Posts Tagged ‘Chinese’

Beer Review: Sun Lik Beer

20 September, 2008

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

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

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

Sun Lik Beer front label

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

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

Sun Lik Beer back label

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 3.05

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

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

Beer Review: Harbin Lager

17 August, 2008

I sampled many beers during my gap-year travels. China’s ever popular Tsingtao, and also, China’s second most famous beer, Harbin. Both of which you can now get over here. And the second of which, I have here, ready to try for the first time since my travels in 2006. Here is a small bottle of imported Harbin Lager.

Harbin Lager bottle

And it looks a bit different. The last time I had a bottle, I was not long out of Harbin, and the front of it looked like this…

Real Harbin front label

Aside from all the extra Chinese writing, quite a different look I’m sure you’ll agree. But you’ve got to like the look of this one. The green glass and mostly green labels give it an excellently green look.

It’s not ruined by a tasteless piece of neck foil either. That’s because this one is green and matches everything else.

Harbin Lager neck foil

And, under the plain and simple “Harbin” banner logo are the three words that the beer adventurer longs to see; “Imported From China”. And that is welcome because of the large quantity of beer that play on their Asian heritage, but were brewed in the neighbouring postcode.

The front label is… well it’s very good. Better looking than the real thing from Harbin itself a couple of years ago.

Harbin Lager front label

I like it. It’s stylish and hasn’t jettisoned any Chinese-ness in the process. The little logo is an odd looking thing though. It looks like a horse pulling a cart laden with barrels, in front of what could be the brewery. Perhaps the most complicated logo I’ve seen so far.

The slogan for Harbin is “China’s Treasured Lager”. Suitably vague, but you can’t knock it for that. Around the bottom border of the roundel are what look like medals. But they’re just too small to read. If anyone out there knows anything about them or can translate any of the Chinese writing, make sure to leave a comment at the end of this post.

Back inside the roundel, and there’s a hint for the less well travelled about where this came from. That’s because this was “Inspired by the Tradition and Culture of China’s Most Northern Province of Heilongjiang”. Harbin, if you didn’t know, is the biggest city of that province. And probably for a good part of northern China too. Being so near Russia, it’s popular with Russians. But not, as far as I could tell, those with tanks. Yet.

The back label is a Post-It note sized sticker. Which means that there’s little else on there apart from the small-print. This beer from the Harbin Brewing Co., Ltd., China was imported and distributed by the always busy Anheuser-Busch based down in Surrey, England.

Harbin Lager back label

What else? Well, it contains barley malt. This bottle is the ubiquitous 330 millilitres. And the alcoholic volume is an unexceptional 4.8%. Not high. Not standard continental strength. And not weak either.

That’s about it. All that remains is to open up this little green bottle and try to answer some questions. Questions like will it taste familiar? Will it be better than the other Asian beers I’ve tried? And is it any good?

Harbin Lager poured into a glass

This is a head-happy lager. It took literally a few pauses between pours before the glass became mostly liquid. It does settle into a very good, thick, consistent layer of froth though. Not bad at all. What about the colour? Well, it’s lager. That means pale yellow and lots of fizz are the order of the day.

The smell, not normally a feature of lagers, surprisingly, is with Harbin. It smells much more of barley than most others do. And that gives it a little more character than most of the competition. Not much, but enough to count.

A few gulps in, and it’s all going down very well indeed. For a lager. The taste is of much the same blend of malted barley and hops as most lagers are. But Harbin leans a little more in the barley direction with the taste. All of which is followed by a remarkably lightly bitter aftertaste.

There’s plenty to like about Harbin Lager. I like the taste. Which is a tiny bit more interesting than I expected. I like the aftertaste. Which wasn’t as stringing and lingering as I feared. It’s not gassy. I like that it is refreshing, crisp and very easy to drink. And remembering my anti-lager prejudice, Harbin Lager has done rather well.

What about the things I don’t like about it? Well, it is a lager. And that means it will never be an interesting and delicious as other bottles on the shop shelf. Specifically the ones that are ales. That also means the taste will wear thin after a while, and quickly stop feeling so refreshing. It’s also not that easy to find. At least not here in the Britain. So far, I’ve found one shop, the Bethnal Green Food Centre on Bethnal Green Road selling it for £1.10 pence.

To sum up, I like Harbin Lager. It’s a tiny bit distinctive. It’s drinkable and a good all-rounder. I can’t report that it was distinctive enough to remember to taste. Nor that it’s much better than the shop-shelf worth of other Asian beers. But it is good enough to say that it’s worth your time and money.

Rating: 3

Have you tried Harbin Lager? What did you think of it?

Do please leave your translations, corrections, opinions and recommendations in the boxes below.

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