Posts Tagged ‘Netherlands’

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.

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Beer Review: Grolsch Premium Weizen Wheat Beer

22 May, 2009

WHEN I go exploring London, I like to pop into a local shop. Usually an Eastern European or Caribbean store, where I buy one or two new beers from someone who can serve change and bag my bottles whilst typing a text message. This time, in the East End’s Docklands, the local shop closest to hand was Crossharbour ASDA. Expecting maybe two or three unfamiliar bottles, what I found was astonishing. First of all, Crossharbour ASDA is the size of a medium sized village. Second, their beer aisle was the length of a runway. Making a mental note to come back as soon as possible, I faced a new challenge. Where to start?

With limited funds and only a small back-pack to carry them in, I started with the three bottles that I figured would be hardest to find elsewhere. And those which I would enjoy the most. So, here is the first of the three cloudiest, wheatiest, European bottled beers I could carry out of Crossharbour ASDA. Here is Grolsch Premium Weizen Wheat Beer.

Why starts with cloudy wheat beers? Simple. They are the best. And by best, I mean my personal favourites. Hoegaarden White Beer addicted me to them and Erdinger Weißbier, among others, have kept me hooked ever since. And, judging by the comments from other people who agree with those posts, I’m part of a big club of other intelligent and handsome people. If you’re not, then you have our sympathies.

Back to the Grolsch Premium Weizen Wheat Beer, and here is what it looks like.

Grolsch Weizen bottle

The only Grolsch you can find here in the UK is their Premium Lager. The one with the swing-top that tastes okay but not special. Presumably, in the Netherlands, they have a whole range of beers, of which this and that are only two. And Weizen is not the big volume export one. Not very shouty looking, and that’s good.

Grolsch Weizen neck label

The neck label is all about celebrating an award they won. Specifically, Weizen won “World’s Best Wheat Beer 2007” at the “World Beer Awards”. And that is a big, prestigious award. That is a genuine achievement on the part of Grolsch. It also brings expectations for Weizen right up.

Furthermore, it is “Brewed according to the German Reinheitsgebot”. I didn’t know what it meant either, until finding a Wikipedia entry at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reinheitsgebot. Apparently, it has something to do with obsolete purity laws. Readers, if you have a strong opinion on this, feel free to vent it in the comments at the end of this post.

Grolsch Weizen front label

The front label is a roundel picture of European restraint. The borders have the words “Royal Grolsch Holland” and “Natuurlijk Gerijpt Bier”. Inside the roundel are nothing but the simple imagery and bare minimum of text that you can read in the photograph. Still, it would be nice to at least have the alcoholic volume printed on it.

Grolsch Weizen back label

The back label is a narrow strip with only the most important details on it. No stories about ancient traditions or monasteries, sadly. The English language ingredients list includes “water, malted wheat, malted barley, yeast & hops”.

Further down, they advise you to “Store upright, cool & dark”. Only on live wheat beers will you read that sort of thing.

Further down again are this beers vital statistics. The bottle size is, unsurprisingly, 500ML. And the alcoholic volume is a slightly above average 5.3%.

Besides those small facts, that is it. There is nothing else to read on what is promising to be a delicious bottle of beer. But just how delicious is it? What will it taste of? Let’s find out…

Grolsch Weizen poured into a glass

First of all, the glass. I don’t own the right sort. Until I do, this one will have to do.

If you’ve enjoyed yummy wheat beer before, you’ll know to expect a gigantic head. If not, then be prepared or you’ll end up with a table covered in foam. Other than that, look how cloudy it is! What a refreshing change to the usual pale yellow water that calls itself beer.

And the smell is even better. Strong too. It is, in fact, the first thing that struck me as soon as the top popped off. How can I describe it? It is the closest to the smell of Hoegaarden White Beer I’ve smelt so far. It smells rich, malty, citric and fruity. The blend of odours is gorgeous. It puts Grolsch Weizen into the small group of beers that I would happily use as air fresheners around the home.

What does Grolsch Premium Weizen Wheat Beer taste of? The first couple of sips are outstanding. This is indeed turning out to be an exceptional beer. The flavour is malty and wheaty. Smooth, rich and full-bodied, the way you hope it would be. That taste then effortlessly turns into the aftertaste.

The aftertaste is like a bigger lump of the initial flavour. Delivered in a more intense, but not unpleasant lump of taste that lingers for a while afterwards. A few more sips, and you realise that it is more complex than you first thought. You start to notice all sorts of traces of arable crops and fruits you didn’t notice at first.

More than half-way through already, so what am I enjoying about Grolsch Premium Weizen Wheat Beer? I like the smell, the taste and experience that you get with this kind of wheat beer. I love it partly because it’s not mainstream. You feel like you want to keep it a secret from the dimwits who only drink big name lager.

I like how it didn’t disappoint, even with expectations as high as Everest. If you came to Grolsch Weizen wanting a tasty wheat beer, it will deliver. I like the complexity in the flavours and taste, even if you don’t notice them at the start. Besides those things, it is immensely well made, tasty, refreshing, original tasting, clean, crisp and very, very drinkable.

What don’t I like about Grolsch Premium Weizen Wheat Beer? There are one or two issues. For a start, that taste isn’t quite as well balanced, roundel or colourful as, say, Hoegaarden White Beer. It’s not far off, but the lumpy aftertaste could be sanded down to make it a little easier to drink. Mind you, you do quickly get used to it. Besides that, Grolsch Weizen, at £1.50 pence, is expensive and hard to find. If it were on more shop shelves, it would have a big following by now.

How can I sum up Grolsch Premium Weizen Wheat Beer? Admittedly, I’ve not had many wheat beers to compare it to. And I’ve had even fewer live, cloudy wheat beers. Grolsch Weizen sits between Erdinger Weißbier and the sublime Hoegaarden White Beer in my humble estimation. Whether you are an aficionado or casual beer fan, I think you will be highly impressed with Grolsch Premium Weizen Wheat Beer. This is one of the very best.

Rating: 4.4

Have you tried Grolsch Premium Weizen Wheat Beer? What did you think of it?

Do please leave your translations, corrections, opinions, requests, recommendations and places to buy here in the comments. And yes, I do read every single comment. Even the abusive ones.

Beer Review: Amstel Bier Lager

5 September, 2008

HOW do you follow up two, fine bottled ales? With some big name lager of course! Here is a small bottle of Amstel Bier Lager. Let’s get this over with.

Amstel is a name I remember being aware of for years. Then not seeing for years. And just recently seeing advertised on posters again before finding this bottle being sold in a local shop. If it really has been resurrected here in Britain, then that is good to see. If anyone can shed some light on what happened to Amstel, do please leave a comment at the end of the post.

In fairness, it doesn’t look at all bad. It certainly makes a change from all the green-glass bottles from its competitors.

The neck label doe what you expect of a neck label. It has a coat of arms featuring two horses, hops and barley. And the year 1870. Not bad. Not great either.

Amstel Bier Lager front label

The big roundel stuck to the front of the bottle does roughly the same thing. Inside the roundel, they helpfully describe it as “Quality Product”. That’s good to know. Around the border, the place of origin becomes the centre of attention. Amstel Bier hails from the “Amstel Brouwerij B.V. Amsterdam Holland”. Time now to check the back to see if this is the real thing, or in fact made over here.

Amstel Bier Lager back label

They certainly keep things simple on this side of the bottle. This should take all of two-minutes to read. Which makes a change from the four hours it took to read everything yesterday.

From the very top, my big question was answered. That’s because this was “brewed and bottled by Amstel Brouwerij B.V. for Heineken (UK) Ltd.” It then goes on to give Heiniken’s south-west London address. So… This was brewed in the Netherlands. Excellent.

Ingredients are the next thing they get to. This one lists water, malted barley and hops. No surprises there. Under some of the usual small print, the web address they give is www.ChilledfromAmsterdam.com. At first I hated their website for being slow and Flash heavy, but stick with it. It’s quirky in a Dutch way and has some personality. Not something you find with most big, continental lagers.

Under the barcode are the vital statistics. This tiny bottle is 330 millilitres. And it has huge 4.1% alcoholic volume. Hang on, ‘huge’ was the wrong word. ‘Moderate’ is the one I’m looking for.

There. That’s it. There’s nothing more to say about the outside. Time now to open this bottle and see what it’s like. How will it compare to the lacklustre competition I tried out a while back?

Watch out pourers, this is a head happy bottle. It dies down soon enough, but you’ll still have a thick layer of froth to contend with.

Like nearly every lager, this one is pale yellow. And fizzy. No surprises there.

What about the smell? It has that small of a blend of malted barley and hops that all lagers have. The Amstel take on it is pretty good. It smells light and fresh somehow.

How does it taste? A couple of gulps in, and first impressions are ok. Just keep your expectations low. It has an almost invisible malted barley flavour. And it leaves you with a lingering bitter aftertaste. That bitter aftertaste rolls in, and leaves a semi-harsh, slightly tangy bite in your mouth.

What is there to like here? As someone who likes ales, not a lot. But if I imagine for a moment, that I loved lager, there are a few things to like. For one, it is very light and drinkable. It’s quite refreshing too. The flavours won’t offend anyone. And that lagery “bite” that lager drinkers seem to adore is there and doing its job perfectly well. The whole drink does what a lager should do, very well indeed.

If you’re guessing that there are things I don’t like, you’d be right. The reason it’s so light and drinkable, is because it’s got the consistency of water. Flavour is almost totally absent. And that bitter “bite” doesn’t sit well with me at all. It’s unsophisticated and unnecessarily rough. It’s also a tiny bit gassy. But then it is a lager. So all this criticisms don’t really apply.

If you compare it to all the other lagers out there, especially the other Dutch or northern-European ones, the picture changes. Amstel Bier suddenly looks light, drinkable and good.

So there you have it. If you like continental lagers, you should try Amstel Bier Lager. It’s a fully competent lager. Compare it to a real ale, and it looks laughable. Compare it to other lagers, and it looks respectable. The rating then, becomes meaningless. But, here it is anyway.

Rating: 2.25

Have you tried Amstel Bier Lager? What did you think of it? What reputation does it have in the Netherlands?

Leave your corrections, opinions, insights, requests and recommendations in the boxes below.

Coming next, another bottled lager I don’t expect to enjoy!


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