Posts Tagged ‘dark’

Beer Review: Budweiser Budvar Imported Dark Lager

4 February, 2010

REGULAR Budweiser Budvar lager turned out well in the end. Especially after discovering that it needs to be cooled to Arctic temperatures to taste good. So it’s with lots of optimism and some trepidation for the comments section that I face a bottle of Budvar’s cousin; Budweiser Budvar Imported Dark Lager. From one of a growing number of London shops that sells it, for a price I can’t remember. It’s also my first dark lager.

Budweiser Budvar Imported Dark Lager bottle

So far, so similar. It looks just like ordinary Budvar, but with a black bottle and matching neck foil and labels.

Budweiser Budvar Imported Dark Lager neck foil

The front label is little changed either. Apart from the colour scheme and words “Imported Dark Lager”.

Budweiser Budvar Imported Dark Lager front label

All of which is good news, because it means I don’t have to describe every little detail again. And again. Instead, we can go straight to the back label.

Budweiser Budvar Imported Dark Lager back label

Same layout as common Budvar, but this time with enough changes to warrant a little more of your time until we get to the interesting bit.  That’s because this one has a completely different story behind it. This one talks about “finest available ingredients”, “devotion to the brewers art” and “an inimiatable flavour straight from the heart of darkness”.

Down on the ingredients list, and here’s the first sign of what the alcoholic volume is. At 4.7%, it’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Why are they hiding it?

The ingredients, which if you bought this kind of beer, you’re probably interested in, do indeed look good. They are “water from artesian wells, barley malt (Pale, Munich, Caramel, Roasted), Saaz hops.” That’s the sort of ingredients list you’d expect of ale. Not a lager. So I’m guessing this will take the route of being a lager that wants to be ale. Like the sublime Pilsner Urquell or Samuel Adams Boston Lager.

For the detail fanatics, this Budvar has the same EU Protected Geographical Indication as the other Budvar. It has the same UK importer. And the same web address, which is www.original-budweiser.cz. It’s in the same 500ml bottle. Surprisingly, it is a little weaker at 4.7% alcoholic volume instead of 5%. And like its cousin, the label shouts at you to “Serve Cold!” After last time, I intend to do just that.

So here’s the interesting bit. What does it look like? What does it smell like? How does it compare to normal Budvar and to the other best lagers the world has to offer? I can’t wait to find out.

Budweiser Budvar Imported Dark Lager poured into a glass

First impressions leave me speechless. It’s by far the darkest lager I’ve ever seen. It’s dark ale, porter or stout darkness. I thought the bottle was brown or black, but it wasn’t. It’s a normal green Budvar bottle that happens to contain the only lager I’ve seen that you could mistake for the famous Irish brew. Apart from the head. It’s a patchy, creamy white. Nothing to worry you during pouring.

What does Budweiser Budvar Imported Dark Lager smell like? A quick sniff promptly reveals that familiar odour of roasted barley. Again, just like a dark ale, porter or stout. Incredible for a lager. Though I should have seen this coming. The ingredients list did say it had roasted barley malt. It goes to show what an immense difference that little fact makes.

So, what does this cold, nearly full pint of Budweiser Budvar Imported Dark Lager taste like? The first gulp is a very satisfying one. And one that seems a million miles from any over lager experience. Is this really a lager? It tastes like a dark ale, porter or stout. Which shouldn’t be a surprise seeing as it looks and smells like one.

What can I taste exactly? A few more gulps in, and I’m beginning to make some sense of it. On the flavour side of the equation, you’re reminded that this is indeed still a lager. There’s little more than a slight savoury bitterness. Quite light, clean and refreshing. Then, smoothly arriving, is the aftertaste. This goes into a mixture of lagery bitterness and long lasting ale, porter or stout style roasted flavour and taste combo. It’s dry and mildly bitter, but without the sharp “bite” you get with lots of lagers. It also tastes much more full bodied and heavier and more syrupy than most lagers. More like, you guessed it, a porter.

What am I enjoying about Budweiser Budvar Imported Dark Lager? As already worked out, I’m thoroughly enjoying this perplexing brew. Partly because it is such a mystery. If you insist on calling it a lager, it is the most un-lager like I’ve ever tasted. You could give it to an ale pan, tell them it’s a porter and most probably wouldn’t argue. With that potential for mischief and the originality and distinctiveness, Budvar Dark is off to a flying start.

I love how it’s got some of the best of ale and lager. It’s crisp and refreshing but also rich, tasty and satisfying. I like very much how smooth and easy to drink it is. It’s not too gassy. And you can just tell it’s well made with excellent ingredients.

What aren’t I enjoying about Budweiser Budvar Imported Dark Lager? Not much. What little I can find is mostly nitpicking. Because it feels so much like ale, I’m left wishing it had more interesting and unusual flavours. Like an ale. If you really like ale, why not buy a real one with the complexity you get with it? Also, that roasted taste is going to quickly stop feeling refreshing, and it’s still expensive and hard to find here.

How can one possibly sum up Budweiser Budvar Imported Dark Lager after just one bottle? Which reminds me, I better buy some more. So far, Budweiser Budvar Imported Dark Lager is possibly the most intriguing, distinctive and delicious lagers I’ve ever tried. It’s firmly up there with the favourites. It’s also a great stepping stone for you to wean your friends off big name lager and onto proper beer. Outstanding lager action. But if you love this stuff, why not just get dark ale, porter or stout instead?

Rating: 4.3

Have you tried Budweiser Budvar Imported Dark Lager? What did you think of it? Leave your opinions, corrections, translations, recommendations and places to buy, here in the comments.

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Beer Review: Obolon Velvet

24 April, 2009

OBOLON Soborne wasn’t the only mysterious Ukrainian beer I picked up from North-London’s Kołos Supermarket. Here is a £1.39 pence bottle of Obolon Velvet.

Obolon Velvet bottle

There’s no English writing anywhere on it. There’s no importer sticker on it. But, unlike Soborne, there are clues out there this time. Even if Ukrainian food and drink importer Gary Magan didn’t import this bottle, he has it on his Obolon page at http://www.garymagan.co.uk/obolon/beer_obolon.htm called “Deep Velvet”. And I’m glad he does. The official Obolon website has a page about it, in English at http://www.obolon.com/en/production/beer/7/ where they call it “Velvet”. So this time, we have not just a name, but a proper description too! How different is this to the enigmatic Soborne experience?

Obolon Velvet neck label

The neck label is indecipherable again. It says something about Ukrainian beer and some medals. But the real thing to look at is the colour. It’s a green glass bottle, but look how it changes when it reaches the beer. On the outside at least, it looks like the colour of black ink.

Obolon Velvet front label

The front label is the same shape as the other Obolons such as Soborne and Premium. And, like Soborne, it has no English. But, we can figure out what the alcoholic volume is. Either by reading one of the websites I mentioned above, or deciphering the Cyrillic that tells us this has an impressive 5.3% alcoholic volume.

Like the other Obolon’s, the back label makes as much sense as an electric car in the countryside.

Obolon Velvet back label

Ukrainian translators, if you can read anything on the label, do please leave your translations at the end of this post. About the only things I can make out at the 0.5L bottle volume and the official Ukrainian language web address at www.obolon.ua.

Normally at this point with a bottle of Obolon, or pretty much any other strange East-European bottle, would be to crack it open and say “gosh, this is unexpected”. Not this time though. The official website describes it as “It is dark beer. It has a nice sweetish flavour of caramel malt.”

Gary Magan goes even further describing it as “Ukrainian high quality dark beer, is classically brewed to the original recipe from selected hops, malt, fermenting yeast and pure spring water. Special brewing technology brings this beer dense, smooth, deep velvet texture with rich malt and caramel flavour.” That sounds delicious. And different from the usual East-European lagery beers that make over here. In the comments on this blog, people are always going on about how good the East European dark beers, porters and stouts are. But I’ve never had the chance to try them. Until now; thanks to Obolon Velvet.

Hopes are high for Obolon Velvet. Will it be the best Ukrainian beer I’ve tried so far? Will it be the best East European beer I’ve tried so far? It’s not impossible. Let’s see what’s it’s like.

Obolon Velvet poured into a glass

In the glass, it looks as good as you hope it would be. Sure, it froths up a bit, but it settles down quickly, leaving a consistent layer of creamy head. A head that’s a sort of brownish colour. As for the beer itself, it looks as dark as a porter or dark ale.

How does it smell? In a word, excellent. It has that roasted smell that you’ll recognise form other darker beers. I’m not skilled enough to glean more facts from the smell. Other than to say it is excellent. In a lightly hoppy and un-formidable kind of way.

What does it taste of? It tastes much the same way that it smells. It has a lightly roasted malty taste. There’s not an awful lot of flavour. But you hardly notice, because Obolon Velvet is all about the aftertaste. It has a gently bittersweet taste of roasted maltiness and a little bit of caramel.

About half-way through this bottle of Obolon Velvet now, so what am I enjoying about it? Quite a lot of things as it happens. I like how interesting and complex the taste is. I like that there’s no long bitter finish or “bite” to worry about because it is so well balanced. I like how rich, smooth and full-bodied it manages to be, without falling into the trap of being treacle. I love how drinkable Velvet is. Just like the quality bottles British ales I love so much, you can taste how natural the ingredients are and how well it’s made.

What don’t I like about Obolon Velvet? I don’t like the fact that I might never again get to enjoy it. It is not easy to buy. The bottle I bought was maybe a little more expensive than, say, bird flu. But, if you’re honest with yourself, you’d enjoy Obolon Velvet more than bird flu. If you had to nitpick, the lack of much flavour could be an issue. As could the slight gassiness that caused me to burp more than usual.

How can I sum up Obolon Velvet? It turns out that all the people who recommended the hard-to-find dark beers from East-Europe were right. If Obolon Velvet is anything to go by, the Eastern European brewers have been making interesting ales for years, without us even noticing. This is an excellent drink. Whether you’re a fan of interesting ales or intrepid explorer of unusual bottles, this is worth your time and money. If you can find it.

Rating: 4.2

Have you tried Obolon Velvet? What did you think of it? Can you translate anything?

Do please leave your opinions, translations, corrections, requests, recommendations and places to buy, here in the comments.

Beer Review: Erdinger Weißbier Dunkel

21 August, 2008

YESTERDAY’S Erdinger Weißbier from the German brewery Erdinger Weissbräu was excellent. So I’m even more looking forward to it’s darker, even more premium looking cousin; Erdinger Weißbier Dunkel.

First impressions are that it looks so much better than. With the labels matching the colour of the bottle this time, it looks classy. And a little foreboding.

Again, I’m almost totally lost with the language. So, if you can translate anything, do please leave a message in the comments at the end of this post. For the time being, you’ll have to put up with my clumsy attempts and translating the words that happen to look a little like their English counterparts.

Erdinger Weisbier Dunkel front of neck label

The neck label, this time, says “Dunkel”. I’m going to guess that “Dunkel” translates to “Dark”. Is that right?

Erdinger Weisbier Dunkel shoulder label

The little label on the shoulder is identical to that on regular Weißbier. Saying something about fine ingredients. I think.

And just like the labels above it, the big front label sticks to the Weißbier formula. Apart from being coloured almost entirely black. Obviously.

Erdinger Weißbier Dunkel front label

Nevertheless, it looks good. In fact, it’s even easier to see the Erdinger Weissbräu logo thanks to this colour scheme. And you can’t escape how much they’ve put wheat and hops in the centre stage. They are everywhere. Not just propping up the roundel either side of it. But prominently, right in the centre of it too. No other beer or rural brewery imagery here. Just wheat and hops. From “Bayern”.

They do leave off some of the details that were on the front label of regular Weißbier however. One of the dates is missing. As is the signature. And the all important bottle size and alcoholic volume. Looks like we’ll be turning to the back label for those titbits.

The back label helpfully answers some of the mysteries surrounding this dark coloured “Dunkel” wheat beer. That said, it’s still a hard to read block of multi-lingual text. But that’s what you get from enjoying imported beers.

Erdinger Weißbier Dunkel back label

And what do you know, my attempted translation seems to be right! The open the back label by describing it as “Wheat Beer ‘Dark'”. Erdinger Weißbier Dunkel is a dark wheat beer. Whatever that turns out to be. This will be the first that I’ve tried.

Looking through the block of text, I look for more answers. First to turn up is the alcoholic volume. This weighs in at 5.6% volume, very slightly more than its cousin. Like its cousin, the bottle is the ever-popular half-a-litre. And it was made by “Erdinger Weissbräu Werner Brombach GmbH” in Erding, Germany.

Where it does differ is in the ingredients. The water, the wheat malt, the barley malt, the hops and the yeast are the same. But it must be the addition of roasted malt that makes this “Dunkel”. And if memory serves, which it usually doesn’t, that’s an ingredient you normally see in stouts and dark ales. Which would explain a lot.

Lastly, the web address they give is the same as before. www.erdinger.de will take you to their German website. But if you’re reading this in English, you’ll probably prefer their English language version at www.erdinger.com.

That’s it. All that remains is to open this bottle; to very very very carefully pour the contents into an enormous glass and try to answer some questions. Namely, is this tastier than regular Erdinger Weißbier? And will be indifference to stouty drinks ruin it? You know the drill by now.

The head was much more controllable. Amazingly, it all went in, in one go. No pausing between pours this time. The head falls away quite quickly too. At this stage, it’s now a layer of from about half-an-inch thick, with a surprising amount of glass empty at the top. The colour of the drink itself is no real surprise. That is to say, it’s completely black.

The smell is no big surprise either. It smells mainly of roasted malt with a hint of the wheat and barley. If you’ve had a dark ale or stout before, it will immediately remind you of that. That’s what it doing to me right now. I think it smells delicious. But it could put off the lager drinkers out there.

A couple of gulps in, and first impressions are that this is seriously rich and strong. That could be because I’ve hardly had any stouts or dark ales to compare it with. Or it could really be because it’s rich and strong. The best thing to do is leave your own thoughts on the matter if you’ve tried this drink, in the comments at the end of the post.

So we’ve established that I think it tastes rich and strong. But what does it actually taste of? To my untrained palate, I would say that the first taste is malty. Not all that pronounced though. And I must be getting used to it already because it no longer feels as strong. It could also be the wheatiness evening out the taste. The taste of wheat is harder to find this time, but I’d say it’s there. Hiding behind, and evening out that initial maltiness. After that, you get a nice, mildly tingly hoppy bitter aftertaste.

About half-way through now, and I seem to have gotten used to the richness amazingly fast. Maybe that’s the benefit of having done so many of these posts. Or maybe Erdinger Weißbier Dunkel has a taste that is simply easy to get used to after the initial shock. Either way, half-way through, I’m finding it balanced, smooth and easy to drink.

What am I enjoying about Erdinger Weißbier Dunkel? In short, lots. The tastes and flavours have grown on me. It tastes malty and wheaty and a little bit hoppy. And, once you get used to it, they’re not overwhelming or too strong. I could be wrong, but it feels like each ingredient is balancing out the flavour. So I’m going to say that it tastes well balanced without one flavour dominating. Because that’s not something I’ve seen before, I’ll also give it brownie points for having character and distinctiveness. Ultimately, it’s rich, smooth and quite drinkable.

What don’t I like about it? It’s just possible that all the things I just wrote about it, are because I’ve become used to strong flavours. In which case, it won’t be all that accessible and easy to drink for lager fans. Or girls. Indeed, even if my mind isn’t playing tricks on me, there’s little chance that the strong-ish tastes will be everyone’s cup of tea. It made me burp a little, so it is mildly gassy. And at £1.75 pence from just one shop on Bethnal Green Road, it’s expensive and hard to find. Stout and dark ale fans might be better off then, choosing a home grown ale or stout. I hear that there’s a popular Irish brand out there for example.

Where does all this leave Erdinger Weißbier Dunkel overall? Well I enjoyed it. But that could be because I’ve become used to strong flavours. It had a taste and flavours that were strong, but easy to get used to and ultimately very, very drinkable.

In the bigger picture, I would have to say go for regular Erdinger Weißbier. It’s even easier to drink and a little more interesting, even if it does lack the dimension of taste that Erdinger Weißbier Dunkel has. Unless of course, you love stout. In which case you’ll thoroughly enjoy sampling this. But probably go back to Guinness or Dragon Stout or your favourite dark ale when you realise how expensive this it.

Rating: 4.1

Have you tried Erdinger Weißbier Dunkel? Can you translate anything written on the bottle? What reputation does it have in Germany?

Leave your translations, corrections, opinions, thoughts and recommendations in the small boxes below please.


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