Posts Tagged ‘Bavaria’

Beer Review: Weihenstephan Kristall Weissbier

16 September, 2009

CROSSHARBOUR ASDA sounded its siren call again, leaving me with three more unusual bottles of beer to sample. First up is what one of my commentors described as the benchmark for clear, unfiltered wheat beer, and another described as the wheat beer for lager drinkers. With a lot of hype to live up to, here is a bottle of Weihenstephan Kristall Weissbier.

Weihenstephan Kristall Weissbier bottle

What the bottle lacks in quirky charm (compare it to the granite-like bottles of British ale), it makes up for with interesting labels. The informative, and helpfully English language neck-label is our starting point on this German bottle.

Weihenstephan Kristall Weissbier neck label

The big middle bit boasts three big things. An impressive crest. A date, “Since 1040”, and that it was “brewed and bottled by Bayerische Staatsbrauerei Weihenstephan Germany”. That makes this a genuine Bavarian. On shop shelves dominated by pretend Europeans, that counts for something.

Either side of part you can see in the photo are quiet, understated braggings of awards won. On the left, if we squint, we can see that it won “Gold Medal Australian International Beer Awards 2003, 2004 & 2006”. On the right, it’s the “Gold Medal International Beer Competition 2003”.

Other beers boast a lot more about much fewer awards. We’re only at the neck-label, and already Weihenstephan Kristall Weissbier is giving off the quietly confident air of someone who knows what they’re doing.

Weihenstephan Kristall Weissbier front label

The front-label, in a neat and Germanic roundel, says everything you need to know while you browse the shop shelves. And boy, does it get off to a flying start. “The World’s Oldest Brewery” “Since 1040”. In 1040, the Normans had yet to bother the people of Hastings. While in “Dark Age” Bavaria, they were coming up with award winning beer. That’s like going to see Shakespeare performing in The Globe, having just invented the iPod.

The bottom half says exactly what you need to know, in order to know if this is the bottle for you. Handy if you’re staring at a shop shelf, puzzling over what to put in your trolley.

My knowledge of German is ropey at best, but even I worked out that “Kristall Weissbier” means wheat beer with the yeasty bits filtered out. Fortunately, in case you hadn’t worked it out, they say it right there; “Clear Wheat Beer”.

The one other detail you need to know is the alcoholic volume. And they’ve thought to put that in as well. At 5.4%, Weihenstephan Kristall Weissbier is looking to please everyone.

Weihenstephan Kristall Weissbier back label

The back label is as clean and effective as an Audi four-dour saloon. There’s a ‘story’ about the brewery followed by an excellent description by Socialist and beer writer, Roger Protz. To quote his quote, “its intensely spicy aroma has powerful hints of cloves and nutmeg balanced by creamy malt. The defining character of Bavarian wheat beers – a banana note – dominates the palate, with rich malt, spices and a gentle hint of hops. A spritzy and wonderfully thirst-quenching drink.” The Michael Parkinson of beer reviewing liked it. But will I? For an ill-informed bunch of opinions and stretched metaphors, read on.

The ingredients are the usual “water, wheat, malt, barley malt, hops”. The full address from Freising, Germany, is on there. There’s a web address of www.weihenstephaner.de. But be warned; it will make you lust after bottles that you probably can’t buy where you live. Lastly, at 5.4% alcoholic volume, this 500ml bottle weighs in at 2.7 UK units of alcohol. A fact so boring that you’re probably loosing interest. So let’s get to the interesting part.

What does Weihenstephan Kristall Weissbier taste like? Will I like it? Will I describe it the same way as celebrity beer writer, Roger Protz did? How will it compare to the other cloudy and clear wheat beers I tried? And should you go out and buy it? Let’s find out.

Weihenstephan Kristall Weissbier poured into the wrong type of glass

I know, I know, I still don’t have the right sort of glass. If someone wants to send me a proper glass for the job, leave a comment and I’ll get back to you. For the meantime, in a regular British pint glass, it looks fantastic. The head frothed right up the way a Bavarian wheat beer should.

The head is white, and made of big bubbles which collapsed into itself after a few moments. The beer itself is golden and clear. Bar the storm of bubbles furiously making their way to the surface.

Weihenstephan Kristall Weissbier smell like? In a word; delicious. It has that impossibly good quality that I love about European wheat beers. Roger Protz used words like cloves, nutmeg and creamy malt. I’m going to use words like rich, malty, kind of fruity and awesome. In fact, forget all those words except awesome. For that is how it smells.

What does Weihenstephan Kristall Weissbier taste like? The first sip is as pleasant as the first sniff. Gut reaction is that this is as good as the best cloudy wheat beers. Even though that’s impossible. It’s like expecting the battered cod with your chips to taste as good as lobster. But this seems to be pulling it off.

Why do I think that? After a few more sips and I’m still a long way from figuring it out. The flavours are dry, biscuity and of dried fruit. An understated sweetness. Followed by a gentle, smooth, bitterness of dry malt and spicy hoppiness. All together, making an outstandingly balanced and easy to drink, drink.

What am I loving about Weihenstephan Kristall Weissbier? If you’ve enjoyed a European wheat beer, even ones you’re not supposed to compare it too, such as cloudy, unfiltered ones, and those from the Netherlands and Belgium you’ll know. It has the same, unmistakably lovely smoothness that you can’t quite describe. To help describe that indescribable quality, I’ve invented a new word; “delismoothich”. A combination of “delicious”, “smooth” and “rich”.

Possibly the most astounding thing about Weihenstephan Kristall Weissbier is that it manages to be every bit as good and interesting as its cloudier cousins. Then there’s the flavours and taste which are perfectly balanced and very easy to drink. Give this to even hardened lager drinkers to see what they think. Roger Protz described it as spritzy and thirst-quenching and I can’t disagree. It’s refreshing and very drinkable. Not too gassy either, despite all the fizziness.

What don’t I like about Weihenstephan Kristall Weissbier? Very little. Nitpicking, I suppose it doesn’t pack the same flavour punch as some cloudy wheat beer or British ales. But before you leave a comment saying you can’t compare them, yes, I know that already. I’m also guessing that after three or four, they stop being so refreshing. That said, I’d love to have enough bottles to find out. The only real complaint I can think of is that Weihenstephan Kristall Weissbier and all the Weihenstephan range are so difficult to buy, here in Britain.

To conclude, Weihenstephan Kristall Weissbier tasted great, even if I can’t put my finger exactly on why. It compared incredibly well to every other type of wheat beer, and every other beer, full-stop, that I’ve ever tried. I loved it, even though I used different words to celebrity beer socialist, Roger Protz. Weihenstephan Kristall Weissbier is one of the best, so yes; you should go out and find it.

Rating: 4.5

Have you tried Weihenstephan Kristall Weissbier? Have you tried any other Weihenstephan beers? What did you think? Do please leave your inevitable corrections, or alternatively, opinions, recommendations and places to buy, in the comments.

Beer Review: Club Colombia Premium Extra Fina

25 January, 2009

BEING more famous for exporting kidnaps, assassinations and cocaine, Columbia’s Aguila lager shouldn’t have been much good. Yet it thoroughly impressed me by being excellent. I’m delighted then to introduce another bottle of beer imported to Britain all the way from Colombia: Club Colombia Premium.

Club Colombia Premium Extra Fina bottle

The bottle looks almost exactly the same as that of Aguila. Right down to the “No Retornable” embossed around the shoulder. Could this hint at their shared origins? Or a complete lack of imagination by Colombian brewers?

Just like Aguila, Club Colombia uses the screw top. What is it with Colombian beers and screw tops instead of proper bottle tops? Do they all have them? If you know the answer, leave a comment at the end of this post.

Club Colombia Premium Extra Fina bottle top

The similarities continue with the neck-label. Albeit not with the front of it.

Club Colombia Premium Extra Fina front of neck label

The front of the neck-label is a classy looking thing. Partly down to the gold, partly down to the typeface. Which, of course, is Spanish. I can’t understand it, but I think it’s the usual marketing guff about finest ingredients and dedication. So you haven’t missed anything. If you can translate it though, do please leave a comment at the end of this post.

Two words that I can understand however, are two words that keep popping up all over the labels. “Extra Fina” must mean something along the lines of “Extra Fine”. Even I know that. Or do I? If you know better, you know where to leave your translations.

The back of the wrap-around neck-label is where you’ll find the small-print and barcode. Just like with Aguila.

Club Colombia Premium Extra Fina back of neck label

It’s all in Spanish. But don’t worry. This bottle of Club Colombia was imported by La Casa De Jack Ltd, the same people who imported Aguila. And that means that everything you need to know is printed on the ugly white sticker that they stuck over the original label.

Club Colombia Premium Extra Fina back label

There’s not a lot to say about the big, white sticker stuck on by the importer. Most of it is exactly the same as it was for Aguila. Even the facts about the beer are the same. Take the bottle size and alcoholic volume. Both exactly the same at 330ml and 4%. The same with the ingredients which are “water, barley malt and deputy hops”. Whatever they are.

There’s all the contact information you could possibly want for the importer, whose website is www.lachatica.com. It’s still, and reassuringly so, a product of Colombia. It was “commercialized” by Arcas and even made by Bavaria S.A. Exactly the same brewer as Aguila. And that would explain why everything about it looks the same. Even the Spanish language warning at the bottom of the back label is the same.

Around on the front label, everything looks hunky dory. Not a roundel in sight, which makes it original and stylish too.

Club Colombia Premium Extra Fina front label

You can’t ignore the native South-American-style graphic. I’m not sure which ancient tribe it represents. Or who or what it is. But it looks to me like someone with two steering wheels and boomerangs attached to their head.

The “Club Colombia” name has that native South-American look too. It tells us, in Spanish of course, that it is “Desde 1889”. Something that gives it some decent heritage. At the bottom, under the words “Extra Fina”, I’m informed that it says something along the lines of “Brewed longer for a fine taste”. Translators, do please leave a comment at the end of this post.

So, will Club Colombia Premium taste the same as its Colombian cousin and join it as one of the best Latin American beers? More importantly, should you buy it? There’s only one way to find out. It’s time to unscrew the bottle and sample the contents.

Club Colombia Premium Extra Fina poured into a glass

It looks much the same as Aguila did, just minus the frothy head. The amber is a little deeper. And the head is much smaller and patchier. Altogether unimpressive.

Does it have a smell? Yes, it has the same smell of lagery blended malted barley. That makes it smell not just like its Colombian stable-mate, but like nearly every pilsner style lager in the world. Not strong or unpleasant, just straightforward and uncomplicated.

But what does it taste like? The first couple of gulps of this refrigerated bottle of Club Colombia Premium lager aren’t bad. But they’re not great either. Being a lager, it has no flavour whatsoever. That leaves it fighting every other lager in the world on the basis of aftertaste. Aguila was brilliant by having the least offensive aftertaste since the potato was discovered. Club Colombia Premium however does what almost every other lager in the world does: it has that lagery “bite” with a bitter aftertaste.

It’s not a bad example of lagery aftertaste. Not as unpleasant as some. Not as drinkable as others. Just sitting somewhere around the word “average”, trying not to be noticed.

What am I enjoying about this cool bottle of Club Colombia Premium “Extra Fina”? For starters, it’s refreshing, at least while cold. The bitter aftertaste “bite” is by no means the worst around. And that makes this quite drinkable by lager standards. It’s also quite well made and not a gassy experience.

There are, of course, one or two problems with Club Colombia. The way it tastes makes it almost identical to hundreds of other lagers around the world. That makes it indistinctive, unoriginal and boring. And, at a meagre 4% volume, it’s not strong enough to compete with the world’s other premium lagers.

Where does all this leave Club Colombia Premium “Extra Fina”? This will no doubt enrage the lager purists out there who would happily murder anyone who dislikes the bitter aftertaste “bite”, but, I have to say that I don’t rate it. Aguila was great because it did something different with it. Club Colombia however just did what all the competition does, and it does it weaker than they do. If you’re travelling in Colombia, I’d happily drink this. But, if you have a shop shelf filled with interesting beers from all around the globe, pick something nicer instead.

Rating: 2.8

Have you tried Club Colobia Premium “Extra Fina”? Do you work for Bavaria S.A.? If so, do please leave a comment with any corrections, opinions, requests, recommendations and places to buy.

Beer Review: Aguila

19 January, 2009

A NEW country and a new beer. Two in fact. That’s because, for £1.29 pence each from the Bethnal Green Food Center, I have two different bottles of Colombian beer. This one is called Aguila, which, according my Spanish speaking friend, is an animal name.

Aguila bottle

It’s a thin looking brown bottle isn’t it? I keep expecting to read the words ‘chili sauce’ printed on it. Those bright yellow labels give it a good festive, South American feel though.

It even has some words embossed around the shoulder. What does it say? The name of the brewer? A slogan perhaps? No. It Says “No Retornable”. Which I think is a less than encouraging recycling message.

I don’t normally photograph the bottle tops, but this one is worth sharing.

Aguila bottle top

Are those anti-clockwise arrows I see? I dare say that Aguila has a screw-top. And that immediately makes it uncool.

Can it redeem itself with the labels? Lets start with the big, wrap-around neck label.

Aguila front of neck label

The front of the neck-label doesn’t tell you much. It’s simply a smaller version of the main front label with, what must be the ‘since’ or ‘established’ date of 1913. A happy year in between the sinking of the RMS Titanic and the outbreak of the First World War.

One side of the neck-label has the barcode. And the other is full of hard to read small-print.

Aguila side of neck label

Unfortunately, every word is in Spanish. Fortunately however, it’s all translated into English on the big white sticker stuck onto the bottle by the importer.

The front-label keeps things simple. And Colombian. And Spanish.

Aguila front label

It comes down to a straight forward, if bright and lively roundel. You might want to don a pair of shades before glancing in its direction. It may not be sophisticated, but it’s perfectly acceptable for a nation more famous for hard drugs than beer.

The words around the top of the roundel tell us that this is a beer from Colombia. The words around the bottom inform us that “Refreshment Our Passion”. Hopefully a hint about what Aguila will be all about.

Over on the back of the bottle, and we have the original Spanish language back label with a great big white label stuck over it by the importer.

Aguila back label

The big white label has all the small-print, information and vital statistics you need. It’s in English. And it’s the ugliest label I’ve ever seen an importer slap onto an otherwise attractive bottle.

But what does it say? Well, this is your regular 330ml (11.16 Fl Oz) bottle. The alcoholic volume is a modest 4%. The ingredients are water, barley malt and, I’m not making this up, “Deputy Hops”. What’s that? A type of hops or a bad translation?

In a box on the other side of the ugly white label is information about the importer. This bottle of Aguila from Colombia comes courtesy of La Casa De Jack Ltd from the South Bank of the River Thames in London. They have an address, telephone number, email address and web address at www.lachatica.com in case you want to get in touch with them. Their website may lack polish, but all credit to them, they look like to people to come to if you want to import Latin American food to Britain.

Elsewhere, we learn that the brewer is one Bavaria S.A.. Someone that sounds more like a German brewer than a South American one. It was also, apparently, “Commercialized By C.I. Arcas Ltda”. What the heck does “Commercialized” mean? What is welcome are the words “Product Of Colombia”. This is the real deal, not a domestically brewed fake foreign beer like some on the market.

At the bottom however is more Spanish language. But don’t worry. It’s just a standard health warning.

So what does Aguila taste like? Should you try it if you get the chance? Time to unscrew a refrigerated bottle and find out.

Aguila poured into a glass

It does have a screw top. But not one that’s easy to open. In fact, this one was so difficult, I had to use bottle top opener to get into it.

It poured easily enough. It’s got an excellent, thick and foamy head. And fortunately, one that’s controllable enough for you not to end up with a table covered in beer foam. The beer itself an unappetizing pale yellow though. Yuck.

It does have a pretty good smell though. A lagery and strong but not unpleasant smell rapidly fills your nostrils. There’s nothing else to say about though. That malted barley smell is almost identical to every other pilsner lager in the world. With that in mind, it smells familiar, even though I’ve never tried Aguila before in my life.

But what does it taste like? A couple of gulps in, and Aguila is turning out to be one very light and drinkable lager. It’s a lager, so obviously it has no flavour. What lagers usually have is a bitter “kick” and lingering aftertaste. That’s why I hate most lagers. Aguila however, doesn’t have that. What is does have is possibly the most gentle and subtle bitter aftertaste I’ve ever seen in a lager.

I’m half-way through this little bottle of Aguila now. So what am I enjoying about it? As per the billing on the front label, it is refreshing. And the colder you can get it, the more refreshing it will become. I’m loving how easy to drink it is. With such a muted aftertaste and none of that awful “kick” that defines most lagers, Aguila won’t offend even the most delicate of stomachs. It’s also smooth and rather well made.

There are one or two drawback however. It’s fine if you just compare it to other lagers. But that’s like comparing television talent show rejects. Compared to real beers and ales, Aguila has no flavour at all. The muted, bitter, malted barley aftertaste is excellent because there’s not much of it. At a measly 4% volume, it’s weaker than typical European lagers. And the whole experience is rather watery and gassy.

That said, when you compare Aguila to its lagery competition, it comes out way ahead. Aguila is not just the best Latin American beer I’ve tried to date, but it’s one of the best lagers I’ve tried in the world so far. That’s because it’s so refreshing and easy to drink. If or when I get around to travelling in South America, I’ll happily drink this. And I recommend you look out for it too. Best of all, I’ve got another bottle of Colombian beer to compare it to next.

Rating: 3.9

Have you tried Aguila? What did you think of it? Got any corrections, requests, recommendations or places to buy to share? Then do please leave a comment below.

Beer Review: Bavaria Holland Beer

2 July, 2008

NORMAL service is resumed tonight with another bottle of beer. Four bottles of beer in fact. That’s because Tesco was offering this four-pack of little bottles of Dutch beer for half-price. Even if it’s only mediocre, which I expect it to be, that’s going to be £1.94 pence that’s well spent. But how good is it? Lets find out.

Bavaria Holland Beer 4-pack

If the cardboard packaging that holds the bottles in place doesn’t do it for you, then neither will the bottles themselves. All four of them are thoroughly unremarkable, green bottles.

Bavaria Holland Beer bottle

And it gets worse. The tops aren’t proper bottle tops. Instead, in tiny writing, it tells you to “Twist to Open”. It’ll never catch on.

What about the neck label?

Bavaria Holland Beer neck label

Well… it has one. It has an inoffensive green shiny orange colour scheme. It features the strange “Bavaria” logo, with what looks like barley either side of it. And the words “Bavaria Holland Beer”. And that in itself it a mystery. I checked on Google Earth earlier today, and I’m happy to report that Bavaria is still located in southern Germany. Is it cashing in on the famous German region? Or an honest geographical blunder? What is going on here?

The front label garishly answers some questions.

Bavaria Holland Beer front label

The top of the roundel proudly gives us the good news that this is “Genuine Imported”. But from where? “Produced in Holland” follows the curve of the top border. Although we had already guessed that by the name “Bavaria Holland Beer”.

To it’s credit, we do get what I think is a place name. That’s because inside the border is the name “Lieshout Holland”. Has anyone reading this ever been there? What’s is like?

The top half also has an “Anno”. This one dates back to 1719. An early date, hinting at decent heritage. The bottom border of the label roundel has the ever re-assuring words “Family Brewed Premium Beer”. Maybe I’m being too harsh on this one?

Over on the back label, the mystery surrounding this beer isn’t exactly cleared.

Bavaria Holland Beer back label

The morass of poorly laid out foreign languages makes it a pain to pick out anything I could understand. Fortunately, the vital statistics are prominent for all to see and understand. This bottle is the typical 33 centilitres (330 millilitres) and has an alcoholic volume of 5%. That makes this possibly the most typical bottle I’ve ever had.

There is a block of text, which I think has the address of the brewery. But it doesn’t have it in English, so I can’t be sure. So, as you’re busy trying to pick out some recognisable words, you’ll miss the web address, which is listed at www.bavaria.com. The front page is the usual, with a place to enter your age and country. If you want to skip that, then go straight to www.bavariahollandbeer.co.uk where you can discover that is uses Flash and doesn’t work well with your Firefox web browser.

Amongst the multilingual block dedicated to ingredients, there is, lo and behold, an English language section. For the curious, the ingredients are “purest mineral water, barley malt, wheat, hops”. With my expectations suitably levelled, it’s time to open this bottle and investigate what lies within. Not forgetting to answer the big questions of what it’s like and is it any good?

Bavaria Holland Beer poured into a glass

This beer comes with a head. A big one. So watch out for that when you pour. It also stays around for longer than some others. The photo doesn’t show it clearly, but the colour is a very lagery pale yellow.

What about the smell? It’s not a bad beer smell. A more rounded smell of barley and wheat than most lagers. But less interesting than many beers. And blown away by any ale. This one doesn’t have a strong smell. But at least it has one.

And the taste? Does it taste like a lager? In a word; no. The taste is light, and of the barley malt and wheat. A taste that is quickly followed by an equally light hoppy bitterness. The interesting thing is, it doesn’t have that ‘sharp’, unpleasant bitterness of a cheap lager. Instead, the bitterness is light and lingers only a brief time.

Unexpectedly, there are some things I am liking about Bavaria Holland Beer. First, it doesn’t appear at least to be a lager. That means, instead of having the taste profile of a puddle, it tastes of beer. You can taste many of the ingredients, and none of them jump out and surprise you. It isn’t gassy. I’d go as far as to say that this is a refreshing and easy to drink beer.

On the other hand, there’s plenty to dislike here. The word “Premium” on the front is practically false advertising, because this beer tastes cheap. Although the flavours aren’t unpleasant, it doesn’t taste as refined and well crafted as I would like. The flavours themselves, whilst inoffensive, aren’t exactly delicious. As for the drinkability, that comes from the watery-ness of the thing.

To sum up, Bavaria Holland Beer is cheap but drinkable. Especially if you can buy it at half-price. If you can afford it though, do yourself a favour and buy something better.

Rating: 2.55

Have you tried Bavaria Holland Beer? What did you think of it? Are you thinking of trying it? Or have I put you off it completely?
Here is the place to leave your corrections, opinions, thoughts, suggestions and recommendations with the world.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 42 other followers

%d bloggers like this: