Posts Tagged ‘Bangalore’

Beer Review: Taj Mahal Premium Lager Beer

26 April, 2010

A NEW beer turned up in the Brick Lane off-license a few months ago. Taking the spotlight from, but not replacing the colourful, mock-Bengali curry beer, Bangla Premium Beer, is another beer designed to compliment your curry. Costing a national deficit creating £2.95 pence, here is a bottle Taj Mahal Premium Lager Beer.

Taj Mahal Premium Lager Beer bottle

Nowhere near as bright as Bangla, there’s no mistaking the India and curry connection. It might say “Premium” on the label, but it looks economy. Even so, we know better than to judge a beer by its bottle.

Taj Mahal Premium Lager Beer neck label

The neck-label hints at why it really is “Premium”. “Slow brewed in India” is why I hope it’s going to be worth your time.

Taj Mahal Premium Lager Beer front label

It’s called “Taj Mahal” and has a photo of said Indian landmark to prove it. To hammer home the point of this beer, the label background seems to be taken from the wallpaper from a curry-house.

Cosmetics aside, it does say everything you need it to say. It has the word “lager”, so you’ll know where to align your expectations. It’s a big 650ML bottle and the alcoholic volume is 4.5%. Normally I’d be moaning about it not being very high, but this is a curry beer. Trust me, the last thing you want to cool your mouth down with is Robinson’s Old Tom Strong Ale.

Then there’s the few more hints about why I’m hoping that Taj Mahal is going to turn out well. “Slow brewed in India from the finest malt & hops”. First, it’s brewed in India. Not a deceptive pretend-foreign beer like so many others. Second, fine ingredients are always good. There are still a lot of questions though. Let’s see what the back label has to say…

Taj Mahal Premium Lager Beer back label

Quite a lot, apparently. All of which I’d class as small-print. I know you love details so, (takes a deep breath), here goes…

Ingredients are “barley malt, adjuncts, hops for bitterness”. Some hoppiness is good for a lager. But what the heck are “adjuncts”? Leave a comment if you know.

It’s “best served chilled” and you need to “consume within day of opening”. Whether that means it’ll still be good to top-up your hangover with your Pot Noodle breakfast the next morning is unclear.

It is, I’m utterly delighted to report, “Produce of India for export”. It was even “Brewed under license from United Breweries Limited, Bangalore, India by Blossom Industries Ltd., Village Jani Vankad Nani Daman 396 210”.

Also on there are the details of the imported and exporter. The Hertfordshire based importer is SOP International Ltd, with a website at www.sopinternational.com and a homepage at http://www.sopinternational.com/d-chi467-taj-mahal-taj-mahal-premium-lager-beer/. The Indian exporter is UB Global with a website at www.ub-global.com and an interesting beer page at http://www.ub-global.com/beer.html.

And that’s all the small-print. So, what does Taj Mahal Premium Lager Beer taste like? How does it compare to the other curry beers? Not just the against specialists like Bangla, Cobra and Kingfisher, but the ones that get it spot-on by accident, like Grolsch and Holsten Pils. It’s time to find out.

Taj Mahal Premium Lager Beer poured into a glass

This fridge cold bottle poured so easily, not even I made it glug. Much. For those of you, like me, who don’t do Euro measuring, 650 millilitres (the size of this bottle) is more than a Pint glass can hold. As I discovered.

What does Taj Mahal look like? In the glass, it’s predictably Pilsner lager yellow. Very carbonated, yet it only manages a thin, patchy layer of foam. It really is very fizzy. So much so, the fizzing is audible.

What does Taj Mahal smell like? If you’ve ever sniffed a Pilsner lager before, you’ll have a good idea. It has that familiar whiff of malted barley. At this stage, I was hoping to smell at least a some hoppiness. But alas, I can detect none.

What does Taj Mahal taste like? The first two gulps are easy ones. Being a lager, especially one for your curry, you might not expect it to have flavour. And… it doesn’t.

A good curry beer needs to be refreshing, clean and crisp, ideally with a mild, bitterness. And a few gulps in, that seems to be what Taj Mahal is. While it’s cold, it feels refreshing, clean and crisp. But does it have the bitter, hoppy finish? It is slow brewed and even mentions “hops for bitterness” on the label. Apparently, they didn’t add all that many hops. You just can’t taste them. You do get one of the gentlest, mildest bitter finishes of any lager, ever. Will that be enough to soothe your mouth from chilli agony? Only partly, I suspect.

What am I liking about Taj Mahal Premium Lager Beer? While it’s cold, it is supremely easy to drink. Even not beer drinkers will be fine. It is very accessible to the curry munching masses that frequent Brick Lane every evening. If you like your lagers to be clean, crisp and refreshing, Taj Mahal fits the bill nicely. Rather surprisingly, it’s not gassy. And it’s one of the few that comes in bigger-than-a-pint 650ml bottles.

What am I disliking about Taj Mahal? That drinkability and refreshment comes at the expense of watery-ness. It is very light and watery. Normally I like that in a lager. But for something that’s “slow brewed” and so bloody expensive, you expect more than fizzy water. And that leads onto the next issue. The price. I wouldn’t mind so much if it was exclusive ale brewed with myrrh. But it’s a curry beer, to be drunk in vast quantities because your mouth is on fire. With so little in the flavour and taste department, it’s also lacking anything to differentiate it, or to add any charm. And, as it gradually reaches room temperature, which it inevitably will, it loses some of the crisp, refreshing-ness.

How can I sum up Taj Mahal Premium Lager Beer? I would like to try it with a curry because it would probably do rather well. At least while it’s cold, it is crisp and refreshing enough to extinguish the inferno raging in your mouth during a curry.

Compared to my other curry favourites, it’s no failure. But neither does it win. It’s just lacking something in the taste department that the others have. Something hoppy. If you’re having a night out, need a beer for your curry and have the money to spend, Taj Mahal is perfectly fine.

Normally, I like simple, cheap, watery lagers. They’re honest and drinkable, so I rate them highly. Taj Mahal Premium Lager Beer though is slow brewed and expensive. Sure, Taj Mahal is fine, but cheap lagers a third of the price are at least as good. For that, I’m rating it low.

Rating: 2.3

Have you tried Taj Mahal Premium Lager Beer? What did you think of it?

Leave your comments and recommendations down here.

Beer Review: Kingfisher Premium Lager Beer

31 May, 2008

WHEN I looked at Indian beers at the beginning of the month, I thought I had done them all. There was Cobra, with its interesting if average taste. And there was Tiger which was simply average. Both of which are sold nearly everywhere. But they aren’t the only games in town. In the off-licenses of Brick Lane, and, seemingly nowhere else, is another Indian beer: Kingfisher Premium Lager Beer.

Kingfisher Premium Lager Beer bottle

There aren’t many green hued glass bottles around these days. This means that Kingfisher has a unique look. This one is the small 330 millilitre versions, but in the same chiller cabinet was an enormous 660 millilitre version.

The neck label is… well, it has a neck label.

Kingfisher Premium Lager Beer neck label

It has the Kingfisher logo. Which features a kingfisher. And the description “Premium Lager Beer”. High expectations aren’t going to be a problem here.

The front label is nearly as uninspired, apart from one or two points.

Kingfisher Premium Lager Beer front label

Around the top border, it reads “India’s Premium Lager”. And around the bottom border, “The Finest Malted Barley & Hops”. No, wait, that’s not special at all. Maybe it’s the alcoholic volume? Next to the “330ml”, an in tiny writing, we’re informed that this has 4.8% volume. At 0.2% less than both Cobra and Tiger, that’s not working to Kingfisher’s favour either.

Under all of that though, is one small detail that does raise Kingfisher above it’s Indian counterparts. It’s heritage. Dating to 1857, that blows its twentieth century competition out of the water.

The back label holds a few more interesting facts. Some in it’s favour, some not.

Kingfisher Premium Lager Beer back label

First, it tells us that Kingfisher is the world’s number-one selling Indian lager. A surprise to me. Especially as I hardly ever see Kingfisher on sale anywhere. Then we’re told that Kingfisher has won “several international awards for its quality and taste”. Again though, we don’t know what they were. Come on, tell us what awards you won exactly.

Then, we learn that Kingfisher is a brand of the glamorously named United Breweries Group of Bangalore, India. Sadly, here’s were the news turns sour. Kingfisher wasn’t imported. Instead, it’s been brewed and bottled under license by Shepherd Neame of Faversham in Kent. The same Shepherd Neame behind the rather good Bishops Finger and Spitfire Kentish Ales. I hope they’ve not skimped on the quality just because it isn’t their name on the front of the bottle. This could be quite good after all.

That’s about it from the back label. Apart from the ingredients which include barley malt. And the UK units of alcohol. Which are 1.6. Only 1.6? Either drink a lot of this, or get yourself a decent bottle of ale. Then again, 4 units of alcohol isn’t supposed to be a target. Is it?

Now time to answer the important questions. Is Kingfisher Premium Lager Beer any good? Or will it be another bland and average Indian lager? Or will it surprise us all?

In the glass, you hope that it’s going to have a head. And there is one for a few moments. But give it a minute, and it becomes nearly as headless as a cider. The colour is like most other lagers. That is to say, bright and yellowy. And it looks very carbonated. Not a good sign.

Kingfisher Premium Lager Beer pourd into a glass

The smell won’t inspire you. Like most lagers, it has that ‘sharp’ blend of malted barley in the smell.

And the taste isn’t any better. One gulp in tells me that this is another indistinctive lager. It has the same ‘sharp’ malted barley blend of flavours as nearly every other lager. This brings with it that familiar, lagery bitterness too. No points for originality then.

Putting my anti-lager prejudices aside for one moment, I’ll try and find some positives to report. Well, if you do as the label says and serve it cool, it can make a refreshing beverage. Good for those hot and spicy meals as all Indian beers seemed designed to be. Along with that comes refreshing-ness as well.

The blend isn’t as yucky as some lagers out there. This isn’t a cheap lager, which is a big plus. Normally, I ignore the word “Premium”. In most cases it’s meaningless, but some quality does shine through in this case. Even if it is a lager. And that makes it easy and even slightly pleasant to drink. It’s not as gassy as I feared, either.

On the debit side, it is still a lager. That means it’s lacking in taste. It’s hard to have character, a full-body or full flavour from a lager. Even Kingfisher Premium Lager Beer is no exception. There’s little distinctive or unique here either.

Maybe I’m judging Kingfisher too harshly? All most people want from an Indian lager is a refreshing drink to go with their curry. That might be true, but Cobra did it with some character. And as this is my blog, it comes with a healthy dose of anti-lager prejudice. Do yourself a favour and buy a proper beer.

Rating: 2.45

Have you tried Kingfisher? What did you think?
Got any corrections, opinions, ideas or suggestions? Then do please leave a message in the usual place please.

Beer Review: Cobra Extra Smooth Premium Lager Beer

7 May, 2008

NEXT on my round-up of Asian beers is Cobra Extra Smooth Premium Lager Beer. But since I’ve not seen any other Cobra beers on sale, you’ll probably know it simply as Cobra. Or as the beer you get when you go for a curry.

Cobra Extra Smooth Premium Lager Beer bottle

I like the look of this bottle. It’s got an attractive, Indian style yellow colour-scheme. It has a big neck-label and a small wrap around label further down. But best of all, the glass is embossed with all manner of images. There’s a scales, a snake charmer, a boat, some text I can’t understand, elephants, palm trees and a building. Having all of those in the form of raised glass around the bottle is excellent. It’s the first one I’ve seen that actually has a texture. You can feel the raised glass when you wrap your hand around the bottle. This could be the new trend in beer bottles. You saw it here first.

The bottle top squeezes in a surprising amount of text.

Cobra Extra Smooth Premium Lager Beer bottle top

There’s the usual marketing material about natural ingredients, authentic recipes and prizes. But the origin is proudly announced as Bangalore, India.

The neck label is where most of the facts are, so let’s get stuck in.

Cobra Extra Smooth Premium Lager Beer front neck label

The front of the neck-label gives us all the main facts. The Cobra name is there. With the words “Extra Smooth” above it. And presumably the same words in an Indian language below it. Can anyone out there confirm what it says please?

Also prominently on there are the alcoholic volume; which is a respectable 5%. And the size of the bottle, which is 330 millilitres. Although I have seen larger in the shops.

It is a little confusing about what type of Cobra beer this actually is. You see, under the logo are the words “Premium Beer”. So is this Cobra Premium Beer? But above it, we’re told that this is “Double Filtered For An Extra Smooth Taste”, and that this is “Extra Smooth”. So is this actually called Cobra Extra Smooth instead? In the absence of any confirmation, I’ll call this one Cobra Extra Smooth Premium Beer. That covers everything.

Turning the bottle around, and we can see some more of the neck label.

Cobra Extra Smooth Premium Lager Beer left neck label

Just like Asahi Super Dry, we’re in for a let down. It isn’t imported, but bottled and brewed in the EU for Cobra Beer Ltd in London.

The web address on this side of the label is www.cobrabeer.com. On this side of the label is also the story. And unlike most of the label, it isn’t repeated in lots of different languages.

Buried in the marketing-speak are some surprising facts. As well as the usual blend of barley malt, yeast, maize and hops, this beer has rice. Yes, rice is part of the blend. What effect that will have on the taste, I’m looking forward to finding out.

As well as boasting the typical distinctiveness, cleanness and smoothness, Cobra also goes on the boast something unusual. Yet also very welcome. The slogan “Cobra – The Less Gassy Bottled Beer” is outstanding. I’ve never seen a beer sell itself on how un-gassy it is. A very clever selling point, if you read the label thoroughly enough to find it. This should be much more prominent.

Going by what it goes on the mention, my guess is that they’ve got the blend of unusual ingredients just right. You see, Cobra have won the Gold Medal of the Monde Selection, World Quality Awards in Brussels from 2001 through to 2006. That’s five years running. A staggering achievement.

Over on the other side of the neck label, there’s the usual small print.

Cobra Extra Smooth Premium Lager Beer right neck label

If you’re interested, this bottle has 1.7 UK units of alcohol. But next that that label were a couple of little symbols I thought were nice touches. There’s a tiny, circular “Premium Extra Beer” symbol. And a little, rectangular picture of a cobra. What the point of them are, I don’t know. But quirky beers are good beers in my book.

The front of the thin, wrap-around label in the middle of the bottle features all the medals it’s won.

Cobra Extra Smooth Premium Lager Beer centre of middle label

And the words “The Most Celebrated Beer In The World” raise keep your expectations sky-high.

Cobra Extra Smooth Premium Lager Beer left middle label

The left-hand-side of the narrow label tells the origin of Cobra. Dating back to 1989, it doesn’t have heritage. But it does have Karan Bilimoria deciding that the world needs a different kind of beer. The world needs more Karan Bilimoria’s. Good on him.

The right-hand-side of the narrow label expands the story still further.

Cobra Extra Smooth Premium Lager Beer right middle label

We learn that Cobra is now made in five different countries. And that it’s Indian, British, global and local. You’ve got to admire their ambition and diplomacy.

After all of that, I feel like I know Cobra quite intimately. And that’s before we’ve even got to the taste testing. Without further delay, let’s crack open this intriguing little bottle.

After opening the bottle, I was surprised to see something printed on the inside of the bottle top. This time a “CoolBrands” award from 2006/07, awarded for “Innovation”, “Style” and “Desirability”. This is the first time I’ve seen anything printed on the inside of a bottle top.

After pouring, there was a fizzy head, but that soon died down to practically nothing.

Cobra Extra Smooth Premium Lager Beer poured into a glass

The drink itself is a lager-y amber colour. And with a typical amount of bubbles rising to the surface.

Perhaps because of the blend, the smell is a bit different. It does smell of malted barley, yeast and hops. But, there’s more to it that I can’t put my finger on. And it’s not in the same proportions as it is with other beers.

This is reflected in the taste. Which is equally unusual in its blend of tastes. This is going to take much more than the 330 millilitre in this bottle to figure out.

The main tastes that I’m picking up are a slight, but not lingering bitterness. Then you notice, or start to notice all the things that went into the blend. Hints of the arable, like the malted barley, maize, hops and yeast are there. I think. It’s hard to be sure. I certainly can’t rule out some hint of rice being in there too.

This truly is an unusual beer. It doesn’t taste like any other, let alone any other lager. Yet none of the flavours really jump out at you. They’re all surprisingly subtle. Yet because of everything in there, it has a fuller-flavour than most beers. Nearly up to the level of an ale.

Other things to say about it are that it isn’t gassy. Exactly as promised on the bottle. Although I still managed a couple of burps, thanks to this bottle. I can also see why it’s one of the curry beers of choice. Without having strong flavours of it’s own, it would be just what you want with your vindaloo.

To look for downsides, I’d say that it’s not so great on its own. Without a meal to go with it, it’s lacking. You find yourself wishing that one of its many flavours would stand out and give you something to focus on.

I liked Cobra. And I can see why it won so many awards. I was expecting another bland Asian approximation of a beer. But instead, Cobra Extra Smooth Premium Lager Beer was a very pleasant surprise. It is distinctive and unusual. But also refreshing and drinkable. Surprisingly good stuff.

Rating: 4

Have you tried Cobra? What did you think?
Got any translations, correction, ideas or suggestions? Then leave a comment in the comments box!


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