Posts Tagged ‘can’

Beer Review: Oranjeboom Imported Strong Beer

23 September, 2011

IN late 2010, a new category of lager started appearing in London. Sandwiched between the Premium Lagers and the Super Strength Lagers, the Very Strong category sought a new sweet spot. At around eight and a half percent alcoholic volume, could you enjoy the potency of a Super with the drinkability of a Premium? Here’s what I discovered.

If you like playing along at home, you’ll be wondering which products I’m describing. They are:

Kolson SuperKolson Super

Kolson Super 8.6% by Royal Unibrew from Poland. I bought this one from a convenience store on Old Street in Shoreditch, east London.

Oranjeboom Imported Strong Beer front of can

Oranjeboom Imported Strong Beer 8.5% by, Oranjeboom from the Netherlands. I bought this one from a convenience store on Bethnal Green Road, east London.

Good luck finding them. They both disappeared from shop shelves a matter of months after appearing, thus rendering this review useless. Nevertheless, I shall press on by telling you that of the two, Oranjeboom Imported Strong Beer was the best. That’s why the rest of this post is about Oranjeboom Imported Strong Beer and not it’s slightly stronger and less pleasant rival.

What can I say about the can? Well, it’s not as cool as the Kolson Super. The Kolson can is minimalist and elegant. The Oranjeboom effort looks like the designer couldn’t stop designing.

On the plus side, everything you need to know about it is right there in front of you. The strength, where it’s from and who manufactured it. The Oranjeboom logo is there, featuring an orange tree. Of course. Well it is from the Netherlands. And there’s the date that, presumably, the Oranjeboom brewery dates back to. 1671 was a very long time ago, even by continental beer standards.

Incidentally, I spent two minutes researching Oranjeboom Imported Strong Beer, by which I mean I used Google. They do have a UK website at http://oranjeboomlager.co.uk/ which is very interesting. Apart from the lack of explanation for the orange tree logo, and the mention of this particular Strong Beer. It’s almost as if they’re doing a Carlsberg and are embarrassed by it.

If you’re the sort of person who likes to know how their sausages are made, you can discover a few more facts about this beer. They describe it as being an “Original Dutch Recipe” that includes “Pure Natural: Choice Hops, Finest Malts and Grains, Clear Water”. Notice the absence of syrup. Carlsberg Special Brew this is not. On one of the sides crammed with multilingual text, there is an official ingredients list. Astoundingly, this is less informative than the list on the front I quoted from.

Oranjeboom Imported Strong Beer ingredients side of can

Let’s see if the other side of the can is any less useful.

Oranjeboom Imported Strong Beer barcode side of can

Nope, just a barcode and another impenetrable block of multilingual text. Nothing to see here. So there we have it. A can covered in text that only conveys the basic details. Now there’s no excuse for not pouring it into a glass, and trying to write words to describe it to you. This is why you can now see a photograph of this can, poured into a mismatched pint glass.

Oranjeboom Imported Strong Beer poured into a glass

Pouring was a doddle. There was very little head, and what little there was, quickly dissipated. Right now, there’s a thing, white, patchy layer of foam. The lager colour is gold, and is bubby with carbonation.

What does Oranjeboom Imported Strong Beer smell of? This is easier to describe if you’ve already smelt the generic malted barley of premium lager and the strong whiff of a super strength. That’s because Oranjeboom Imported Strong Beer smells part way between the two. Not as off-putting as the 9% super-strengths, but getting there. Honestly, the smell lets it down. It’s too close to super smell for my liking.

What does Oranjeboom Imported Strong Beer taste like? Coming straight from the fridge, the first gulp isn’t bad. Much better than the smell would suggest it is. The second gulp confirms it. At fridge cold temperature, Oranjeboom Strong tastes more like a normal, everyday premium lager, and only marginally like a super-strength monster. From the third, pleasantly painless gulp, I can start to make sense of the taste. First, as you’d expect from most lagers, there’s no flavour to speak of. Normal lagers give you a mild, bitter aftertaste. Supers give you an overpowering, synthetic aftertaste. Oranjeboom Strong gives you, guess what? Something half-way between the two. What you feel is a moderate bitterness, followed by a moderate wave of strong, thick super-style aftertaste. Not overpowering, mind you. Just a moderate wave of that sensation that, surprisingly, does not linger.

What do I like about Oranjeboom Imported Strong Beer? As you can probably tell, I’m impressed by the combination of strength and drinkability. As long as you don’t breath in while sipping or gulping it down, you could convince yourself you’re drinking a regular premium lager. The short-lasting aftertaste even gives it a hint of refreshment. At least while cold. Also likeable is that it’s not over carbonated, so you don’t suddenly start burping. Another big plus is how well it warms up. Even at near room temperature, it is sill drinkable. Other lagers would have given up and become revolting by this point. From the outside, it looks like a normal lager, helping you hide your alcoholism. And, being somewhat hard to find, it earns you one hipster point for drinking it.

What don’t I like about Oranjeboom Imported Strong Beer? The smell. It’s much too near to the odour of the ghastly super-strength lagers. We all know how smell triggers memory, so as soon as some people smell this, they’ll be put right off and not even try it. The aftertaste, until you get used to it, will be too much for some timid drinkers. And to nit-pick, the design of the can lets it down. If you just want a nice tasting beer however, then you can easily find ale much much more delicious than this.

All in all, Oranjeboom Imported Strong Beer is a very easy way to get lamp-shaded quickly. It is barely less drinkable than most premium lagers, yet nearly as strong as the horrifying super strength lagers. If you like lagers, strong beer or Dutch brews, it is worth trying. If you can find it.

In fact, I was so impressed by Oranjeboom Imported Strong Beer, I decided to up the stakes it put it to the biggest test of the year; celebrating the start of 2011 on the Embankment near Big Ben and the London Eye.

The night would involve many hours of standing in a humungous crowd of people, armed only with the food and drink you could carry and limited access to disgusting public porta-loos. New Year in London calls for drink that tastes good and is strong. That second point is very important. First because it’s bitterly cold outdoors at night in the middle of winter. Second, because you don’t want to lug around heavy bags of drink. And, most importantly, you want to get drunk without constantly needing to use the filthy porta-loos.

How did I and my Oranjeboom Imported Strong Beer fare on the night? Outstandingly well.

To surmise, Oranjeboom Imported Strong Beer is an affordable (if you can find it) lager that hits the right spot between drinkability and strength. Think of it as two ordinary Dutch lagers in one can.

Have you tried Oranjeboom Imported Strong Beer? What did you think? What reputation does it have in the Netherlands? Where is this beer available to buy? Leave your comments, corrections, advice to others and other nonsense here in the comments section.

Beer Review: Crest Super 10% Super Strength Premium Lager

14 April, 2009

A YEAR ago, I tried all the super strength lagers I could lay my hands on. This meant subjecting myself to Tennent’s Super Strong Lager, Kestrel Super Strength Lager, Carlsberg Special Brew and Skol Super Strong Lager. They were universally awful means of alcohol consumption. Not surprisingly then, they’re a favourite of homeless alcoholics, which is why they’ve acquired the nick-name “tramp juice”.

Besides being revolting to anyone who drinks less than eight each day, there was one other commonality. They were all 9% alcoholic volume. For whatever reason; fear of regulation, corporate social responsibility or a gentlemen’s agreement, there were none above 9% this side of the English channel. That’s what I thought, until I found this. From an off-license in Kennington, South London, here is a can of Crest Super 10% Super Strength Premium Lager.

Crest Super front of can

At first sight, everything looks promising. For a start, this has a classy purple exterior, unlike the stripy competition. It has pictures of hops and a “Master Brewers” ‘seal, all adding to the sense that this is a real beer.

It even has a proper roundel. With two bears at the top, the upper border says “Brewed With Best Quality Barley Malt”. And the lower border has words continuing with “And The Finest German Aroma Hops”. So this is German is it? If you’re going to have a strong beer, Germany is one of the places you want it to be from. This is shaping up very well indeed.

Crest Super join side of the can

Turning the can around, you won’t find much on this side. There’s a join. And the words “Serve Cool”. Advice I intend to pay heed to when it comes to tasting this mysterious, yet probably explosive beverage.

Crest Super barcode side of can

Ah good. This side has some writing. Lets read it. Maybe it says from where in Germany it came?

No. No it doesn’t say that. Right at the top, it says “Brewed And Canned By: The Crest Brewing Co. A Division of Wells & Young’s Brewing Company Ltd, Havelock Street, Bedford UK, MK40 4LU”. Regular readers will know that any beer that pretends to be imported when it isn’t immediately gets docked points. Would you rather try something from Bavaria or Bedfordshire?

It’s not necessarily bad news though. That is the same Wells & Young’s who brought us Bombardier Burning Gold, Luxury Double Chocolate Stout, Banana Bread Beer and the magnificent Bombardier Satanic Mills bottled ales. Yet they seem intent on hurting their name with licensed beers like Kirin Ichiban and this can of Crest Super.

Back to what the can says, and next up come the vital statistics. This is a big 500ml can. Oddly, for a UK produced can with a 10% alcoholic volume, I can’t find any UK units of alcohol rating. An intentional regulatory and moral dodge? Or an innocent omission? Your opinions at the end of this post please.

Another oddity is that the only English language in that big block of sideways text is telling you to look under the can for the best before end date. It has a full list of ingredients, but in German. Not English. Luckily, our language is similar enough to German for me to make sense of what it says. If you’re expecting the ingredients to be of typical beer ingredients plus some chemicals, you’d be spot-on.

Right then. I was hoping to drag out the descriptive part of this review as long as possible. But I’ve run out of things to read on the can. I’m going to have to drink this stuff and try to describe what it’s like. A task I’ve been putting off for weeks already.

What does Crest Super 10% Super Strength Premium Lager, the strongest beer I’ve ever tried taste like? Will be as drinkable as I’m hoping? Or as vomit inducing as I’m fearing? Curiosity is getting the better of me as it’s time to find out…

Crest Super poured into a glass

There’s some head. But not much. After a few moments, you’re left with a patch of foam. But what get’s me is the colour. That bright orange-amber colour would look more at home on a cider. It looks as natural as Jordan.

Does it smell as synthetic as it looks? The roundel promised the “Finest German Aroma Hops”. I’d say that it smells like the other super strength lagers. But maybe slightly more delicate. Whatever the case, you can’t hide from the distinctly un-beery smell of this and other super strength lagers. It reminds me of the smell of gobstoppers or other such sweets. Not a natural and tasty beer.

How does it taste? I’m going into this with a totally open mind, by the way. No prejudice whatsoever. So what does it taste like?

Two gulps in and I realise that gulps are the wrong way to go. If I’m to avoid seeing my dinner again, sips over the course of the night are the only way to go.

How can I describe it? Not easily. My entire digestive system is currently telling me not to consume any more. The rest of this review might be a bit shorter than normal.

A few minutes later, and I gingerly attempt a few sips. Unusually for a lager, it does have a hit of flavour. A flavour of hops and chemicals and think. It’s hard to pin down because of the massive aftertaste that swamps you. You get hit with a gigantic wave of bitterness, alcohol and chemicals. Unsurprisingly, it lingers for a good long time.

Nearly a quarter of the way through now, so what am I enjoying about Crest Super? I like that does something a little different to the other super strength lagers. I like that it’s 1% stronger. If I were an alcoholic or someone who enjoying drinking many cans of super strength each day, I would be delighted with Crest Super.

What am I not enjoying about Crest Super? Nearly everything. It is the most undrinkable beer I’ve had in more than a year of doing this blog. I doubt I’m going to finish this beer tonight, and it’s the first time that’s ever happened. It’s as if my body is shouting “no more! Please no more!” after every sip. This literally gut wrenching effect means I can’t even start to enjoy the flavour and taste.

How can I sum up Crest Super? It is the most extreme beer I have ever tried. It is the strongest. And the most undrinkable. Slightly different to the other super strength lagers, but not necessarily better. If you are an alcoholic, or if you enjoying drinking many cans of super strength lager each day, then you will love Crest Super. If however, you’re a normal person, then you probably won’t. It will either send you to drunken oblivion or to the toiler to throw up. But maybe I’m looking at it all wrong. Maybe you should treat it not as a beer, but as a spirit. It certainly tastes like one.

Rating: I’ll leave that up to you.

Have you tried Crest Super? Draught or out of a can? What did you think of it?

Do please leave your opinions, corrections, thoughts, requests, recommendations and places to buy.

Update:

Armed with experience from my first can, and from the comments sections from the other super strength lagers, my second can of Crest Super was much better. I can confirm that it’s absolutely essential to drink it only while it’s very very cold. Even if this means leaving the dregs at the bottom, because the contents will have warmed up too much in your hand. And don’t do what I did and pour it out. Drink it from the can to make sure you don’t accidentally smell it.

With this in mind, you can nearly enjoy it. At Arctic temperatures, it really does have a long, hoppy finish. And yes, the can is more solid than others. But there’s still better ways to get wasted than this.

Beer Review: Bosman Full

12 October, 2008

WHAT do you normally do when you feel like having a high quality bottle of ale? If you’re like me, what you actually end up with is a can of Polish lager. That’s right, I’ve done it again. This time, from a Polish shop on Cambridge Heath Road in Bethnal Green.

What can I say about the front? Well, at the top it says “Premium Quality”. But as we know, that doesn’t mean much. The roundel looks bold an interesting. There’s a picture of a ship. Which must mean something good. There are some medals at the bottom of the roundel. But I don’t think they are real medals. Below them, we learn that this has been going “Since 1948”. Which is a respectable run.

Also into the roundel are the Polish words “Browar Szszecin”. Which could be the name of the brewer. Once again, if anyone can translate or provide pronunciations, do please leave a comment at the end of the post. I for one would love to know how you’re supposed to pronounce Szszecin.

Around the can on the side that doesn’t have a barcode are some words and symbols.

Bosman Full non-barcode side of can

The symbol is familiar enough. That’s the anti-drink drive symbol you find on all Polish drinks. But the words “Od Lat Ten Sam Wyjątkowy Smak” are beyond me. “Smak” rings a bell from other cans and bottles, but translators, here is your chance to shine.

Over on the side of the can with the barcode are a few more bits and pieces.

Bosman Full barcode side of can

One of which is an information telephone line number. Another is that this is the usual 500ml size of can. Much of the rest is in Polish, but I’m going to give it a go anyway. I think it’s telling us that it has an alcoholic volume of 5.7%. Which is high. But thankfully lower than the universally revolting “Mocne” lagers.

A little further along is a word that I think is “pasteurised”. Under a line of writing that I can’t make head nor tail of are some familiar names. It transpires that this is another Polish beer produced by Carlsberg Polska. And that is comes from Warszawa. Or, as we call it, Warsaw.

There’s a web address too, which is www.bosman.pl. It all looked lovely when I visited. At least the half which I could see did. That’s because my screen resolution was too low to get any further. Which left me stranded at the front page, unable to get any further. Some tweaking of settings, and I’m in. It’s another Flash heavy corporate website with annoying background sound effects. There didn’t seem to be an English language version either.

Never mind, that final detail rounds the description part of this review off. There really is barely anything to say about the exterior of this can. Time now to sample the contents within. As a reminder, Perła and Leżajsk set the standard as my favourite Polish beers so far. The big name Tyskie, Żywiec, Okocim, Żubr and Lech were all adequate and all the “Mocne” ones were outrageously bad. Let’s see how Bosman Full compares.

Pouring is drama free. There’s no insane head to contend with. Everything looks good so far. It has a deep amber colour and a head. Albeit a rather inconsistent one.

How does it smell? It smells fresh and a bit lagery. Maybe it’s because of today’s warm weather, but I like it. Most lagers have some take on the malted barley mixture in their smell. This one is as richly malty as any lager I’ve sniffed. It deserves brownie points for that.

What does it taste like? A couple of gulps in, and I like it. It has a good, honest flavour of malted barley. Not a strong one. And it’s far from sophisticated or complex. But it is modestly pleasant. That down to earth flavour is replaced by the gentlest of bitter aftertastes. It lingers for a while. And if you piled on the pints of this stuff, it would make your mouth start to feel unpleasant. But it’s much lighter than lots of others, and the bitterness won’t bother even the squeamish drinkers out there.

So what am I enjoying about Bosman Full? In short, a surprising amount. It’s light, fresh and crisp. At least mine is after it spent the day in the fridge. It has a light, down to earth, generic beer flavour. Which, if you just want a cold beer, hits the spot nicely. It also doesn’t seem to be a Pilsner style lager. I thought it would be, and that it would be terrible. But is just isn’t. There’s no foul, lagery “bite”. It has a teeny bit of flavour. It’s smooth and not gassy at all. If, like me, you like beer and don’t much care for yet another boring lager, this is one to add to your shopping list.

What aren’t I enjoying about Bosman Full? If you’re going to compare it against European beers and British ales, it won’t match them for flavour. Nor will it match them for distinctiveness, character and complexity. It is a generic, boring, ordinary beer. If it were a haircut, it would be a side parting. It’s also hard to find in the UK, although that’s been changing.

How can I sum up Bosman Full? It’s considerably better than I expected. It’s much better than most Polish beers I’ve tried. Is it better than Perła and Leżajsk? I’d say it’s about even with them. Or just a notch below. It’s a bit like Bangla Premium Beer too by being a good all-rounder beer. If you like lager and you like it Pilsner style, you might not like Bosman Full. If you like interesting and unusual beers, ales and stouts, Bosman Full could be too boring for you. If you just want a good, ordinary beer, Bosman Full fits the bill nicely. Just drink it before it reaches room temperature. Mine has just warmed up and tastes worse for it.

Rating: 3.6

Lastly, I’ll keep a look out for Bosman Full in bottle form. Expect a quick update at the bottom of this post with photos if I find one.

Have you tried Bosman Full? What did you think of it?

Do please leave in the comments below your corrections, opinions, thoughts, requests, recommendations and places to buy this stuff overseas.

Beer Review: Guinness Draught in a can

11 October, 2008

DID you catch my last post comparing every type of bottled Guinness I could get my hands on? In it, I group tested Guinness Draught, Guinness Original, Guinness Foreign Extra and Guinness Foreign Extra Imported. If you came here the normal way, it should be directly under this post. If you didn’t, then CLICK HERE to read that post first. That’s because this post is tidying something up.

You see, that group-test nearly happened with a can of Guinness Draught instead of the bottle. Yet, I still have that can of Guinness Draught. I thought about just drinking it. But then decided to try answering a couple of outstanding questions. What is it like and is it better or worse than the bottle of Guinness Draught? Let’s find out.

Just like the bottle, it’s cleverly designed to look like a glass of Guinness. On the front, there’s precious little apart from the world-famous branding and words “Serve Chilled”.

There’s a few odd details on the ‘side’ of the can without the barcode.

Guinness Draught side of can

Among them are Guinness & Co.’s North West London address. Those reassuring words “Brewed in Dublin”. The www.guinness.com web address. And all the patents and trade mark information you could hope for.

Fortunately, the barcode ‘side’ of the can has a few more interesting titbits.

Guinness Draught barcode side of can

They open by describing it as “Smooth & Creamy”. And by declaring that this “Guinness Draught Stout” has an alcoholic volume of 4.1%. Which, in this 440ml can, brings it up to 1.8 UK units of alcohol. Which is a little more than the bottle. Mostly because it was smaller.

There’s no complete list of ingredients on here. Just that it “Contains Barley”. Under the Drink Aware messages, is the note that this can contains a floating widget. This source of all it’s powers also means that you can hear it ratting in there, and that you shouldn’t shake the can. Not unless you’re particularly cruel and intend on giving that shaken can to a victim. Not even their consumer helpline number could help you there.

And that’s all the detail there is to report. There’s noting left to do now than pour it into a glass. Something that they recommended against with the bottle. But that they haven’t said anything about on this can. Time to get pouring.

That was one of the most pleasant ‘pouring from a can’ experiences I’ve ever had. Opening it immediately triggered the widget, and I could hear some fizzing going on in there. Pouring into the glass was very smooth. There was absolutely no glugging. Presumably because it’s so much thicker and syrupy than the usual lager you get in cans, it came out at it’s own pace. Which made it very easy indeed. Even I managed to get it to look about right.

It also answers the question of whether it looks similar to the bottle of Guinness Draught. The answer is, it does. It also looks like a pint of Guinness poured for you at one of our countries fine public houses. Which, incidentally, is exactly what Guinness Draught seems to be aiming for.

What does it smell like? It smells of roasted barley with a hint of malt. Which is about how is should smell. And it’s as strong as you’d want Guinness to smell. Does it smell like the bottled version? Mostly. I remember describing the bottled version as smelling slightly of vanilla. Don’t know what I was picking up on there, but there is something a tiny bit different about this can. Otherwise, it smells right.

What does it taste like? It’s time to give it a couple of sips. Well, it’s rich, smooth and creamy. You can’t fault the description on the side of the can. A few more sips, and I begin to make sense of the flavour and taste. You can taste the flavour of slightly malty roasted barley. But it’s not as full-on as I was expecting. That would be Foreign Extra having raised my flavour expectations to impossible heights. What hits me most is that taste and aftertaste. It’s got a bit of “bite” to it. That “bite” gradually transforms into a warm, lingering bitter aftertaste. And an aftertaste that’s not particularly hoppy. Just bitter.

What will you like about Guinness Draught from a can? By my extremely limited experience, it’s one of the best ways to get a good stout from a can. I like bottles. But one thing you can say about cans, is that they’re portable. Guinness Draught from a can, then, is your Guinness or stout option that you can take with you on a train journey or buy in bulk from a supermarket.

You might also like Guinness Draught out of a can if you happen to love Guinness in all its other forms. I know there are a lot of you out there that do. If, like me, you don’t necessarily love Guinness, but you like a good bottled stout or dark ale, this can isn’t a bad option. That’s because it’s got much more body, flavour and quality than most tin based options. And, not even I could mess up the pouring of this one. It’s also as widely available as cigarettes and usually cheaper.

What won’t you like about Guinness Draught from a can? If you don’t like Guinness there might be problems. If you don’t like stout or dark ale there could be issues. And if you don’t like strong flavours and tastes, you may be disappointed. But, if you’ve purchased a can and have drunk it, you probably know all of these things already. So what isn’t there to like here? If you’re new to this style of beer, are a lager drinker or a woman, you’ll probably be scared off. And that’s no bad thing. I have been for a long time, but I keep coming back. And you know what? It’s starting to grow on me.

Guinness Draught from a can is, in my uninformed view, nearly identical to Guinness Draught from a bottle. Both of which are probably very similar to a pint of Guinness. I say similar, because I haven’t yet had a pint in a pub. But I am now looking forward to trying it.

How can I sum up Guinness Draught? If you love Guinness already, you’ll probably like this. If you don’t, then you won’t. If, like me, you’re new to the stuff, then it’s a good way in. Nearly at the bottom of the glass now, and I’ve rather enjoyed this can.

Rating: 4

Have you tried Guinness Draught from a can? What did you think of it?

Do please leave your comments, thoughts, corrections, opinions, requests, recommendations, and, for our overseas readers, places to buy this drink.

Beer Review: Lech Pils

12 September, 2008

NEXT up from this batch of Polish beers is Lech Pils. What I presume is the cheaper version of smooth and pleasant Lech Premium. I’m hoping that this one will be at least as good. Or at least wash away the dreadful taste from yesterday’s Tatra Mocne.

Like with Lech Premium, these guys are very good at packaging. The green on gold looks superb. As usual though, I can’t understand anything written on it. If you can, do please leave a comment at the end of this post with translations and pronunciations.

With no gigantic promotion getting in the way, you’re free to admire the artwork on the two big roundels that dominate. There’s what looks like barley and hops. Nothing unusual there. But can someone explain what the two rams in the shield are all about?

Lech Pils roundel

In one small strip, there’s a barcode and some other details. Between the barcode and anti-drink-drive message are what look like this beer’s vital statistics. Let’s look closer.

Lech Pils barcode side of can

Yes, I think they are. The alcoholic volume appears to be a strong-ish 5.5%. That’s 0.3% more than that of Lech Premium. It must be said, Polish people like their beer strong. And, usually, foul tasting.

What else can I make out from the writing. Well, it contains 11.7% of something called “wag”. It’s by the unimaginatively named “Kompania Powowarska”, which probably translates into “Beer Company”. The name Poznan is in there too, so that’s probably where it’s from.

Over on the side of the can with no barcode are some more details. Let’s try and understand what this side is all about…

Lech Pils other side of can

This is just a guess, but I think this is the ‘story’ side of the can. Where they describe the history of Lech Pils. I wander what it says? My bet is on “We noticed that strong, tasteless lager is popular, so here’s another one”.

Elsewhere are some other bits and bobs that are harder for me to misinterpret. One of them is an information line telephone number. Another is that this is the ubiquitous 500 millilitre size of can. And the last is that this is going for 2.89zt. Is that a lot of Polish Zloty? Or is it pretty good value?

That’s the unnecessary description out of the way. Now it’s time to try and enjoy another Polish lager. How will it taste? Will it be as good as Lech Premium or as bad as the rest? I can’t put off the inevitable forever, so here goes…

It froths up nicely. But not uncontrollably. It fitted my pint-glass nicely with only one moment where I thought “it’s going to overflow”. A couple of minutes later, and it’s now settled do to a thick, creamy layer of head.

The colour isn’t quite as impressive. It’s not pale yellow like some. But it’s certainly not a rich, deep shade of amber. It’s somewhere in-between.

It smells quite alright. You can easily detect the malted barley. Normally you end up snorting the head up through your nostrils in an attempt to smell anything. Not this time. And it’s not too strong smelling either.

All well and good, but how does it taste? A few gulp in, and first impressions were good. Until a few moments later when the “bite” left me with an unpleasant aftertaste.

The flavour the same weak blend of malted barley that you get with all lagers that come in a light-coloured liquid. That is swiftly replaced by that lagery “bite” that tastes like malted barley and possibly some other blend of typical beer ingredients. Without a list of ingredients that I can understand, figuring out the taste is like walking around the house at night with the lights switched off. The aftertaste it leaves you with is much the same as that from other lagers. It’s strong and hangs around at the back of your mouth for a while. But not as long, or as strongly as the strong “mocne” lagers.

Is there anything to like about Lech Pils? Yes there is. The taste isn’t terrible. You can taste the ingredients, whatever they happen to be, much more so than most others. That makes it rich tasting. The bitter after taste isn’t excessively rough. And whatever your opinion on the rest of it, it’s well made enough to still be fairly easy to drink.

What is there to loath about Lech Pils? If you don’t love your lager, plenty. You won’t necessarily like it even if you do love pilsner lagers either. Sure it has a taste, but I’m not enjoying. The aftertaste it leaves you with is bad. Not terrible, just not particularly enjoyable. Why would you drink something that isn’t delicious when there’s so much choice on the shop shelves? Another complaint is how gassy it is. I could inflate a medium sized balloon with the gasses I was burping.

In summation, Lech Pils is a strong tasting, potent yet ultimately less-than-drinkable. It’s not as good as Lech Premium. If you have the choice, opt for its green-coloured sister brew. If you like strong tasting, well made lagers, you’ll like Lech Pils. This is one for the curious and the lager aficionado.

Rating: 1.8

Have you tried Lech Pils? What did you think of it? Can you offer any translations or pronunciations?

Leave your comments, opinions, requests and recommendations here please.

Beer Review: Żywiec Tatra Mocne

11 September, 2008

NEXT up from this batch of Polish beers is a can of Tatra Mocne from none other than Grupa Żywiec. The same chaps as those behind the Żywiec Polish Prized Original Beer that you can find in every off-license and supermarket in London. That beer was a perfectly adequate lager. But this is a strong “Mocne”. That pits it against the barely fit for human consumption Okocim Mocne, Dębowe Mocne and Warka Strong. To beat them, all this needs to be is better than ghastly. Here then, is a Żywiec Tatra Mocne.

Just like yesterday’s Okocim Harnas, the whole thing is covered in some sort of promotion. And again, I have little idea what’s written on it. It looks like a competition to win tickets, digital cameras and, oddly, chairs. As usual, all translations, pronunciations and opinions from Polish people are very welcome.

In the big roundel, things look a little familiar. That fellow with the hat and pipe looks a tiny bit similar to the lumberjack chap from Okocim Harnas. Am I imagining it?

Żywiec Tatra Mocne logo

There are a couple medals too. One of them has the year 1856. I don’t know what the awards are. But I’m pleased that it has them. The bottom of the can is all obscured by pictures of mountains and the promotional details. But around the top border, I’m going to take a wild guess at what it says. Does it say something about it being “strong with character”? Translators, you know what to do.

This can actually has different things printed on four ‘sides’. Unlike most others that repeat the same thing over and over again. On the ‘back’, this one has what looks like the full terms and conditions for the promotion.

Żywiec Tatra Mocne back of can

Next is the barcode ‘side’ of the can.

Żywiec Tatra Mocne barcode side of can

As well as the barcode, it has a sensibly large anti-drink-drive message. It also has all the details about the brewer. Which, it tells us, is Grupa Żywiec from Żywiec. There’s a telephone number and email address for those who need such details. They have a website address too which is www.tatra.pl. There didn’t seem to be an English language section when I checked it. What I could work out is that there’s also a regular Tatra and you can get them in bottled form too.

On the other ‘side’ of the can are the vital statistics. At least that’s what I think they are. It’s hard to be sure when you can’t understand the language.

Żywiec Tatra Mocne other side of can

First among the details is that this is the ever-popular 500ml size. Next is the only other detail I can understand; the alcoholic volume. Which appears to be 7%. Without a doubt, this is a “mocne”.

Normally, my expectations from a Polish “mocne” beer are low. Very low. But this one talks about awards and character. Will it be better than the rest? How will it taste? Should you try one? It’s time to find out.

There’s no problem with an insane head this time. Everything is under control with a layer small of froth which quickly dissipates. What you’re left with is a dark amber drink with a patch of bubbles floating on the surface.

How does it smell? Horribly artificial. This is one of the most synthetic and unpleasant smelling I’ve ever smelt. I think they were aiming to make it smell of a blend of malted barley and other beer ingredients. What they created instead was a smell of industrial cleaning fluid.

How does it taste? Almost as bad as the smell. Three gulps in, and my tongue is being assaulted by the strongest and least palatable flavours and tastes since the gone-off milk I accidentally had a few weeks ago. What hits you is a building taste of chemicals. This taste culminate in a bitter, lingering aftertaste. It lingers, seemingly forever. The whole experience is like drinking something as natural as Red Bull.

Is there anything to like about Żywiec Tatra Mocne? Well, it has bags of taste, I can give it that. It’s not too gassy. And it’s an effective means of rapidly becoming sloshed. It’s so strong that you soon forget how bad it tastes.

What are you liable to hate about Żywiec Tatra Mocne? Much of it. It has about the worst taste I’ve ever witnessed. It tastes rancid and artificial. I’ve had Tesco Value ready meals that taste more natural.

To sum up, Żywiec Tatra Mocne is strong yet synthetic and horrifyingly bad. Try it if you must, but you can easily choose something better. If you need a strong lager, then Skol Super or Carlsberg Special Brew taste marginally better, are cheaper and easier to find, and are two-percent stronger. If you want taste and drinkability, then almost every other can or bottle on the shop shelf will be better. There is no reason for you to suffer this monstrosity.

Rating: 0.7

Have you tried Żywiec Tatra Mocne? What did you think of it? Can you translate anything?

Do please leave your translations, corrections, opinions, requests and recommendations here. And check my next post for another Polish beer.

Beer Review: Okocim Harnas

10 September, 2008

I’VE had mixed results with Polish beer. Some have been between alright and drinkable. Whilst the “Mocne” strong Polish lagers have been between terrible and revolting. The shops around here are full of them, and Polish beers are some of the most popular on the blog. So, I’ve ended up with a couple more cans of mysterious Polish beer. Mysterious, because I can’t understand anything on them. Yet here is the first of this batch of Polish beers: Harnas from Browar Okocim.

At least I recognise the name Okocim. That was the name behind the adequate Okocim and the less-than-adequate Okocim Mocne. Let’s see what they’ve cooked up in the forms of Harnas.

As always, do please leave your translations at the end of the post. Help with how to pronounce the names is always interesting too. Especially how the people who left comments after my review of Żywiec all suggested different pronunciations. Never having let a lack of talent stop me, here goes with my inevitably flawed interpretation of what’s printed on the can.

The big graphic logo features someone I think looks like a Native American Indian. But why would there be one on a can of Polish beer? Answers as to who the gentleman wielding the axe and wearing the big hat is, in the comments at the end of the post please.

I can’t fault the look of the thing. It all looks very trendy and up to date. I’m also guessing that this can is featuring a promotion or competition. Perhaps won by some writing under the wring pull. As usual, I have no idea. It does look exciting though.

On one ‘side’ of the can is some interesting looking writing. But what does it say? It could be the vital statistics.

Okocim Harnas info side of can

The 500 ml is unmistakable. This does look like the regular big size of can, after all. There’s also that sensible anti-drink-drive symbol I remember seeing on other Polish beers.

Above all of those is a block of Polish language writing. This is going to be tricky. Fortunately, the first thing written isn’t. It looks like the alcoholic volume, which is a rather high 5.7%. That must be about as high as it can go without becoming a “Mocne”.

Much of the rest of that block of text I can’t understand. Except for the last couple of parts. The “producent” appears to be the somewhat famous Carlsberg Polska. That’s one of those names that keeps turning up. At least it makes a change from InBev. Under that is what must be the place it comes from. Which appears to be Warszawa. Somewhere we know better as Warsaw.

That wasn’t the only ‘side’ of writing. There’s another. And this one looks much more boring.

Okocim Harnas barcode side of can

This side seems to have the terms and conditions of the promotion. Whatever that promotion happens to be. It does give a web address though. And that address is www.piwoharnas.pl. Going there doesn’t answer many questions. I couldn’t find an English language section, and it plays annoying background sound-effects. I’m none the wiser about the chap printed on the front either. He’s everywhere on the website, and television advertisements apparently. Is he supposed to be a traditional Polish lumberjack?

Elsewhere on this ‘side’ of the can are a few other tiny details. One of which is the information line if you want to give them a call. That’s all I can say about the outside of the can. Time to open the can and answer some questions. Questions like have I won any prizes? What sort of beer is it? What does it taste like? I’ve literally no idea. Let’s draw some uninformed opinions.

If you pour it, watch out for that head. It fizzes up a treat, but the downside is, it takes half-a-dozen pours to make it fit into a pint glass. It does settle down to a reasonable layer of froth after a few minutes though. The impressiveness of the head isn’t quite matched by the liquid. It’s plain old amber, although not as anaemic as some.

It smells…. okay. You get a decent whiff of a lagery blend of things. I can make out some malted barley and perhaps some other things. But without an ingredients list (that I can understand), I’m at a loss to make much more sense of it. Either way, it’s not too strong, bad, or weak smelling. It smells generic and beer-y.

But how does it taste? A couple of gulps in, and it’s not bad. But not great either. I’m getting lagery tastes, but not terrible ones. The flavour is a fairly pleasant blend of malted barley. Then the “bite” rolls in. A few more gulps in, and that aftertaste is fast becoming nauseating. It’s not a particularly strong bitterness. Rather it’s the way it just lingers and lingers at the back of your mouth. About two-thirds of the way through, and any hint of flavour is a distant memory. Everything is now dominated by that lingering, bitter aftertaste. A “bite” that won’t let go.

If you buy this beer, what will you like about it? Well, if you like strong lager, you might like the “bite”. You might like how strong it is. You might like the hints of flavour. And you might like the lingering bitter aftertaste. To it’s credit, it isn’t at all gassy.

On the other hand, there are things you probably won’t like about it. The flavour and taste for example. Similar results can be achieved by placing a sweaty sock in your mouth. Also, if you happen to be a fan of strong, foul tasting lagers, you’ll be disappointed by how hard it is to find in the shops of United Kingdom.

To sum up, Okocim Harnas is a strong, foul tasting lager. Its redeeming feature is its strength, which eventually numbs you to the taste. It’s downsides are the way it tastes. Which is kind of important for a drink. Buy it if you want to wake up with a ghastly taste in your mouth.

Rating: 1.35

Have you tried Okocim Harnas? What did you think of it? What reputation does it have in Poland? And can you translate anything on the can or bottle?

Do please leave your corrections, translations, opinions, thoughts, recommendations and requests here. And check my next post for another can of Polish beer.

Beer Review: Bass Premium Ale

20 June, 2008

THIS is one I’ve been intrigued by for some time. From Bass, makers from childhood favourite Shandy Bass, is a pack of four cans from Tesco. They cost a meagre £3.31 pence, yet aim high with the name Bass Premium Ale.

Bass Premium Ale 4-pack

The cans are unmistakeably Bass. The square distinctive red triangle logo makes sure of that. And, being almost completely black, it looks different.

Bass Premium Ale can

Down at the bottom of the can, there’s a signature. Presumably from the original William Bass. The words “guaranteed quality”. And the “since” year of 1777. That makes this a very long established name indeed.

Most of the front faces of the can are taken by a huge roundel.

Bass Premium Ale logo

The unmistakable red “Bass” triangle takes pride of place in the centre. After that, your eye is drawn to the “Premium Ale” under it. And that surprises me. I never associated Bass with premium anything. Let alone ale.

Around the top of the roundel, we get a dose of the heritage. The words “William Bass & Co Brewed Since 1777” are a reassuring sight. Not seeing a business that ends with ‘ltd’ or ‘plc’ is always a welcome.

All the small-print is neatly and readably in one column down one ‘side’ of the can.

Bass Premium Ale barcode side of can

Unusually for a can, they even find room for a little description. Bass Premium Ale, it turns out, has been “specially conditioned” and “canned to deliver the distinctive taste of draught bass”. Not knowing what makes the conditioning special, all we can do it hope that it’s not empty marketing.

Next, we even receive some advice. They recommend that you pour this quickly for a good head. Is it me, or is that the opposite to what you’re normally taught? I’ve always thought “pour slowly to avoid a mountain of froth”. What have you always done when it comes to pouring?

Unusually, they’re not fussed at what temperature you care to serve it. Has anyone ever seen “Serve chilled or at room temperature” on any other drink? I admire their laid-back approach.

Then they raise expectations for this value priced ale immeasurably. “Expect Perfection”. For £3.31 pence, I don’t. But I admire the self-confidence of this ale. If it manages to be anywhere near that, it’s going to be extremely good value.

Deeper into the small-print, and there’s some bad news about the origins of this brew. It’s not from William Bass & Co. At least not anymore. That’s because this is from the international brewing giant, InBev UK. And from their Luton address too. There’s even a Luton postal address and consumer helpline. I can’t say it’s a surprise though.

Also in the small print is the news that it contains malted barley. And the Drink Aware message and website.

Fortunately, the most prominent bits of this side of the can, are also the most important. This 500 millilitre can has an alcoholic volume of 4.4%. Both of which translate into 2.2 UK units of alcohol. Definitely nothing special. But not bad for the price.

With that out of the way, it’s time to answer the big questions. How does it taste? Is it any good? Is it the best value if you’re stuck for cash? And is it perfection?

Bass Premium Ale poured into a glass

When it came to pouring, I forgot the advice to pour quickly until half-way through. I sped up, and did get a head. But sadly not enough. Within a few moments, I was left with a small patch of bubbles on the surface. Not good.

The colour was a surprise. A sort of amber brown shade. And one that reminds me of Shandy Bass. Any coincidence?

A good premium ale must have an interesting smell. Bass Premium Ale doesn’t. It barely has a smell at all. There is a weak smell of malted barley. But the weak character reminds me more of cheap lagers. Another bad sign.

A trend that continues when I take my first few gulps. The taste and flavour are purely bitter. Nothing else is noticeable. And the character of that bitterness ‘sharp’, unpleasant and lingering. It reminds me a little of Tesco Best Bitter, but mostly of cheap lagers. Definitely not of ale.

It can’t all be bad. What do I like about Bass Premium Ale? Well, it’s stronger than others on the market for the same price. It’s very light. And you could call it refreshing if you served it so cool that it dulls the taste. It’s also not gassy.

But this is faint praise. It’s light because it’s watery. Besides the awful, cheap, indistinctive taste, there’s nothing. Like so many cheap beers, it’s like drinking cold tea.

I wanted to like this one. I wanted to say that it’s cheap, yet good value. But it isn’t. The taste and flavour is unpalatable. And the quality is cheapness throughout. If this really is an ale, then it’s the cheap, horrible lager of the ale world. What were they thinking with the slogan “expect perfection”? Who is going to drink the remaining three cans from the pack?

Rating: 1.4

Have you tried Bass Premium Ale? What did you think of it?
Share your opinions, thoughts, ideas and suggestions with the world here please.

Beer Review: Holsten Pils

16 June, 2008

THESE days, there needs to be something special about a lager for me to spend any time on it. It would need to come from an unusual place. Or be brewed in an unusual way. Or, be a pilsner lager. That’s why I’ve chosen a can of the big-name Holsten Pils as today’s beer.

Holsten Pils front of can

I like the look of the can. It looks German. Which is handy, because that’s where it’s from. And the combination of green and yellow makes sure that you won’t confuse it with much else on the shop shelves.

Around the roundel logo is the name of, what I think is the brewery. Holsten-Brauerei AG is the name. And on the bottom of the roundel is the name of the place where it comes from. Hamburg in Germany in this case.

The logo features a silhouette of a knight on a horse, wielding a sward. And very large shield, bearing a large “H”. Whether the “H” refers to Hamburg or to Holsten is anyone’s guess. There’s a date on there too. 1879 means that it isn’t one of Europe’s oldest breweries, but old enough to have proved itself. Hopefully enough to justify the writing at the bottom of the can, which reads “Pure Brewing Excellence”.

The small-print is spread between two slim columns on different ‘sides’ of the can.

Holsten Pils join side of can

This one straddles what looks like the join between the start and end of the can printing. The bigger of the two blocks of text is one of the better descriptions I’ve seen on any can. They tell us about this lagers “unique and distinctive taste” from using more natural sugars in an “enhanced fermentation process”. How much to read into that, I’m not sure. But it apparently leads to “lower” “carbohydrates” than other lagers. Useful to know if you’re keeping an eye on your calories. I’ve got a feeling this means more to my female readers. So, girls, is that something you look for in a beer?

The other, little line of text simply confirms what we already knew. That this came from the Holsten brewery in Hamburg, Germany.

Over on the other side of the can, and all the usual small-print details are present.

Holsten Pils barcode side of can

This is the common 500 millilitre size of can. The alcoholic volume is the common 5%. It is best served chilled, as is common practice. It has the frequently seen 2.5 UK units of alcohol. And it contains the usual water, malted barley, yeast and hops. Absolutely nothing out of the ordinary.

With that out of the way, it’s time to crack open this can and answer some questions. Questions like is my taste for continental Pilsner lager really justified? And will some otherwise good flavour be ruined by the aluminium taste of the can?

Holsten Pils poured into a glass

The head can best be described as healthy. Nearly overflowing my pint glass, it died down over the next couple of minutes. But it did remain as a thick layer, so be ready for a froth moustache.

The colour is a light yellow colour. And there are fewer bubbles in there than with some lagers out there.

The smell isn’t bad at all. It has a much richer blend of ingredients in the smell. Hugely better than the generic and cheap smell from most lagers. I like it.

The taste is much the same as the smell. The taste has that ‘sharpness’ that reminds you that this is a lager. And that brings with it an overall bitterness that lingers on the back of your tongue.

But this being Holsten Pils, it’s more balanced and better blended than ordinary lagers. It isn’t dominated by the horrible bitterness that consumes its cheaper competitors. Instead, it’s balanced by the malted barley. Which, you can taste a hint of in this blend. For a lager, that’s excellent news.

Other things I liked where how crisp and refreshing it was. It wasn’t very gassy. And overall, it’s very drinkable. The pilsner reputation remains intact then?

Or does it? It may be better than most lagers on the market, but it’s still a lager. And that means it never will have the taste and flavour I want. Being less bad, doesn’t make something good.

The lagery taste and bitterness will still put people off. The taste and flavour will leave people me bored after a while because there simply isn’t enough of it. And what little there is, isn’t particularly interesting.

To sum up, Holsten Pils is above average in the way that peas can be above average. They might be peas with a good reputation and live up to that reputation. But they’re still peas. Holsten Pils is the same. It’s one of the better Pilsner style lagers I’ve tried. I don’t hate it in the way I hate most lagers, and there’s a lot to enjoy here. But it’s still a lager, so if you want complex, unusual flavours, you’re in the wrong place. This is one that most people will happily drink, in quantity, but not love.

Rating: 3.1

Holsten Pils is sold everywhere for next to nothing, so you’ve probably tried it. In which case, what did you think of it?

Do please leave your opinions, corrections, thoughts, ideas and suggestions here.

UPDATE: Holsten Pils in a bottle

Sold in a can almost everywhere, this bottle was hard to find. But, after quite liking the can, this long-necked bottle seemed worth a try. It has no back label and no more information on the wrap-around neck label. But any chance to avoid the aluminium taste of a can is welcomed.

Holsten Pils bottleHolsten Pils front labelHolsten Pils front neck labelHolsten Pils join on back of neck label

UPDATE May 2010:
Out of the blue, Holsten Pils has become one of my favourite curry beers. On its own there’s little reason to love it, but add it to your spicy curry and it is outstanding. That light drinkability and taste just works when it comes to explosive food. The £1 price and availability in nearly every off-license in town helps a lot too. This dependable lager is growing on me.

Beer Review: Tesco Best Bitter

14 June, 2008

REGULAR readers might remember my brush with Tesco Value Lager. It was weak as water and cheap. Since then, I’ve stayed well away from beer that has a shop brand name anywhere near it. But one anonymous comment on that post from “Some Dude” has stuck in my mind. According to my anonymous commenter, the almost as cheap, almost as weak shop brand “bitter” is a much better drink. So in the name of consumer journalism, it’s time I answered perhaps the most important question in the world today: is Tesco Best Bitter the best, cheap shop brand beer?

Tesco Best Bitter 4-pack of cans

This one came as a pack of four cans. And it cost a whopping £1.63 pence. And remember, thanks to the increase in duty and inflation since I last looked at Tesco Value Lager, this is pretty darn close to that in terms of price.

The front of can is like a parody.

Tesco Best Bitter front of can

If you showed a nine year old child the logos of a few different beers. Something that today is probably quite common. And then asked that child to come up with a design all of their own, it would look something like this.

The black, red and gold colour scheme isn’t bad. In a beer mat kind of way. The red borders have text reading “Original British Beer” and “Serve Chilled”. And that’s good to read. Firstly because Value Lager didn’t even mention a country of origin. And secondly because the entire thing will confuse our American friends who mistakenly believe that all British beer is served warm.

Inside the border, there’s a meaningless shape which is supposed to look like a logo. And there’s the banner and name “Best Bitter”. Best compared to… Value Lager? Water? Air?

Under that is the alcoholic volume. And it is higher than expected. At 3%, it stands a chance of being potent enough to be nearly average.

The back of the can gives us the full-force of Tesco’s nutritional information. Allergy advice. Nutritional information. And everything else you can think of is on the enormous white panel.

Tesco Best Bitter back of can

Of this swathe of information, only a few bits are of interest. The ingredients for example, includes words that I’ve never seen before. In addition to the water, malted barley, yeast and hops, it also contains torrified wheat, carbon dioxide and ammonia caramel colour. Blimey.

Then there’s all the usual small-print. The advice to serve chilled. The Tesco’s postal address in Cheshunt. And the Drink Aware web address.

Fortunately, they haven’t forgotten the vital statistics. The cans in this pack are all 440 millilitres. Not the huge size of can, but not the short soft-drink size either. The UK units of alcohol are provided too. Which at 3% volume for this size of can, is a massive 1.3 units. You can safely have three of these cans before the Government will start telling you off.

With nothing else to read on the can, there’s no more delaying. I’m going to have to open this can and see what lurks within. Who knows? It could be a pleasant surprise.

Tesco Best Bitter poured into a glass

I’m impressed by how thick and consistent the frothy head is. And by how dark brown the colour is. It at least looks the part of a bitter. Most frustratingly though, is that it’s well over half a pint. But also well under a full-pint.

It smells right too. You don’t have to sniff hard to detect a rich, malty aroma. So it looks right and it smells right. But how does it taste?

The answer is, not as bad as I was expecting. A few gulps in and the taste is bitter. Mission accomplished then, as far as its modest claims are concerned. For a bitter, it’s very light. It doesn’t linger in a particularly bad way. And, unusually for a bitter, it’s refreshing. All of which makes it easy to drink. Even for people like me who don’t enjoy bitters.

But costing as little as it does, there is no way that Tesco Best Bitter is going to be problem free. And, indeed, it isn’t. The lightness, refreshing-ness and drinkability mostly come from the fact that you’re drinking mostly water. This means it lacks real taste and flavour. It’s also weak and uninteresting.

But at only £1.63 pence, perhaps I’m judging it harshly. Compared to almost anything on the shop shelves that doesn’t have a shop brand on it, Tesco Best Bitter struggles to compete. It doesn’t have the strength, taste, flavour or quality for you to choose it over a branded beer.

But, compared to Tesco Value Lager, it is much better. Vastly so. At around 50 to 70 pence more, it is by far the better choice. Unless you badly need to hold on to those few pence, you won’t regret choosing this over the cheaper shop brand ‘beer’. It is more than worth those few pence. At just 40 pence per can, this is not only the best shop brand beer I’ve tried. It is also one of the best compromises of quality to price out there.

All of this leaves me with dilemma as to how to rate it. There are plenty of rational reasons why it is good value. And while it’s better than anything else even near this price, it’s still weak, lacking taste and generally poor. Just like the beer itself, my rating is a compromise.

Rating: 2.2

Have you tried Tesco Best Bitter? Or any other shop brand cheap bitter?
The leave your opinions, thoughts, ideas, recommendations, requests and suggestions here please.

Beer Review: Miller Beer

13 June, 2008

GEARS of the brewing industry grinded yesterday, when Belgian brewing giant InBev (home to countless European beer brands) offered to buy American brewing giant Anheuser-Busch (home to Budweiser) for $46.3 billion US Dollars. This, Forbes postulated, was bad news for that other international brewing giant, SABMiller, because no one wanted to buy it. This raised an important question for me. Namely, how good are their respective beers?

InBev have so far provided the highs of Hoegaarden, intriguing Gold Label Barley Wine and lows of that alcoholics choice, Tennent’s Super Strong Lager. And that’s just a microscopic portion of the brands they own. The only brew from the SABMiller stables that I’ve tried so far was the very average Castle Lager from Africa. I’ve not even tried anything bearing the Anheuser-Busch name in the small-print. So the time was right to fill in some gaps.

Whilst visiting my local purveyor of alcohol, I was disappointed to note that Budweiser is a lager. And therefore no better than average from the word go. Furthermore, the Czech Budweiser, Budwar is also a lager. If there is any demand out there for me to give them a try, I will, but most lagers are a waste of time.

I needed to find a beer. And, in the nick of time, one turned up. Here is a can of Miller Beer. An American beer, and part of the SABMiller family.

Miller Beer cab

First impressions are that is looks cool. The silver background is fetching, and makes everything printed on it readable. The “Miller” logo goes for the über-American look. There’s a large bald-headed eagle clutching a bunch of barley and hops. There are stars around the circular border. And the typeface looks as though it belongs on the jerseys of a baseball team. It does have a date on it though. 1855 isn’t at all bad in terms of heritage.

Under the big logo, the origins are proudly displayed for all to see. “Miller Brewing Company Milwaukee U.S.A.” Maybe my American readers can leave a comment saying if being from Milwaukee is something to be proud of. Or not.

At the bottom of the ‘front’ of the can is a big blue band. And in it, we can clearly see that this beer has an alcoholic volume of 4.2%. Not very strong. Barely moderately strong. But above weak. And there’s the ubiquitous advice to “serve chilled”. Don’t worry, I’ll be very relaxed when serving.

The small print is all tucked into a single column. And it begins with some bad news. This can wasn’t imported from Milwaukee. Instead, it was brewed “under license” by Scottish & Newcastle in Edinburgh. There’s a UK customer careline. A S&N email address at miller@scottish-newcastle.co.uk. And their Edinburgh postal address. It’s not the S&N are bad. It’s that I’d love to have more American beers over here that aren’t simply pretending to be so.

Miller Beer side of can

The can size is the homogenous 500 millilitres. Which, at 4.2% volume has 2.1 of your UK units of alcohol. Besides a summary of recommended maximums and the news that this contains barley and wheat is something unexpected. If not often that you find a full breakdown of nutritional information. But this has it. Energy, protein, carbohydrate and fat content are all listed. So if you’re on a calorie controlled diet, or looking for a product to write about for your biology class, this one is for you.

With nothing else to write about, it’s time to answer that all-important questions. Is Miller Beer any good?

Miller Beer poured into a glass

Be careful with the pouring. It has a tendency to froth up. My pint glass was able to cope, but you wouldn’t want a can that had dropped several times. After a couple of minutes the head died down to a thin and patchy layer, so it was time to get a closer look.

The colour is a decent shade of amber. Not to cheap looking and not artificially bright. There’s not much of a smell though. An indistinctive smell of beer ingredients is there. You just need to sniff extra hard.

A few gulps down, and first impressions are okay. The taste is very mildly bitter and sour, with hint of barley, wheat and hops. But not much.

About half-way through now, and there are a few things I like about Miller Beer. It’s very light. It’s very easy to drink as there’s little for the taste-buds to dislike. And it’s refreshing.

But all of those things can’t cover up some gaping holes. For starters, where is the flavour? It is almost tasteless. I’ve had bottled water with more flavour. Then, the taste and flavour it has, is cheap and nasty. Good beers and ales make you feel as though you’re drinking a carefully chosen blend of natural ingredients. This doesn’t. It could easily have something to do with coming out of a can instead of a bottle or keg at the pub. But it’s hard to escape the economy quality and artificial taste it leaves in your mouth.

To sum up, Miller Beer is tragically disappointing. I really wanted to like this one. Or to at least find it to be a quality if indistinctive beer. But it roundly fails to reach even average status. This is bland and low-quality. I’d rather have a lager.

Rating: 1.7

Have you tried Miller Beer?
What reputation does it have in the States? What did you think of it?
Leave your opinions, corrections, thoughts, suggestions and recommendations here please.

Beer Review: Lőwenbräu Original

25 May, 2008

AFTER my recent look at East-European beers with unpronounceable names and no English writing on it, I felt like a change. So here’s a German beer, with an unpronounceable name and no English writing on it. It’s a can of Lőwenbräu Original. It cost £1.19 and it’s available from a surprising number of off-licences in London.

Lőwenbräu Original can

Painted in light-blue, it’s hard to confuse Lőwenbräu with any other beer on the market. The top features a shield with a typically Germanic looking dragon. Or is it a lion? Whatever it is, it looks German.

Either side of the logo is some writing. It’s hard to read, not only because I can’t understand it, but because of the typeface. I think it says “Ein Bier wie Bayern”. Not knowing any German language, it’s hard to translate. But that never stopped me with the Polish beers. So, I think this says that this beer has “Bayern”. Whatever that is.

Under the Lőwenbräu Original name is some more text that I can’t read. Nor make any sense of. There’s something in there about tradition, but apart from that, I need your help. If you can translate what’s written on this can, do please leave a message at the end of this post.

Under that is the usual small print. That this is a 500 millilitre can. And that it has a slightly above average 5.3% volume.

Rotating the can slightly, and there’s a column of symbols. Some familiar, some not.

Lőwenbräu Original other side of can

There’s also some description of what refund you could get from this can. If you live in Québec. All of 20 cents. Still a good idea, though. We should give refunds for recycling a try, here in the UK. That would clean the streets of bottles and cans in a hurry.

Rotating the can a little further, and we arrive at the biggest and least comprehensible blocks of text I’ve ever soon on a beer can.

Lőwenbräu Original barcode side of can

It’s not the sort of things that you’d try and read just for fun. Sadly, these ‘reviews’ of mine are only 99% fun and opinion. The 1% of actual fact and research of this so-called review is going into trying to make sense of this big block of writing.

First off, we learn that this was brewed by Lőwenbräu AG from Munich, Germany. That is contains water, malted barley and hops extract. Furthermore, this 50 cl can translates into 16.9 US fluid ounces or 17.6 Imperial fluid ounces. I didn’t even know that two different fluid ounce systems existed, but indeed they do.

And that’s all the information there is on that giant block of text. There’s a lesson to be learned here brewers. Tiny text, lots of languages and a big foreboding block aren’t something to aim for.

With no more information to read. And no information that I can understand, there are more questions than usual to answer about what this will be like. The only things I know for certain are that it’s beer. Of some sort. And that it’s from Germany. How bad can it be? Germany is well known for beers isn’t it? So it’s with some optimism, that I crack open the can to see what’s inside.

Be careful with the pouring if you decide to go down that route. The head froths up easily. But luckily, settles back down to a decent, consistent layer of froth in a few moments.

Lőwenbräu Original poured into a glass

The colour is a pale yellow. And it’s very bubbly. I’m starting to fear that this might be a lager. I hope it isn’t.

The smell is not something to write home about. It smells faintly of malted barley. There’s nothing premium, complex or sophisticated about that.

A few gulps in, and my fears are realised. Or are they? With few hints on the can, I could well be wrong. But I’m detecting something lagery about the taste. If you know for certain if this is a beer or a lager, then do please leave a comment at the end of this post.

The taste and flavour is dominated by an ever-so familiar blend of malted barley and hops. The sort that’s so sharp and sour, that it lingers at the back of your tongue. Apart from the taste, that I cant only describe as lagery, there truly aren’t any others that I can find. Even if this doesn’t turn out to be a lager.

To Lőwenbräu’s credit, served cold, it is clean, crisp and refreshing. It’s also not as gassy as I thought it would be. And even though I don’t much like the taste, I can appreciate the quality of the ingredients and the blend. All these things make it easy to drink.

On the other hand, Lőwenbräu Original’s taste is not great. Not bad. Especially when compared to the terrible Polish lagers I’ve tried recently. But it’s not good either. If you like lagers, you might like Lőwenbräu Original. Even if Lőwenbräu isn’t a lager. That mystery remains unsolved.

Lőwenbräu Original also has a watery consistency. And not much originality and character. In a blind taste test, I would have a hard time identifying it.

How can I sum up Lőwenbräu Original? Without being able to read the writing on the can, with some difficulty. Whether Lőwenbräu Original is a lager or not, it is still cheap and foul tasting. Some of you may like that. Others, I hope, will agree with me. And this means that it’s hard to find many good reasons to buy Lőwenbräu Original. Imported to the UK, it becomes more expensive than similar drinks. And it’s certainly not much better tasting.

Rating: 2

Have you tried Lőwenbräu Original? Or any other Lőwenbräu beer?
Can you translate or explain anything about this beer?
Translations, corrections, opinions, thoughts, comments, ideas and suggestions in the usual place please.

Beer Review: Warka Strong

22 May, 2008

REMEMBER yesterday’s look at the surprisingly just-above-average Warka? This time, I’m testing its stronger stable mate. The appropriately named Warka Strong.

Warka Strong can

This can looks completely different. The gold, black and red colour scheme looks just like Strongbow Cider. But whatever lurks inside this can, isn’t going to be cider.

The front of the can has words such as “Unikalny Smak” and “Najwyższa Jakość”. To the translators out there, any help with this can, would be great. On that subject, thank you to everyone who has been commenting and translating the last few Polish beers I’ve had a look at. It’s good to hear from people who actually know what they’re talking about.

Back to the can, the top has a picture of someone. Presumably named “Kazimierez Pułaski”. Not the creator of this beer, nor the head brewer. According to Wikipedia, Kazimierez Pułaski was a member of Poland’s nobility, and a military commander in the 18th century. Not an obvious choice for the front of a beer can. And not the first. Broughton put an Old Jock on their strong Scottish ale.

Also on the front, is the proudly displayed “Warka” name. And the 1478 date. As that predates even Kazimierez Pułaski by a few hundred years, its doubtful Poland’s medieval population enjoyed Strong. What is undeniable on the front of the can is the alcoholic volume. 7% puts it in “Mocneterritory. Hopefully, Strong won’t be as appalling as other strong Polish beers.

Just like Warka, there’s a side dedicated to a big, sideways logo. Useful if you like to store your cans on their sides. Presumably.

Warka Strong other side of can

Whilst the barcode and ingredients are thrown together on their own ‘side’ of the can.

Warka Strong barcode side of can

I say thrown, because some text is orientated one way. While other bits of text are at 90-degrees. Would it be so hard to put them all the same way around?

Don’t bother trying to read it from the photo. My six year-old camera phone is as useless at seeing the mess in front of it, as a Burmese dictatorship.

Starting with the ingredients list… I can’t understand any of it. But the Grupa Żywiec name is still there. Reminding us that this beer comes from good stock. There’s also a consumer telephone line and an email address. So that you can tell them what you think of Strong. If you do do that, just remember to leave a comment at the end of this post, as I’d be interested to know what you think of this too.

Also on there are some other bits and pieces. There’s the usual “500 ml”. And a web address, which is www.strong.com.pl. A nice, but completely Polish language website.

Now it’s time to see. Is Strong any good? And is it better than what I’m expecting? Which isn’t very much at all.

In a glass, Strong is a darker shade of yellow than I was expecting. It also has practically no head. Just a few bubbles here and there. Nothing like Warka.

Warka Strong poured into a glass

The smell is different too. But equally indistinctive. Just a bland blend of malted barley and some other unidentifiable things. And it smells as natural as energy drink.

After a few gulps, the taste is… nearly as bad as I feared. It’s dominated by an awful, synthetic bitter taste. Similar to the “Mocne” beers of a few days ago. But it’s not quite as undrinkable as they were. Strong tones it down almost enough to be bearable.

Even though I’d rather taste the flavours of the river Thames, you can’t accuse Strong of lacking flavour. The Strong name is true in every sense with this beer. And if you serve it cold enough, and I mean ice-cold, the horrendous taste is hidden enough for you to call this beer clean, crisp and refreshing.

The downsides, start with the taste and flavour. You can’t escape the fact that Strong tastes like a blend of chemicals. And what’s more, that taste lingers at the back of your tongue. On top of that, it’s gassy.

Strong is not an easily drinkable, sophisticated beer. It’s the disappointing black sheep of the Warka and Żywiec family. But, it is marginally better than those other Polish strong beers. If you live in the Britain, there are better, stronger and cheaper lagers with which to get sozzled. If you live in Poland, try Strong before deciding which strong beer is your favourite.

Rating: 1.9

UPDATE: Better than the other Polish strong/mocne beers? What was I thinking? A few hours after posting, and sanity has (partly) returned. This chemistry set inspired flavour is much worse than either “Mocne”. Hence…
New Rating: 0.5

Have you tried Warka Strong? Can you help translate or explain anything?
What did you think of Strong? Is there anyone out there who actually likes this stuff?
Corrections, comments, thoughts, opinions, ideas, suggestions and information in the usual place please.

Beer Review: Żywiec Warka

21 May, 2008

THANKS to a local corner shop, I’m able to bring you two more reviews of what will probably be more awful Polish beer. This one has the name “Warka”. It also has the words “Uznany Smak”, but I haven’t a clue what that means. Is the brewer called “Warka” and this is their “Uznany Smak” type of beer? Translations gladly received in the comments section at the end of this post.

Warka can

The can looks pretty good. More western in it’s appearance than some of the other Polish beers. There’s some illustrations of hops. And what looks like a castle with the date “A.D.1478”. That’s some heritage behind it.

Despite not knowing any Polish language, even I can make sense of some of the words. Around the top of the roundel for instance, there’s something about traditional beer. And around the bottom of the roundel, something else about an original recipe.

But as for the rest of it, I’m utterly stumped. What does “Uznany Smak” mean? And what do the other words on the front of the can mean?

Turning the can around, we find what must be an ingredients list. With no English, the only things I can make out on there are the size of the can, which is 500 millilitres. And the alcoholic volume, which is an impressive 5.7%. Not bad.

Warka ingredients side of can

Around on the barcode side, and there’s still nothing in English. That fact hasn’t stopped us so far, so let’s press on regardless.

Warka barcode side of can

Apart from the barcode. And the “500 ml”, which of course we already knew, the most noticeable thing is a message. I can’t understand what it say, but I believe it’s something about not drinking and driving. The sign featuring car keys and a cross through them gives that much away. And it’s something of a surprise. Here in the UK, drinking and driving is no longer a big cultural problem. Is it still a problem on Poland? Leave your thoughts in the comments at the end of the post please.

Under the drink drive warning, there’s an address. And it starts off with some good news. It turns out that Warka Uznany Smak is made by Grupa Żywiec S.A. That must be the same Żywiec behind Żywiec Prized Original Beer. And it’s good news because Żywiec wasn’t awful. It was average. And average is better than what I initially expected.

Also on there is an information line telephone number. There’s an email address. And there’s a web address which is www.warka.com.pl. But be warned, in the few moments I spent there, I couldn’t find any links to an English language version.

Looking around the can a little more, and there’s another logo side to it.

Warka other side of can

Instead of the classic roundel logo, this side has the “Warka” name sideways up the side of the can. Something that reminds me of Lech.

With nothing left for me to mis-translate, it’s time to crack open this can, and sample the contents within.

In the glass, Warka is yellow. And fizzy. But it does have a better head than I expected. Maybe this won’t be so bad afterall?

Warka poured from the can

The smell is hardly worth describing. It’s just a cheap malted barley aroma. Utterly unremarkable.

A few gulps in though, and I’m rewarded by something that is surprisingly drinkable. The taste is barely present. The only things I noticed about the taste was a mild bitterness and sourness that doesn’t linger for long. Taste and flavour then, is not what Warka is about.

Where Warka stands out is everything apart from taste and flavour. What it has, is a clean, crisp and refreshing character. And these things make it one of the easiest beers to drink of such high-strength that I’ve seen.

It’s not without downsides however. The head comes from the fizziness. And the fizziness makes it gassy. And the gassiness, predictably, will make you burp. My main gripe with Warka, is that it’s almost tasteless. Body, taste and flavour are almost totally absent. It’s nearly like drinking water. Or Tesco Value Lager. Which, as it happens, are almost identical when it comes to flavour.

Warka Uznany Smak, despite the funny name, is one of the better Polish beers I’ve tried. But that isn’t saying much. Compared to everything else on the market, this is around average. If you want to test the Polish beers being sold here in Britain, Warka is worth a try.

Rating: 2.75

Have you tried this beer? What did you think? Can you translate any of what’s on the can? What reputation does this have in Poland?
Leave your thoughts, corrections, translations, ideas, suggestions and everything else below.

UPDATED 13 Sept. 2008:

I know how popular Warka is, so here’s an update to this post. I managed to track down a bottle. Which, as we all know, is better than anything from a can. There seems to be some sort of promotion being advertised. But I can’t tell what it’s all about. Pics are below. I also tidied up the (Żywiec) title of the post.

Warka bottleWarka neck labelWarka front labelWarka back labelWarka poured from a bottle

Beer Review: Okocim

11 May, 2008

EXCELLENT news, chaps. I’ve found another Polish beer on sale at a local shop. And this one is a can of Okocim.

Okocim can

Okacim faces a competition of mediocrity. The other Polish beers of Tyskie, Zywiec, Lech and Żubr weren’t bad. Some were slightly better than others, but all we

re simply vehicles for the consumption of alcohol cheaply and easily. And nothing more. Will Okocim buck the trend? Somehow, I doubt it.

Okocim looks more like Żubr or Lech than it does Tyskie or Zywiec. On it’s green background, the gold coloured text and smattering of red afford it a premium and traditional quality.

The top of the roundel has the English text “Traditional Polish Taste”. That’s’ unusual. Why is it written in English instead of Polish?

The logo is unintentionally hilarious. It features a goat and a huge glass of beer. It’s not clear if the goat wants to drink the glass, or hump it. Either outcome would make me laugh.

The large banner cutting through the roundel has the name “OKOCIM”. No unusual Polish text this time. Above it are the words “Polish Tradition” and below it “A.D. 1845”. That’s good. It gives it heritage. More established than Zywiec and the rest, but not as established as Tyskie.

Under that, is the word “Beer”. Rather obvious. But I’m just glad it doesn’t say “Lager”. Under that, in very small writing are some important details. Namely, that this is 500 millilitres. And that is has a volume of 5.5%. Okocim, then, is going to be strong stuff.

Below that are what look like medals. Does anyone know if they actually are? Did Okocim win any prizes, or are they just there to look like medals?

Running around the bottom of the roundel, we can spot the name of the brewery. The unimaginative Okocim Brewery, Poland. Again though, why is this all in English? Especially when the big, prominent word at the bottom of the can proudly announces “IMPORTED”.

On the barcode side of the can, the puzzle continues. There is both a Polish “Infolinia” phone number. And a UK telephone number for a “Consumer Helpline”. This particular can doesn’t know if it’s Polish or British. Time to read on for more clues.

Okocim barcode side of can

The ingredients side of the can has everything, but in only two languages: Polish and English.

Okocim ingredients side of can

If you happen to be interested in such things, the ingredients are water, malted barley and hops. Absolutely nothing unusual there.

The address of the brewer tells us that this was brewed somewhere called Brzesko in Poland. Sounds delightful. The web address is given as www.okocim.pl. Which, as you’d expect from a website ending in “.pl”, takes you to a Polish language website. Some clever navigations however, does led us to http://www.okocim.pl/okocim.htm. Which even I can understand.

The English ingredients text doesn’t solve the riddle of why this Polish beer has everything written in English. Reading the Polish language ingredients list does give us a clue. You see, this seems to have been produced by Carlsberg Polska. The Polish part of the brewing goliath, Carlsberg. And that would explain why this can is more international than, say, Żubr.

In the glass, Okocim has a thick, frothy head. It also has a light amber colour. An lots and lots of bubbles rising to the surface.

Okocim poured into a glass

The smell is a blend of malted barley and hops. Yes, I know, that how nearly every beer smells. This one does have a blend that is, in some way, different to most others. I like it. It’s got a rich and premium quality to the way it smells.

The taste is not bad. But not great either. The main taste you’ll notice, is the dry bitterness. That bitterness lingers briefly, but doesn’t stick around for long. The malted barley is barely noticeable.

The positives are that Okocim is very easy to drink. And that the blend of tastes and flavours is pretty good quality. You’d have to be very sensitive indeed to find any of it offensive to your palate. Served chilled, Okocim could also be quite refreshing. There’s also a couple of things that are different about it, when compared to it’s Polish counterparts. The blend of flavours being one. And the higher strength being another.

The negatives, though, are that Okocim is cheap and watery. It’s easy to drink because it has the consistency of water. And water that is too sparkling at that. Which means that it’s rather gassy. It’s also lacking much real flavour, but that could be down to my preference from strong ales from the around Britain.

How can I sum up Okocim? Simply, it’s stronger and marginally better tasting than the other Polish beers on sale here in the UK. If you want taste and flavour, it’s not much better than the other Polish beers. But if you want a strong, drinkable beer, this fits the bill nicely.

Rating: 3.6

Have you tried Okocim? Are you Polish? How do you pronounce the name Okocim? What sort of reputation does it have in Poland?
If you have any corrections, opinions, suggestions, ideas or insults, then leave them in the comments box below.

UPDATE: And this is the rather more handsome looking bottle of Okocim. The only difference as far as the label is concerned is the English language paragraph proclaiming its 160 year heritage, fine ingredients and Polish recipe.

Okocim bottleOkocim back of bottle

Beer Review: Gaymer White Star White Cider

1 May, 2008

SURELY not every white cider on the market can be made by Gaymer? After reviewing first Diamond White and then Ice Dragon, both of which were mediocre and both turned out to be from the Gaymer Cider Company. In the same way as the rather good K, the Gaymer name was carefully hidden away. Will that be the case with my next can of strong, white cider? Will this one be better than the rest? I doubt it.

Gaymer White Star White Cider can

This can, like Ice Dragon, has a unique look, all of its own. This one goes for a white, silver and blue colour scheme. That together with the Apple Macintosh font gives it a sci-fi feel. I quite like it, I must say.

Beneath the large, “White Star” logo are the basics. It describes itself as “White Cider”. Confirms that this is a 500 millilitre can. But, I’m pleased to say, without that ridiculous claim to have been 440 millilitres in the past. Ice Dragon and the cheap super-strength lagers, I’m looking at you. Instead, this one boasts of being a “Big Value Half Litre”. Also down at the bottom of the can we learn that it has 7.5%. The exact same volume as Diamond White and Ice Dragon. A clue to it’s origin perhaps?

Turn the can around enough times and you reach the details side of the can. Again, for a can of white cider, devoid of much in the way of real details.

Gaymer White Star White Cider details side of can

We get all the familiar details like “Serve Chilled”. And “White Cider”. And “With sugar and sweetener. And “Contains Sulphites”. If someone can explain what a sulphite is, I would be very grateful.

The usual UK units of alcohol symbol is on there. And I can report that is 3.8 UK units of alcohol.

But… who made White Star? Surely Gaymer can’t be behind yet another white cider? Lets read the postal address and find out…

I don’t know whether to be surprised at this or not. But it IS the Gaymer Cider Co who are behind White Star. The same outfit from Shepton Mallet, Somerset, England, who were behind the identically uninspiring Diamond White and Ice Dragon, and the very good K. If this is going to be a re-run of the past two days, then it’s not looking good. Time to find out if my fears of another disappointment are well founded…

Poured into a glass, and it looks identical to its stable mates. It’s just as pale and fizzy as they are.

Gaymer White Star White Cider poured into a glass

It smells just as much of synthetic apples as they did, too. And, I’m sad to report, that it tastes as mediocre as they did. Yes it does taste mildly of apples. And it is moderately refreshing and easy to drink. But, there’s barely any apple-y taste and none of that lingering refreshment that you expect from a cider.

In short, White Star is just as disappointing as Diamond White and Ice Dragon. In fact, I’d be surprised if they weren’t identical, and simply packaged differently.

I’m not sure if what I’ve had this week has been a true cross-section of white ciders. Or if other manufacturers produce white ciders. If they do, I’d be interested to know how they compare. So if you’ve had a white cider from someone other than Gaymer, leave a comment at the end of this post.

If the three white ciders I’ve reviewed do sum-up what the category is all about, then I’m not impressed. They have no taste. They’re not a refreshing as other ciders. They are the lagers of the cider world. In the same way that lagers offer a fraction of the flavour, body and character of beers and ales; white ciders have only some of the flavour and refreshment of proper ciders.

If you like the apple-y taste and refreshment of ciders, look elsewhere. You wont find it with a white cider. I certainly didn’t.

Rating: 2.95

Have you tried White Star or a white cider from anyone that is no Gaymer? If so, then leave a comment with your thoughts, corrections, suggestions and recommendations.

Beer Review: Gaymer Ice Dragon Extra Strength White Cider

30 April, 2008

YESTERDAY’S introduction to strong, white cider in the form of Gaymer Diamond White wasn’t great. It wasn’t as delicious, nor as strong as Gaymer’s other strong cider, K. What I need to try are more white ciders. Which brings me to the next in my strong, white cider round-up, Gaymer Ice Dragon.

Gaymer Ice Dragon Extra Strength White Cider can

This tall, 500 millilitre can was purchased from my local off-licence for very little money. It used to be 440 milliltres. But they’ve used the old trick of adding 13.5% to make it the same gigantic size as the other alcoholics favourites.

The front of the can doesn’t give away who made it. Just like K and Diamond White, whoever is behind is keen to hide their name. And they do it well. What with the unusual, mostly blue colour scheme and red dragon logo, it stands out.

Under the solid blue and “Ice Dragon” logo, is a frosted, icey snow flake blue background. On top of which, are the basics. Namely the description of “White Cider”. A pill shaped red blob telling us that this has the typical 7.5% volume. And the words “Extra Strength”. In case you didn’t know that 7.5% alcohol volume is quite a lot for a cider. I like the way this can looks. It’s too colourful and cheerful be an alcoholics choice. Instead, it looks to be trying to be the student party cider of choice.

Turn the can around enough times, and you reach the details side of the can. Everything, or at least the details they decide to give you, are here. All in high-contrast and readably sized lettering. Thank goodness for that. After a few weeks of needing to squint to read the labels, its good to have things printed clearly and in a readable size.

Gaymer Ice Dragon Extra Strength White Cider details side of can

It may be readable. But that doesn’t mean that there’s much to read. From the top, it starts with the uninspired “Serve Chilled”. Under that, we learn that this has 3.8 UK units of alcohol. Which if you didn’t know, is a lot. You really wouldn’t want more than that amount each day.

Under that is the terse description and ingredients of “White Cider with Sugar and Sweetener Contains Sulphites”. Maybe they’re supposed to be two or more different sentences? With nothing else even approaching a sentence printed on the can, you’ll have to look elsewhere for reading material while drinking Dragon Ice.

Like Diamond White and K, the manufacturer isn’t madly keen on being identified. You have to find the postal address to find out that this is, once again, the output of one Gaymer Cider Company. The same one, of Shepton Mallet, Somerset, England who hid behind Diamond White and K. Are we going to discover that every white cider brand out there is owned by these chaps?

As for what to expect, I’m guessing that it will be a lot like Diamond White. Why shouldn’t it be? It’s white cider and it’s from the same company. Either way, it’s time to find out.

Poured into a glass, and first impressions are that it’s identical to Diamond White. It’s just as fizzy and just as pale.

Gaymer Ice Dragon Extra Strength White Cider poured into a glass

The smell is almost exactly the same, too. That is to say, it smells of synthetic apples. All in all, not a great start.

A couple of gulps in however, and it does start to redeem itself. It does taste a little more of apples that did Diamond White. And that refreshing apple aftertaste seems to stay a little longer. On the other hand, it could just be my imagination, and it’s no different at all. There isn’t much in it. It’s still very very similar.

It’s just as light, easy to drink and quite refreshing. But on the other hand, it hasn’t got much taste. Or the apple-y refreshment that you expect from cider.

If you asked me to recommend either Diamond White or Ice Dragon over one another, I would be hard pressed to come up with a winner. They’re both equally cheap, tasteless and strong.

If you are a student who is trying to decide whether to buy Diamond White or Ice Dragon, pick either. Or pick the cheapest. Or pick something else entirely. K is about as cheap, stronger and tastier. Or pick a beer, spirit or wine instead. There aren’t many reasons to recommend this.

As a consequence, it scores exactly the same mark as yesterday’s white cider.

Rating: 2.95

Have you tried Ice Dragon or any other of Gaymer’s many ciders? What did you think?
As usual, recommendations, ideas, suggestions and corrections in the comments box please.
Check back tomorrow for my next white cider review. How much worse can they get? Or will the next one surprise us all?

Beer Review: Piwowarska Żubr

27 April, 2008

IF ANYONE out there can translate what is printed on this can, then do please leave a message at the end of this post. That’s because this can has no English language whatsoever. Purchased from my local off-licence, I’m assuming that this 500 millilitre can is imported straight from an Eastern-Europe.

Piwoworska Żubr can

The ‘front’ of the can has a logo of an animal that looks like a bison. The big name prominently printed on the can is “Żubr”. At least I think that’s right. There’s what looks like a little dot above the letter “Z”, making at a Cyrillic character. Which I have no idea how to pronounce. If you know how to pronounce it, then leave a comment at the end of this post.

There’s a little red banner in the top-left corner. The word “Sugerowana” looks like the word “sugar”, so perhaps this is a low-calories brew? Also making some educated guesses of what else is on the front, Żubr probably is made of pure water and natural ingredients. The “1768” date is also probably significant. The word “Sponsor” also hints at the fact that the brewer of this beer sponsors something. What it is that they sponsor, I’m at a loss to explain.

Turning the can around, and on the barcode ‘side’, there’s a logo apparently relating to their sponsorship. Of something. There’s also a paragraph that happens to include the same words that are on the logo. So this paragraph probably says something about whatever it is, that they are sponsoring.

Piwoworska Żubr  barcode side of can

If you know what it is that they are sponsoring, you know what to do when you reach the comments box at the end of this post.

Turning the can around even further, and we reach what I think is the details ‘side’ of the can. Of those I can make out are the “500 ml”, recyclable aluminium and an information line. At least I think that that is what “Infolinia” means.

Piwowarska Żubr details side of can

There’s also an ingredients list. Not being able to understand ingredients lists even when they are in English, I attempt to make some sense of it. The first thing on there is 12%. 12% of what I don’t know. It’s a bit steep for the alcohol content. Next is “alk, 6,0% obj.” That has got to be the alcohol volume. Thanks to my Polish commenter’s on previous posts, I’m inclined to believe that this high 6% strength is indeed the alcohol volume. Reading on, and I think that the brewer is someone called Kompania Piwowarska SA. Is that right? And that they are from Poznań, which is in Poland. Something that answers a few of my questions about the origin of this can.

So this is another Polish beer. That puts it up against Tyskie, Zywiec and Lech. None of which were outstand, but some were pretty good. Expectations are modest then, heading into the taste test for Żubr. Not just that, but I don’t know if this will be a larger, a pilsner or any other type of beer. That makes this the biggest step into the unknown since I started reviewing beers on this blog.

Poured into a glass, and my hopes of quality are dashed by the light-golden colour of lager. The fizzy head then promptly dies away to accumulate in a little pool in the corner of the glass.

Piwowarska Żubr can poured into a glass

There’s quite a lot of bubbles rising to the surface, so it might be gassy. And the smell is… not one of complex fruit and hop aromas. Instead, it smells cheap. The less said about the smell then, the better.

A couple of gulps in and I’m becoming more and more certain that this is a ghastly high-strength lager. It tastes of light and watery malted barley with a lingering bitter and sour aftertaste. You won’t notice the taste however, because you’ll be concentrating on burping after every gulp.

It’s not totally without merit however. It is refreshing. And it is light in character. Although most of that will be down to how watery it is. What is in it’s favour is how easy to drink it is. If my translation is right, and it is 6% alcohol volume, then it is very drinkable for the strength.

Apart from that there isn’t much to redeem it. Compared to the other Polish beers and lagers I’ve tried, this is the worst of them all. No wander then, that Piwowarska don’t appear to be officially importing Żubr. The most frustrating this about all this is that Poland is producing a lot of different beers. But only the worst are making their way over to the UK. There must be better Polish beers out there.

To sum up, then, Piwowarska Żubr is a strong, but ultimately dire lager. If you want a strong yet reasonable quality lager, there are plenty of others to choose from. Many with writing you can understand. Try it if you’re curious about Polish lagers. Otherwise, choose something else from your off-licence shelf.

Rating: 1.95

Have you tried Piwowarska Żubr? What did you think?
Can you translate any of it, or explain what Żubr is all about?
Then do please leave a message!

UPDATED 13 Sept. 2008:

Knowing how popular Żubr is with my Polish readers, I managed to find it in bottled form. And it looks even better than the can does. If you can buy a bottle instead of a can, then do so. It usually tastes a bit better too. Here’s the pics…

Piwowarska Żubr bottlePiwowarska Żubr neck labelPiwowarska Żubr front labelPiwowarska Żubr back labelPiwowarska Żubr poured into a glass

Updated April 2010:

Thanks for all the comments! You’ve helped make this old ‘review’ one of the most interesting on the whole site.

Something I need to do is change my original verdict. You see, I’ve been warming to Żubr. It might not be the world’s most sophisticated ale, but it certainly is good with a curry. Quite simply a dependable, refreshing Pilsner style lager. Possibly even my favourite of the Polish lagers that fill our shops.

Beer Review: Strongbow Super

24 April, 2008

TIME for another strong cider. Recently, the only other strong cider I’ve reviewed was K from Gaymer which weighed in at 8.4% volume. This one is Strongbow Super from the HP Bulmer Ltd empire, and comes in at 7.5%. It’s about the same price and just as easy to buy as K, which raises the question: will it be 0.9% better tasting?

Strongbow Super can

Like most of the very strong lagers and ciders, this can doesn’t list packaging as one of its strengths. Most of it is taken up with that large and monochrome image of the famous Strongbow warrior image. Apart from the name, and very prominent red “Super” and the little text “Extra Strong Dry Cider”, there’s not much else to mention.

Rotate the can around however, and you can find the small print squashed into a tiny strip down the can. And even this is intercepted by one of the illustrations of an arrow.

Strongbow Super barcode side of can

Besides the barcode, perhaps the most noticeable thing on there is the 3.8 UK units of alcohol. Being the socially responsible purveyors of low price strong cider that they are, they also include the maximum recommended daily units for men and women. Four for men and three for women in case you were wandering.

As well as the Hereford, England, postal address address for HP Bulmer Ltd, there’s also a careline number. Plus there an email address of strongbow@bulmers.co.uk.

There’s also a little description on there telling us that this will be a “Strong Dry Cider With Sugar And Sweetener”. And that it “Contains Sulpher Dioxide”. Whatever that is. There’s little else to say about this 500 millilitre can. The only way to say anything more, will be to drink it.

In the glass, and it’s a very deep, dark yellow. Roughly the same shade as mid morning pee.

Strongbow Super poured into a glass

It has an equally strong, if better smelling odour about it, though. A little different to the very strong apple-y smell of K, but still mouth-watering for any cider fan.

A couple of gulps in, and immediately, there’s something different to the taste compared to K. Where K was sweet, Strongbow Super is dry. And to me, that makes it less drinkable.

It’s no disaster by any means. It’s still very easy to drink considering how strong it is. And the apple-y taste and refreshment that cider is all about are still there.

But a few more gulps in, and surprisingly, I’m not finding it as nice as I was expecting. Aside from the dryness that makes some bitterness and sourness come to the surface, there is something else to make me think twice about it. Yes it’s refreshing. Compared to a stout. But there are beers out there that are more refreshing. And this, being a cider should surpass them all in levels of refreshment. But it doesn’t.

In short then, Strongbow Super wasn’t as good as I had been hoping. Compared to K, it’s not as strong and its dry quality makes it less drinkable. As least to my taste buds. I’m almost certain that some of you out there will prefer the fact that it’s dry enough to rescue the south of England from a medium-sized flood. But I didn’t. Which is why I’m only giving it…

Rating: 2.9

Strongbow Super isn’t the only 7.5% cider out there though. Close to it on the off-licence shelf is something called Diamond White. It’ll be interesting to see if that can do any better.

Have you tried Strongbow Super or any other strong ciders? What did you think? Got any recommendations or any you think should be avoided?
Then leave a comment in the little box below.

Beer Review: Kestrel Super Strength Lager

23 March, 2008

A couple of lagers in, and there’s been one disappointment and one mediocre one. Neither of which are as good as the high-strength ale or cider I tried last week. Let’s see what Kestrel Super Strength lager can deliver.
Kestrel Super front of can
First impressions of the front of the can are how similar it is to Skol Super. On a shelf from a distance, they do look equally dull and cheap. Looking a little closer however, and Kestrel Super does have its own identity. There’s the illustration of a kestrel in the logo roundel. The two pictures of barley either side of it. And… not much else.

Turning the can around, Kestrel have gone for putting the story and the details ‘sides’ next to each other. And this is the first tall can of super-strength lager to have a full story behind. Let’s see what it says…
Kestrel Super side of can

The headline of “Super Strength, Superb Quality…” is what they’ve gone with. The story below it is mostly marketing speak, but here’s my summary of the main bits: This is a gold medal award winning lager, but they fall into the trap of not saying what that award was. Nor when they won it. They go on to promise “strong character”, “distinctive taste” and bags of quality from fine ingredients. All fairly ordinary stuff. But it does make me want to get to the taste part of the review, so job done by the marketing people. The last thing it has very clearly printed on this side is a box with “Alc 9.0% Vol”.

Rotating the can a few degrees to the barcode side, and again, nothing is out of the ordinary. This one was canned and brewed in the glamorous location of Bedford, Endland. It contains malted barley. It is half a litre of drink with 4.5 UK units of alcohol. Just like every other 9%, 500 millilitre can of lager. There’s also a tiny piece of text saying “drink sensibly”, together with the Drink Aware web address. Irresponsible? Or unimportant and ignored by anyone who buys strong lagers? Leave your thoughts, if you have any, in the comments section at the end of this post.
Kestrel Super barcode side of can

In a glass, Kestrel Super looks and behaves in the right way. It has a head. It’s the right size. And the colour is the right kind of gold. The smell is also about right. It has that odour of barley. But what does it tastes like? And is it any good?
Kestrel Super poured into a glass

A couple of gulps in, and things are looking average. There’s not much distinctive about the taste. Certainly not as much as the outside of the can had promised. Where the description on the outside does ring true, is with the character which is as strong as promised. And that aftertaste is bitter, sour and rough. This is not easy to drink. Nor pleasant.

About half-way through, and Kestrel Super is becoming a chore. It doesn’t taste nice. And it’s not easy to drink. It’s not a million miles from Skol Super. You’d have to be set on getting drunk quickly and cheaply to work your way through much of this.

If you have a taste for very strong lagers, you might like this. I however, didn’t. It may be cheap, but there are tastier drinks that are the same price and equally as strong. You have been warned.

Rating: 2.1 plus 2 ASBO points

Have you tried Kestrel Super? What did you think?
Opinions, ideas, suggestions and insults in the comments please…

Update:

A huge thanks to all the readers and commenter’s who’ve made this ‘review’ one of the most popular on my blog. You have added some of the funniest and wisest comments on the entire blog. A genuine thanks to all of you. That’s why I’ve come back nearly two years later to update it, and the other incredibly popular super strength lager reviews, with some new photos.

While I had all of the 9%er cans handy, it made sense to try them all again. Only this time with the benefit of having read all of your comments beforehand. Incidentally, I’ve done the same for the other 9%-ers. Check my updates for them after you’ve finished reading this.

This time, I made sure that the can was very cold. And to drink it straight from the can to avoid accidentally smelling it. That’s why I haven’t updated the photo of it in a glass. I was also watching out for it tasting worse as it warms up.

How did it taste this time around and can I figure out why Kestrel Super is slightly more addictive than crack? Well, an arcticly cold can does help. Straight off, it’s the least offensive tasting of the lot. The cut down ingredients list doesn’t mention syrup, but I reckon it has it. More of it than the other super strength 9% competition. That’s because it’s seems a bit thicker and more syrupy. It’s not as strong and bitter, but more balanced and bittersweet. It’s not as refreshing as Carlsberg Special Brewor Tennent’s Super, but that doesn’t stop it being that bit more drinkable than they are. And it’s in a weapons grade can that’s much less flimsy than the rest.

Against the other four 9%-ers, Kestrel Super nabs first place. Unless you look at ale or cider, it’s the easiest way to imbibe 9% alcohol. As for why it has such a following, I blame syrup. It must be what makes it sweeter than the competition. Pity no one thought to research its addictive qualities first.

What do you think? How else can you make it taste better? Or less horrible? Add your contribution to the mountain of hilarity and advice below!

P.S. My ‘reviews’ of Kestrel Super’s equally popular competitors are at Carlsberg Skol Super, Tennent’s Super and Carlsberg Special Brew.


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