I have three other bottles of the stuff now waiting to be drank.

They’re rather keen on you serving it cold. Hence the “Serve Cold” in capital letters. The next detail is their web address which is www.artois.co.uk. Yet again, it’s a totally Flash dominated experience. Why can’t brewers create proper web sites for us? Slow loading sound and animation may sound like a good idea in marketing brainstorming sessions, but it stops the rest of us finding information quickly and easily.

After the responsibility and www.drinkaware.co.uk messages, we’re get down to the small print. This 4.6% drink is in the standard 33 centilitre bottle. That makes it a modest 1.5 UK units of alcohol.

On the other side of the best before date is a very welcome little detail. And one I didn’t expect. That this was “Brewed in Belgium”. I must be getting cynical. Without the word “Imported” anywhere, I full expected this to be another Bedfordshire beer putting on an imitation accent. Instead it was only distributed by InBev UK of Luton. The last two details that could be remotely of interest are the UK “Consumer Helpline” and the list of ingredients. Which isn’t a list at all as it only mentions “Malted Barley”.

If you like a good read from your bottle while you drink, you won’t find one here. And, with nothing else to describe, we’ve reached the fun part of the review. It’s time to see what Eiken Artois Oak Aged Lager is like. Will it match Innis & Gunn? Should you try it? Let’s find out.

Try to pour it, and you’re rewarded by a big head. Which promptly disappears into a thin and disappointing patchwork of bubbles. The colour isn’t bad though. It’s a darker shade of amber than the usual lagery colour. Which is exactly what I was hoping for. I think it looks a bit like ginger beer.

It smells better than most lagers do, too. Not as oaky as I had hoped for. More like a richer version of the smell you usually get from a lager. In other words, it smells of a blend of malted barley and hops and things, only richer and more interesting than with most other lagers.

It’s much the same story with the taste. It does have a mild, oaky flavour. Which briskly blends into a tangy, oak tasting but ultimately ordinary lagery aftertaste. As usual with lager, you’ll struggle to find much flavour. It’s the tangy, mildly oaky and lagery aftertaste that you notice most. And, to its credit, isn’t bad. Nothing about it is strong, and it doesn’t linger anything like as badly as some lagers.

What is there to enjoy about Eiken Artois Oak Aged Lager? If you’re main complaint about lagers is that they’re all the same and have a boring taste, this could be the answer. It’s got a bit of flavour. It’s got some taste. And that taste happens to be a little unusual. The whole thing is very easy to drink and refreshing, too. As well as the rich taste, for a lager, it’s also quite smooth. And as I haven’t burped yet, not too gassy either.

What won’t you like about Eiken Artois Oak Aged Lager? It’s got some nice taste, and its drinkable, but that comes at a price. There’s not nearly enough flavour and taste because it’s so light and watery. A few gulps of this, and you’ll forget what you’ve been drinking. I’m nearly at the end of the bottle, and I’m having trouble remembering if I’ve been writing a post about beer, or drinking diet ginger beer. But then, it is a lager, so all of that could be by design.

So what is Eiken Artois Oak Aged Lager all about? It’s no Innis & Gunn, that’s for sure. It simply can’t match it for flavour and strength of taste. They don’t say how long they left this stuff to mature in oak, but I’m guessing it was more like minutes than days. What it is, is an above average lager. If you like lager, you might have found a new favourite in Eiken Artois Oak Aged Lager? It certainly fixes some of my big complaints about lager. If you don’t like lager, but have no choice but a shop shelf full of them, this is a good compromise choice.

Rating: 3

Have you tried Eiken Artois Oak Aged Lager? What did you think of it?

Leave your corrections, opinions, thoughts, requests and recommendations in the little boxes below and I’ll think about them.

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Beer Review: Imported Stella Artois

26 June, 2008

MY abstinence from lager isn’t going well. In the last few days, I’ve had a few, if not by accident, then through curiosity. And it’s curiosity that brought me to this one. I had decided to put off the notorious, and big-name Stella Artois for as long as possible. But a variety caught my eye. Here is a little bottle of imported Stella Artois.

Imported Stella Artois bottle

First impressions are, that it’s easy to confuse with the non-imported bottle. They’re both green. They both have almost identical labels. But this one has a big thing around the neck and the words “Imported” to set it apart. So you need to be observant not to end up with the faux Belgian Stella Artois premium lager.

Imported Stella Artois neck

As neck labels go, it’s unusual. More of a wrapper than a label. There’s perforated part around the cap, so you can get into it. The all important word “Imported” is suitably prominent. The words “From Belgium” are also good to see. I for one like to know where my beer has come from. Then there’s all the Stella Artois insignia. The logo seems to be a horn, with some barley and hops behind it. There’s also what look like stamps or medals, but they are much too small to see.

The front label looks almost identical to that of the non-imported bottle. But there are some differences. Sadly, I don’t have the other version to hand for a side-by-side comparison. And that would be nerdily unnecessary anyway.

Imported Stella Artois front label

The front label is unmistakable. Clear and well designed, this gold, white and red label sums up continental quality.

The writing in the border of the roundel tells you what you need to know. That this is a “Premium Lager Beer” and that is it “Belgium’s Original Beer”. That Belgian origin is a big reason why I decided to pick up this bottle. So many of the best beers I’ve tried during my arduous research for this blog, have come from Belgium. The country might not have contributed much else to the world, Tin Tin excepted, but they certainly do make terrific beer. Let’s hope this is one of them.

The middle of the label, above and below the label also tell us some important facts. The date for example. This has an “anno” or 1366. One of the earliest years I’ve ever seen on a bottle of beer. It must have been hard work harvesting the raw ingredients for beer, when the wheel had yet to be invented. And there’s the location. According to this Belgian tourist board website, “Leuven” is on the Flemish side of Belgium.

Some brewers put the vital statistics on the back label. Some put them prominently on the front. Others, like Stella, put them on the front, but in a microscopic size. The volume of this bottle is 33 centilitres. Which is unremarkable. And the alcoholic volume is 5.2%. Which is slightly remarkable, because I feared this would be another uninspired 5%.

Because this is an export version, the back label is a multilingual mess.

Imported Stella Artois back label

It’s hard to know where to start. Most prominent at the top is the description “The Classic European Beer”. Funny, as I half expected it to say “Lager Louts Choice” or “The Classic Wife Beater”. Maybe Stella Artois doesn’t have the same reputation abroad as it does here in the UK.

There’s little else to report from the back label. It gives the contents are being malted barley. The size and volume of the beer bottle is repeated in case you missed it on the front. And there’s a web address which is www.StellaArtois.com. You can choose your location and language from their flashy homepage.

With the labels out of the way surprisingly quickly, it’s time to answer those all-important questions. What is this imported Stella like? And will I feel the urge to punch strangers and family members after drinking it?

Imported Stella Artois poured into a glass

This is a premium lager, so be careful with the head. Pour gently though, and you get a good, controllable layer of froth sitting atop your drink. The colour is as you’d expect from a lager; pale yellow and full of bubbles.

The smell is good, for a lager. It smells richer and maltier than other lagers. Probably because of it’s Belgian origins.

And that quality carries over to the taste. The taste is light. No big, offensive, sudden or surprising flavours in here. Instead, you have a gentle malty bitterness.

What do I like about imported Stella Artois? It’s smooth. Impressively for a lager, it doesn’t taste horrible. It’s not too gassy. The quality is evident, unlike some so-called ‘premium’ lagers. And it’s slightly more potent than other mainstream premium lagers. All in all, it’s surprisingly drinkable. For a lager.

Inevitably, there are things I don’t like about Stella Artois. The taste for one. It may be good for a lager. But it’s still a lager. And as such, it still has that unpleasant ‘sharp’ bitterness. It’s missing any flavours beyond the small subset you find in a lager. Even though it’s a quality, premium lager, if you had to drink more than a bottle or two in a night, you’d soon get bored and start to feel as though you’re drinking dish water.

Compared to other premium lagers, Stella Artois is not at all bad. And it’s the first that isn’t a pilsner that I’ve said that about. It is still a lager, and therefore will never get far above average. But if lager is all that was on offer, I’d happily tolerate Stella Artois.

Have you tried Stella Artois? Of course you have. Here’s your chance to let the world know what you thought of it.
Leave your corrections, opinions, thoughts, ideas, suggestions and recommendations here please.


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