Posts Tagged ‘asian’

Beer Review: Cobra King

4 August, 2009

THE LAST of this batch of three unusual bottles from ASDA is one I’ve wanted to get my hands on for a while. Dressed in different labels, Cobra King turned up in an off-license on Brick Lane last year for a whopping £8 a bottle. So I was thrilled to find this colossal 750ml bottle of Cobra King in ASDA for just £3. And what an imposing bottle it is.

Cobra King bottle

Why was I so keen to get a bottle? First, Cobra Extra Smooth Premium Lager, the lager in a pretty bottle that pretends to be Indian is not bad. For a lager. A fact I put down to it being made with rice. Then there’s the comment left by a reader on my post on that other big, if not biggest Indian beer, Kingfisher Premium Lager. He recommended a few very high alcoholic volume Indian beers. This wasn’t one of them, but it’s the closest I’ve found, this side of Mumbai. Then there’s the curiosity factor. Who else wants to know what the Indian take on the high-strength lager is like?

It has changed a bit since I first caught sight of it. My guess is that they’re changing over from the front label with some colour, to this one which is just sleek gold on black. Something that makes it one of the most premium looking beers that is still just a lager. It even has a cork with Cobra’s trademark elephants.

Careful not to spoil the exquisite look, the details you need to know are around the neck.

King Cobra front of neck labelKing Cobra back of neck label

The front says everything you need to know. At 8%, it’s around the strength of strong ales and strong Polish mocne lagers. Hopefully the “Extra Smooth”-ness and “Double Fermented” brewing will make it more like strong ale than a strong lager.

Getting those hopes up are prizes that Cobra King won at the prestigious Monde Selection. No, I don’t know much about Monde Selection in Brussels either, but I’ve seen their medals on bottles that turned out to contained excellent beer. What’s more, Cobra King won those awards recently. Hopes are getting higher for Cobra King. Something not tempered by the main front label.

King Cobra front label

This is as cool, stylish, simplified, premium and brash as they get. Out with the traditional roundel or shield. It doesn’t even have borders. Just the words “The ultimate expression of our quest for the perfect beer” and the Cobra King logo. Modest, aren’t they? It does look good though.

The necessities of labelling regulations prevent the back from being as pretty as the front. But you must admit, it is still more elegant than most others.

Cobra King back label

They even have a proper description and story on the back. Albeit a marketing-driven one. Nevertheless, there are some interesting and useful fact-letts buried in the marketing-speak.

We learn that it was made with barley malt, hops and, crucially, rice. Just like the smooth and refreshing regular Cobra Extra Smooth Premium Lager and many of the smoother, superior lagers of the world. At least in my opinion. The hops are from the Hallertau region of Bavaria. That gives it breeding, but it makes me wander. What would Indian hops be like?

We also learn that it is “fermented once, then bottled and fermented again to bring out the subtlety and immense character of its ingredients”. Wouldn’t that mean that there’s live, unfiltered yeast in the bottle? Holding the bottle up to the light, it looks perfectly clear. If you can shed some more light on this, do please leave a comment at the end of the post.

Then they describe the taste as “Superbly smooth and balanced”. Expectations are high for “the ultimate expression of our quest for the perfect beer”.

Under that is the small-print. The first chunk of small-print is bad news. This is a faux Asian beer. It was brewed and bottled here in London. The web address is www.cobrabeer.com. You can find the few details they have about King Cobra at http://www.cobrabeer.com/beers/index#king. The only other detail worth mentioning is how many UK units of alcohol it has. At a high 8% volume, and in a huge 750ml bottle, King Cobra weighs in at a massive 6 UK units of alcohol. That means that if you drink the whole bottle, you’re technically binge drinking. Women, you will be after just half.

So what does King Cobra actually taste like? Is it any good? Would you enjoy it? Will it be more super-strength lager than exquisite ale? I’m looking forward to finding out. Not least because it has a champagne style cork to pop. At the very least, opening it will be fun.

Cobra King poured with insane head

That was exciting. Not only for the tension surrounding the velocity of the cork’s exit from the bottle (it was quite tame), but for the pouring. Even with careful pouring, I got an insane head that nearly overwhelmed my big glass. After a few minutes, it settled down to this.

Cobra King poured with less head

So my consumer advice to you is the pour as gently as you possibly can, or to use an enormous tankard.

Once in the glass, it doesn’t look too bad. For a lager. It’s uniform lager colour, being pale amber hue that it is. I can’t help being disappointed that it isn’t the darker colour of certain prestigious European lagers.

What does Cobra King smell of? The website uses words like “fresh”, “distinctive”, “tropical” and “citrus”. I’m not sure about that. I’ll give it “fresh” and describe it as lagery and good. It doesn’t smell like the strong lagers and manages to smell better than most regular strength ones. Which is a feat.

What does Cobra King taste of? The first couple of gulps are good ones. And ones that tell you that it’s not a good idea to try and down a pint in one go. You can taste that strength. Even if it is ten times more refined than a strong lager in a can.

The website describes it as having “malty flavours” that lead to “floral, tropical and citrus fruit notes”. A few gulps in and I’m not so sure. It’s tasting much like a regular, if well made lager to me. I’m getting a mild flavour of malted barley. Which, in the world of pilsner lager, is quite a lot of flavour. What is impressive is that the aftertaste finish is not a bitter “bite”. Possibly thanks to the rice, it’s smooth.

While trying to figure out the taste, it became time to top up the glass with more from the bottle. And this time pouring was somewhat less dramatic. In fact, the remainder of the bottle filled my big glass very well indeed, and topped it off with a splendid, frothy head that looked so good, yet another photo was in order.

Cobra King poured with normal head

So what does Cobra King actually taste of? All I’m getting is a blend of malted barley and hoppiness. Not any of the citrus or tropical qualities the official website talked about. But then not many lagers manage even that. If you’re used to ales, you might pooh-pooh the flavours and tastes of Cobra King. But if you normally have only lager, then this is going to impress you.

What do I like about Cobra King? I love that it manages to find a way of doing things in the formulaic world of lager. It’s smooth and has a distinctive flavour and taste. It’s nearly as strong as the ASBO lagers, yet doesn’t taste like toxic paraffin. Considering how strong it is, it’s surprisingly easy to drink. It’s smooth and not at all gassy. Then there’s the packaging. It must be one of the coolest looking bottles on the shelf. And, being hard to find, it has that exclusive quality.

What don’t I like about Cobra King? It’s as if they were aiming to make an ale, almost did, but missed and accidentally made a lager. It is a jolly good lager. But if they used this expertise to make a proper ale, it would be outstanding. Then there’s the taste. Because I’ve tried the super-strength lagers, I know how much better this does strong than they do. But a newcomer won’t appreciate that. They’ll just complain. And that makes it less than accessible to normal people and to girls.

How can I sum up Cobra King? It is a lager unlike any I have sampled. Nearly as smooth and easy to drink as regular lager, yet nearly as strong as super-strength lager. And it has some flavour and taste to it. No matter if you’re a lager lout or an ale connoisseur, Cobra King is interesting enough to justify your time and money. Especially if you can buy it for £3. Just make sure you have someone to share it with.

Rating: 3.9

Have you tried Cobra King? What did you think of it? Have I made a glaring error that you feel compelled to criticise me for? If so, then leave your opinions, corrections, criticisms, requests, recommendations and places to buy, here in the comments.

Advertisements

Beer Review: Sun Lik Beer

20 September, 2008

THIS is Sun Lik Beer. It’s from the far east, that’s for sure. But where exactly? Time to look for clues.

The whole package is building an oriental theme. But to find out which oriental country is going to need some detective work. Not being an expert on East-Asian calligraphy, the words on the neck label are a mystery to me. All I can say at this point, is that they don’t look Korean or Japanese. Does that make this a Chinese beer? The two dragons that appear everywhere on the labels don’t answer many questions either.

In contrast to the near empty neck label, the front label is busy. Very busy. There’s symbols, and writing and imagery all over the place. It’s one of the most hectic roundels you’ll find anywhere.

Sun Lik Beer front label

Around the top, they describe it vaguely as the “Premium Beer of The Orient”. At the bottom of lots of writing a can’t understand, the name that I can understand and a dragon is something else. It turns out that this wasn’t actually imported. Instead it was “Brewed and Bottled Under Licence in the UK”. I feel a big cheated by that.

It also adds another layer of mystery to this bottle. Hopefully the back label will hold some answers.

Sun Lik Beer back label

They open with a slogan: “Distilled with Life and Energy”. That’s good because I’m feeling close to death. This could be just what I need.

Then they have a couple of sentences about what the drink will be like. They describe it as “a premium quality, refreshing beer with an unmistakable Oriental taste.” Quality and refreshment are all good. But unmistakable oriental taste? All the other oriental beers I’ve had, have tasted adequate and indistinctive. So what are they on about?

In the next sentence, they cleverly incorporate a short list of their “finest” ingredients. These are malt, rice, hops and “natural spring water”. Nothing too unusual there apart from the rice. Which is a good addition. Trust me. All the other lagers I’ve tried, most of which from Asia, that include rice, taste better for it. For reasons I don’t understand, they always have a richer, better balanced taste than those that forgo the rice. See Cobra Extra Smooth for example.

This is an export bottle, so there’s a lot on there that will be meaningless to you. Carefully picking through the writing, and one part of the mystery is solved. This was brewed under license by Shepherd Neame Ltd of Faversham in Kent. The same brewer behind the very good Bishops Finger and Spitfire.

Under all the usual multi-lingual details are the vital statistics. This is the standard 33 centilitre bottle. And the drink within is the standard 5%. Both of which cause it to have 1.6 UK units of alcohol. Absolutely nothing unusual there.

Under that though, is a surprise. It has the name San Miguel Brewing International Ltd. That must be the same company as behind the bland, Spanish San Miguel. The final detail is the web address. The one printed is www.sunlikbeer.com. Unbelievably, it takes until you get arrive at their homepage before you learn the origins of Sun Lik Beer. According to their website, my hunch was right. This is Chinese. Specifically, it’s brewed under license from the Hong Kong Brewery Ltd. Chaps, this really is the sort of thing you should be printing on your bottle labels.

Enough chit-chat. It’s time to crack open this bottle and answer some questions. Questions such as what does it taste like? And is it any better, or worse, than all the other Asian, and particularly Oriental beers on the market?

Watch out for the head if you decide to pour it. It froths up eagerly. Fortunately, it settles down almost as fast. A minute later, and it’s now a thin layer of froth. As for the colour, it’s got some amber. But not very much.

It smells as good as most other Oriental or rice based lagers. You get a nice, rounded smell of malted barley. It’s much the same as other Oriental lagers that include rice. And not at all bad for it.

But how does Sun Lik Beer taste? A couple of gulps in, and it tastes a lot like any other Oriental lager that includes rice. For the unfamiliar, it tastes like lager, but richer and better balanced. There’s no flavour. Because it’s a lager. But that void is smoothly filled by a rich, bitter “bite” of an aftertaste. That aftertaste arrives smoothly. It doesn’t hit you roughly. And it leaves you with mild, lingering aftertaste.

What is there to like about Sun Lik Beer? Quite a lot if you like lager. And some things, even if you don’t. If you like lager, you’ll like the smooth, light taste. The Sun Lik take on the familiar lager formula is a good one. And it must be down to the rice. It seems well balanced and richer because of it. Qualities that make it quite refreshing and drinkable. We know that Shepherd Neame can do quality, and Sun Lik Beer maintains that reputation.

What won’t you like about Sun Lik Beer? There’s no escaping the lagery roots of Sun Lik Beer. And that means it has no taste. Sure it has aftertaste, but it has no flavour. Next, I like the taste, but it’s not exactly distinctive. It tastes much the same as other lagers, particularly those from Asia and the Orient that happen to include rice. That’s nice enough, but I’m struggling to find a compelling reason to choose Sun Lik over the competition. If won’t be because it’s easily available. And it won’t be because of the packaging. A regular green bottle and often baffling labels are a turn-off. It’s also quite gassy, judging by all my burping.

To conclude, Sun Lik Beer is an easy to drink, well made imitation of an Oriental lager. It does its job perfectly well. There just aren’t enough reasons to recommend it over the competition. This is one to order from the menu to go with your Chinese meal.

Rating: 3.05

Have you tried Sun Lik Beer? What did you think of it?

Leave your corrections, translations, opinions, requests and recommendations here please.

Beer Review: Bangla Premium Beer

11 June, 2008

SOME rummaging through the off-licenses of Brick Lane brings me to yet another beer from the Sub-Continent. Why do I say “Sub-Continent” instead of “India”, as was the case with Kingfisher Lager Beer and Cobra Extra Smooth Premium Lager Beer? That’s because this one is from Bangladesh. Here is a little bottle of Bangla Premium Beer.

Bangla Premium Beer bottle

The price was reasonable. And there were big versions over 500 millilitres in case you decided you liked this obscure and hard to find beer.

The neck label sums up everything to expect from the labels wrapped around this bottle. Plenty of bright, bold yellows, oranges, greens and golds. And everything written in not only English, but also, presumably, Bengali. So, can anyone out there confirm what language it is? And if you can translate any of it, do please leave a message at the end of this post.

Bangla Premium Beer neck label

As far as what it says, the message is kept simple. “Bangle Premium Beer” says everything you need to know. And what’s better, it doesn’t say “Lager” anywhere on it. Good news indeed.

The front label stays with the lively, colourful style. And it’s one that I like. It’s unlike anything else I’ve seen, and gives it a fantastic and distinctive look.

Bangla Premium Beer front label

The border looks like the decoration you see on the walls of curry restaurants. Normally, that would be cheesy, for this beer, it looks just right. Under the bi-lingual “Bangla Premium Beer”, there’s even a little map of Bangladesh. At the bottom of the label, the alcohol volume catches your eye first. 5.2% is the above-average volume for this beer. Either side of that, are things that look like medals. But I think they are just there for show.

It’s hard to see everything on there properly. And even harder with the photos taken by the Mesolithic era camera phone I’m using for the photos on this blog. There is one solution though; buy the bigger bottle version. Is there any demand out there for me to get the bigger version of this bottle?

The back label keeps things simple. All the details you want to know are there. And in both languages.

Bangla Premium Beer back label

Besides the slightly unusual 5.2% volume, the bottle size is out of the ordinary too. No 330 millilitres here. This is 275 millilitres. Why that is, I’m not sure.

The bi-lingual blocks of text aren’t anything out of the ordinary. The first part reads like a tourist brochure for Bangladesh. The next part purports that Bangla Premium Beer is inspired by Bangladesh’s cultures and “culinary delights”. And, that it’s brewed stronger to go well with “strongly flavoured foods”. Do you think they’re hinting that this should go with a curry? What a novel concept for an Asian beer.

The UK units of alcohol are on there. This little bottle has 1.4, so you’ve got room to have at least two before the Government starts wagging its finger. Like every beer, this one contains barley malt. And they have a website. Theirs can be found at www.banglabeer.co.uk. Although there’s not exactly a world of content to be found there yet.

That’s nearly it from the small print. Apart from one small and disappointing fact. This beer wasn’t imported from Bangladesh. Instead, it was brewed and bottled in Manchester, here in the UK. Disappointed? I am a bit. It’s like going on holiday to Italy and having pizza made over here. Not necessarily bad, but not genuine.

Now though, it’s time to set aside these worries and answer some questions. Such as is Bangla Premium Beer better than other Asian beer? And how does it taste?

Bangla Premium Beer poured into a glass

In the glass, the rationale behind the odd size of bottle becomes clear. It fits the half-pint glass perfectly. Fantastic. All 330 millilitre beer bottles should be replaced by proper half-pint bottles. And 500 millilitres bottles supplanted by full-pints. Who else is with me on this?

The beer itself is golden amber in colour. And the head doesn’t disappear moments after pouring. What you get is a creamy layer sitting on top. Not bad at all.

The smell is good too. It’s a blend of the usual beer smells, but it has some sort of rich quality to it. More emphasis on the malt perhaps. Whatever it is, it’s better than I expected.

All of which prepares you well for taste. Which is also rich. But also smooth and surprisingly full-flavoured. The bitterness is what you notice most. It lingers for a time, but it’s well balanced by the rest of the blend.

Amazingly, this is the most ale-like beer I’ve ever tried. The flavour is rounded out by one of the best blends of ingredients I’ve seen. Besides the tangy, hoppy bitterness, is the presence of everything else. Malted barley probably. All of which make it full-flavoured, rich, smooth and delicious. Staggering for a cheap beer brewed in this country. It’s also refreshing, not gassy at all and very drinkable.

If I had to look for downsides, it would be difficult to find many. Comparing it strictly to big, heavy ales that are full of soil and leaves, you could say that it’s rather light on strong flavours and smells. But that’s unfair, since it only ever calls itself a “Premium Beer”. What is my biggest legitimate complaint? For the time being then, that it’s not imported and that it’s so hard to find. So far, I’m only award of one shop on Brick Lane that sells it. It also doesn’t break new ground as far as flavours are concerned. There are no fruits, honeys or gherkins amongst the flavours.

To conclude Bangla Premium Beer, I recommend you try it. If you can find it. For me, this was the beer that thought it was an ale. It actually has taste and flavour, which is very welcome after the dross I’ve been trying recently. Those flavours are balanced nicely. It’s very drinkable and the whole package is quality.

Rating: 4.2

All of this makes it the best Asian beer yet. It’s better than Cobra Extra Smooth and much better than Tiger and the other utterly average Asian beers on sale in Britain. So if you know a better one, leave a message
Leave a message too, if you can translate anything on there. Or if you have any opinions, corrections, ideas, suggestions or requests.

Beer Review: Tiger Lager Beer

9 May, 2008

THE last in my Asian beer round-up. At least until I find more. This is another favourite accompaniment in restaurants for spicy foods and hot curries. It is, the famous Tiger Lager Beer.

Tiger Lager Beer bottle

This small 330 millilitre bottle was from my local off-licence. But you can probably find Tiger bottles on sale for very reasonable prices almost everywhere. But not at my local Tesco. Strangely.

The neck label has all the important details.

Tiger Lager Beer neck label

The “Tiger” logo features an “Est.” date of 1932. That makes it the most established Asian beer, by a single year, of this round-up. Whether the extra year will make a difference, I’m doubtful. But having been around for so long must be a sign of some sort of quality.

And the good news from the neck label downwards continues. That’s because this is imported. Just like that other, well established Asian beer, Singha Lager Beer, it was brewed in Asia. Unlike Asahi Super Dry and Cobra Extra Smooth, it wasn’t brewed here and pretending to be from overseas. And that does count for something.

The blue, orange and gold colour scheme stays for the main front label. But in comes a lot more clutter. Let’s make some sense of it all.

Tiger Lager Beer front label

Under the big “Tiger” logo, they describe this as “World Acclaimed Lager Beer”. Under that is what looks like five medals. And under those, in rather small text is our explanation: “Awarded Championship Gold Medals: London Geneva Paris”. The tiny pictures of the medals themselves are too tiny for me to read, but they look like the real deal. This really is an award winner, and in recent years too.

Under that is a confirmation that this genuinely is imported. This was “Brewed and Bottled by Asia Pacific Breweries (S) PTE Ltd”. Not the most imaginative name for a brewery.

Under that and on the border of the label are a few measurements. Less than Singha, but more than your typical bottle. Maybe it has something to do with both this and Singha having been imported? In addition to the millilitres (330 in this case), we’re also given the fluid ounces, which are 11.2. Again I ask, who measures beer in fluid ounces? Anyone?

There’s not much to say about the read label.

Tiger Lager Beer back label

The little ‘story’, if you can call it that, tells us that it’s been brewed in Asia since 1932. But we knew that from the front of the bottle. It goes on though, to mention a “distinctive taste”. I hope that’s what it has. The world has enough bland lagers.

The label goes on to tell you the temperatures, in both C and F to serve it in. Good because usually, we only get it in C. That the ingredients are water, malted barley, maize, hops and yeast. Nothing unusual there.

There’s a couple of addresses and a web address on there. These deserve a closer look. Tiger Beer UK is based in Surrey. But the address of Asia Pacific Breweries is Singapore. They kept that a well hidden secret. Instead of promoting Tiger as Asian, how about promoting themselves as Singaporean? I don’t remember seeing any other Singaporean beers on the shelves. Would that work? I think it would.

The UK Tiger website is also on there. And it’s website is at www.tigerbeer.co.uk. Lastly, hidden away under the “330ml” and next to the barcode is “alc. 5% vol.”. Nothing out of the ordinary, but strong and respectable enough to be more prominent. Surely it deserves a place on the front of the bottle. What do you think?

In the glass, it looks just like every other lager. That is to say, it’s yellow and fizzy. It is keeping its head better than most other, however. Which I take to be a good sign.

Blue Zone - Feels So Good poured into a glass

It smells a little different to other lagers too. There’s something richer and less cheap about it. Even though it is still dominated by the usual blend of malted barley and hops.

The taste is… somewhat better than I had been expecting. Unlike most lagers, this one does give a certain amount of hop powered bitter and sourness. And one that lingers too. Not quite up to proper bitter beer standards, but for a lager, it’s doing well. This gives it the “distinctive taste” that was mentioned on the label.

It’s one of the smoother lagers out there. As you’d probably expect, it’s also refreshing and easy to drink by the barrel load. Most important for me is that it isn’t a bland imitation of western beer, intended cool the diner of spicy hot cuisine. My gripe with Asahi Super Dry and Singha Lager Beer was that they none of their flavours stood out. Cobra Extra Smooth did better by having some taste. And this does much the same by having a flavour that stands up to be counted.

The downsides are that it’s still a lager. It’s a little on the gassy side. The little taste that it does have, isn’t pronounced enough for my taste and it can’t match European beers in terms of flavour or body.

That said, Tiger is one of the best Asian beers I’ve tried. It has the character that comes from being distinctive. It’s easy to drink, good quality and deserving of it’s medals and heritage.

Rating: 3.75

Out of my brief round-up of Asian beers, Tiger and Cobra are my favourites. Asahi and Singha were okay but too bland. None of them score very highly because they are all lagers. And that makes them all poor relations to real beer and ale.

If they are brewing such acceptable lagers now however, how good will their proper beers be when they go mainstream in a few years time? These could be the big names that dominate the shop shelves in years to come.

Have you tried Tiger? What did you think?
Any suggestions, ideas, corrections or insults? Then leave a comment!


%d bloggers like this: