Posts Tagged ‘pilsner’

Beer Review: Starij Melnik Gold

1 April, 2010

BAD news for fans of high-brow British and European ale. I’ve got my hands on another obscure Russian lager. Still, that’s good news for fans of unusual East-European beers. It’s also a chance to re-try something I haven’t had since my gap-year travels when it looked like this…

Old Starij Melnik bottle in Siberia, Russia

From local East-European wonderland, Russkij Bazar, here is a bottle of what I think is called Starij Melnik Gold. Self-evidently priced at £1.65 pence.

Starij Melnik Gold bottle

First impressions are of how different it looks to the one I had in Siberia. If you know the difference between the Gold I have here and the other one I tried, do please leave a message in the comments section at the end of this post.

Second impressions are that they’ve put effort into it. Have a look at these grips. Should your bottle be wet, or your drunkenness highly advanced, it won’t slip from your grasp as easily.

Starij Melnik Gold bottle grips

The side-effect is that the back label small-print has been squished into a crowded neck-label.

Starij Melnik Gold  left neck labelStarij Melnik Gold middle neck labelStarij Melnik Gold right neck label

After pouring over it with an electron microscope, I’ve been able to glean some facts. The ingredients are “water, barley malt, glucose syrup with malt sugar (wheat, maize), hops” and it is “pasturized”. It has an alcoholic volume of 5.2%. And, unhelpfully, it has the web-address of www.monolith-gruppe.eu. Unhelpful because it’s no longer obvious where Starij Melnik Gold comes from. The Italian language section mentions a Moscow based Efes Moscow Brewery, but the word “imported” is proving elusive. Leave a comment if you can shed some light on this mystery.

Starij Melnik Gold front label

Translators, do you thing in the comments section! As labels go, this one is basic. The imitation stamp in the corner says something about tradition. And I’m not entirely sure that the name translation on the label is correct. On the neck label, it translates the name as Starij Melnik Gold. But the first word, I’m nearly fairly sure, it more like “Smarij”, not “Starij”. Translators, what is going on here?

And because that’s all I can translate, it’s the end the boring description bit. What does Starij Melnik Gold taste like? How does it compare to other lagery beers and should you bother buying it? Let’s twist open the bottle top and write some opinionated hyperbole.

In a pint glass, this fridge cooled bottle of Starij Melnik Gold looks much like any other lager. The long neck of the bottle makes it almost impossible to pour without glugging, so you end up with a head that somehow completely fills but doesn’t overflow a pint glass. Now that’s foresight.

The liquid itself is yellow and fizzy. The head is white. Even a few minutes after pouring, it’s still topped by a thick layer of foam. Not bad at all.

Have you ever sniffed a cold glass of any mainstream lager? Then you’ll know what to expect from the smell. An unremarkable blend of malted barley.

What does Starij Melnik Gold taste like? Two easy gulps in prove it to be a perfectly acceptable pilsner style lager. First impressions are that it’s going to be unremarkable, but hard to fault.

At least at fridge temperature, there’s no flavour and virtually no taste whatsoever. Taking a few more gulps to investigate, reveals only the most delicate of lagery tastes. In a very smooth introduction, your tongue will barely notice the savoury, bittersweet finish. I’m struggling to taste anything at all here.

What am I enjoying about Starij Melnik Gold? It is ridiculously easy to drink. There is nothing to deter even the most timid drinker. It’s very clean and refreshing. That means it would probably go well with a hot curry. Just make sure your Starij Melnik Gold is well chilled.

What aren’t I enjoying about Starij Melnik Gold? In the taste department, it’s in the same league as Tesco Value Lager. Even most mainstream lagers manage a hint of hoppiness or a taste of malted barley. This has almost no identifiable taste. The lightness and drinkability come at the cost of making it watery. The quibbles are that the labels aren’t at all clear, it’s expensive and a little gassy.

How can I sum up Starij Melnik Gold? If you want a bottle of water but only have this, then don’t worry. Starij Melnik Gold will do fine. It’ll also go down well with spicy food. If you actually want to taste something however, then buy almost anything else.

Rating: 2.7

Have you tried Starij Melnik Gold? What did you think? Can you translate anything or resolve the mystery surrounding this bottle? Then leave a comment below. Every one of which I read and will bear in mind next time I buy a bottle of Russian beer.

Beer Review: Pilsner Urquell

19 May, 2009

YOU are reading my most suicidal post to date. Regular readers will know that I’m not shy about giving uninformed opinions. This upsets some people. So much so, that they feel compelled to leave a multitude of obscenities in the comments section. Duvel Golden Ale and Budvar Czech Lager got so bad that the posts themselves escaped, never to be read and abused again.

With this in mind, diplomacy and tactful genius helped me get away with a Guinness post. Sadly, that Irish luck is about to run out. You see, every angry lager enthusiast, in their passionate critique of my intelligence and taste, would mention something called “Urquell”. So when I found this bottle of Pilsner Urquell at the ExCel exhibition centre in East London’s Docklands, I couldn’t resist the challenge. Would I love it as much as the angry mob? What would happen if I didn’t? I had to find out.

Pilsner Urquell bottle

So. What can I say about the way it looks? Bearing in mind the angry mob reading this, I’ll say it looks magnificent and noble. And that’s not much of an overstatement. The green bottle and classy labelling make it look better than most.

Pilsner Urquell neck label

The neck label, again, does exactly what you want it to do. It tells you a little bit about what’s inside the bottle, so you get an idea before you buy it if you’ll like it. The shield looks intriguing. No idea what all the characters and symbols mean, but no doubt an Urquell fanatic will answer that question in the comments at the end of this post.

The best things about what it says are where it came from and the date. 1842 is a reassuringly long time ago. The words “Imported” and “Brewed in Plzeň Czech” are, as ever, incredibly welcome. The world does not need more licensed beers pretending to be genuine. What’s more, even I can tell that Plzeň bares an eerie resemblance to “Pilsner”. As Pilsner style lagers go, this is genesis.

Pilsner Urquell front label

The front label is similarly elegant and concise. There’s an attractive red seal saying…  something. And it is proudly “The Original Pilsner”.

Pilsner Urquell back label

Over on the back label, and this imported version takes the mysterious approach of having tiny lettering on a big label. That aside, it has an excellently informative description of what the beer will be like.

They describe it as having “a uniquely rewarding taste, intensely hoppy, with a balance of subtle sweetness & velvety bitterness, wrapped in a gloriously crisp body”. Even for someone like me who is not that keen on lager, it sounds appetising.

Under that is the start of the small-print. The full name of the brewer, Plzeňeskŷ Prazdroj, a.s. is on there. The Surrey based Miller Brands imported address is on there. As are the brief list of ingredients which are water, barley, malt and hops.

Under that are the much easier to read vital statistics. This 330ml bottle has a 4.4% alcoholic volume. Which, isn’t that strong frankly. Presumably that has no bearing on the taste, because they label also says “Discover how beer is meant to taste at www.pilsnerurquell.com”.

If you haven’t been to their website, then do so. Positioning themselves as the Bang & Olufsen of beer, their website is all about perfection. Keen not to poke the angry mob reading this review, I studied the pouring instructions carefully.

With a chilled bottle, a rinsed glass and lots of tension, I went for the pour and produced this:

Pilsner Urquell poured into a glass

Okay, I didn’t get the second part of the pour right. I beg for forgiveness from the angry Urquell fans out there.

First impression? Like they mentioned on the website, and like some of the classier lagers, it doesn’t have that cheap, pale yellow hue. I’m going to describe it as copper coloured and delicious looking. It really is quite unlike the big name lager I detest so much.

How does it smell? Unusually for a lager, the smell was one of the first things I noticed about Pilsner Urquell. It is an order of magnitude more pungent than most lagers. Yet it manages not to smell synthetic and horrible. Impressive.

Sniffing closer reveals more unexpected odours. Virtually every lager I’ve smelt has had that familiar malted barley smell. This kind of has a rich and nice variation on that, but topped off with a smell of hops. Lots of lagers boast of hoppiness but fail to deliver, so I’ve stopped believing them. Pilsner Urquell honestly smells more like the mouth watering ales that I love so dearly.

This is the big one. What does it taste like and can it match the stratospheric expectations? The first sip is a very pleasant one indeed. Usually at this point, I say “it’s a lager so it has no flavour”. Not this time. The website describes it as honey, nutty and malty. I can’t disagree. It has a mild flavour of all those things.

Then the aftertaste comes into play. This is what Pilsner Urquell is all about. The gentle hoppy aftertaste dominates the taste. Not least because of how long it lingers. The most remarkable thing about it is that it’s bitter, but not too bitter. I’ll describe it as bittersweet.

What am I genuinely enjoying about Pilsner Urquell? A lot of things. I like how much better it is than nearly every other lager I’ve endured. It receives massive kudos from me for having something called flavour, which the brewers of most lagers have forgotten about. The experience is more like drinking an ale. Which is good if you enjoy ale type beers. There’s no horribly bitter “bite” to the aftertaste. The quality of the brew and ingredients are plain to see with no unpleasant artificial smell or taste to be found. Compare it to a Polish “Mocne” or UK super-strength lager for an entertaining contrast. All of which help make it clean, crisp and refreshing. All qualities a Pilsner style lager should aim for. And together, make Pilsner Urquell a tasty and easy beer to drink.

What don’t I like about Pilsner Urquell? It would be easier to submit to the furious mob and simply say “nothing”. But that would loose the integrity you came to this site for. So, here goes. As outstanding as it as, as one of the pinnacles of lager kind, it is a compromise. If you want intense and interesting flavour, have an ale type of beer. If you want a fizzy, easy to drink brew, then choose a regular lager. Pilsner Urquell sits in a throne, on a pedestal, on a fence.

If you’re still reading and haven’t wrathfully scrolled down to the comments to dispense your disgust, allow me to sum up. Pilsner Urquell, the genesis of Pilsner style lager and favourite of many an angry, and level-headed commentor, deserves its reputation. It is unique. It is the original. And it is an outstanding drink. But will I buy it again? If neither ale nor a regular lager is the right choice, Pilsner Urquell will be perfect.

Have you tried Pilsner Urquell? What did you think of it?

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

If you take your beer so seriously that you insist on leaving angry comments on the blogs of people who disagree with you, then cheer up.

Beer Review: Club Colombia Premium Extra Fina

25 January, 2009

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

Club Colombia Premium Extra Fina bottle

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

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

Club Colombia Premium Extra Fina bottle top

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

Club Colombia Premium Extra Fina front of neck label

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

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

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

Club Colombia Premium Extra Fina back of neck label

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

Club Colombia Premium Extra Fina back label

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

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

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

Club Colombia Premium Extra Fina front label

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

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

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

Club Colombia Premium Extra Fina poured into a glass

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 2.8

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

Beer Review: Perła Chmielowa Premium Pils Beer

25 September, 2008

AFTER yesterday’s ghastly Kosovan Birra Peja Pilsner, it’s back to the relative safety of a Polish beer. This one appears to be called Perła Chmielowa Premium Pils Beer. You don’t find it very easily. Unlike the big-name beers from Poland, I could only find this one in a Polish shop up in Wealdstone.

It doesn’t look at all bad. It’s the combination of green coloured labels and green bottle glass. It does it every time.

The neck label doesn’t tell us much though.

All it has is the logo and some hop imagery. The logo looks like a shield with an animal, possibly a goat, either tending to, or fighting some hops. I’m as baffled as you are.

The main front label is an oddly shaped roundel. But that doesn’t stop it from looking good and doing a nice job.

Perła Chmielowa Premium Pils Beer front label

The top border says “Since 1846″. Which makes it one of the oldest Polish brewers out there. It has some smaller words hugging the inside of the border too. These ones say “Traditional Recipe”, “Best Quality” and “Excellent Taste”. All the usual marketing drivel, but it tells us that this bottle is aimed at people who read English.

Under the big “PERŁA” banner is another word. What does “Chmielowa” mean? It looks like it’s part of the beer name, which is why I’ve titled this review “Perła Chmielowa Premium Pils Beer“. But I could easily be wrong. What you can’t mistake, however, is the little description around the bottom border. This one simply describes it as “Premium Pils Beer”.

As well as straightforward little descriptions, it also has something to say about where it’s come from. Which, as a clueless outsides, I love to read. This one says “Brewed and Bottled by Perła – Browary Lubelskie S.A.”. That’s a welcome sight because it doesn’t ring a bell. Nearly every other Polish beer I’ve tried has had printed somewhere on it a big-name like Żywiec or Tyskie.

Another welcome sight is the upfront vital statistics. No need to peer around onto the back label with this bottle. That’s because it’s 500 ml size and strong, 6% alcoholic volume are right there for you to see. All in all, it’s a good piece of design.

It’s a similar story on the back label as well. And we don’t even have to struggle with the Polish language. It’s all there in English. Which begs the question, why isn’t it more widely available in this country?

Perła Chmielowa Premium Pils Beer back label

The top of the label has what look like medals. But they’re too small to read what they’re for.

Then the description starts. And this is a particularly interesting one about hops. That’s interesting because you normally only find this sort of thing on bottles of English ale. This one informs us that this Perła Chmielowa has acquired it’s “excellent taste and distinctive aroma” to the local Lublin hops. Never having seen that name on any other bottle, I’m intrigued to discover what this one is going to taste like. Not to mention amazed that I’m evening thinking that about a Polish beer.

Next down the label is the full technical description. They describe it as “Full Light Beer”. Whatever that means. Also that it’s “Pasteurised”. They then go even further by letting us know that it contains E-300. Blimey, that’s a lot of detail. Sadly, it means it’s not going to be a wholly natural experience. Not with that great big ‘E’ number.

The ingredients they mention include water, barley, malt and hops. No surprise there. They also recommend that you keep it in a cool and dark place.

There’s a full address on there, in case you want to write them a letter or visit them. They really do come from Lublin. The web address they provide is www.perla.pl. It’s nice enough, but yet another Flashy website that looks more like a television commercial than a website. One interesting thing I did see on the website, amoung the dodgy translations, was that Perła Chmielowa seems to mean “Hop Perl”. Is that right? Polish readers, as usual do please leave a comment at the end of this post with your translations, pronunciations and thoughts about what reputation this has in Poland.

Under all of that is the name of the importer. In this case, it’s BDD Limited from North-West London. For the curious, the website they have on the label is at www.bdd.net. An imported whom, according to their website, is the biggest supplier of Polish beers in the UK. It appears I’ve them to thank for the Polish beers I’ve been enjoying and hating over the last few months.

The big question is, will Perła Chmielowa Premium Pils Beer be the best Polish beer I’ve tried so far? All it needs to be is above average to claim that title. Time to open the bottle and find out.

Watch out for the froth. Perła Chmielowa needs you to put the brakes on toward the end of the pour. There’s still a fair bit still in the bottle. After a couple of minutes, the huge head and settled into an undulating layer of froth, sitting on top of a dark amber. It’s surprisingly dark amber in colour. Most pilsner lagers a quite a lot paler.

They talk about the hops on the label, so lets see how it smells. For a pilsner, it smells good. Quite rich and malty. I can’t make out much hoppiness though. And in the time it took me to write this much further, the head has shrivelled into a thin layer.

How does it taste? First impressions are not bad, but not stunning either. There’s no flavour of course, it’s a pilsner lager. But it does have a full aftertaste. I’ve had a few gulps now, trying to figure it out, and it doesn’t seem to have that lagery “bite”. It has a bit of tanginess, but not the same sort of sharp “bite” as other pilsner lagers. The aftertaste with Perła Chmielowa walks into your mouth calmly. It tastes a little of malted barley, and yes, even I can make out the taste of those Lublin hops. It lingers for a while, and isn’t at all strong, rough or unpleasant.

What is there to like about Perła Chmielowa Premium Pils Beer? I’m rather enjoying this one. Presumably it’s those Lublin hops that are doing the trick. The taste is so much more distinctive and interesting than the dross I’ve been enduring recently. It’s well made. It’s potent stuff at 6%. It’s easy to drink for all but the most bitter averse. I’ve also hardly burped at all, which means it’s not gassy. It’s rich tasting, and smooth drinking. This could be one of the best pilsner style beers I’ve tried.

Are there any downsides? Yes there are. It doesn’t really have much flavour, even though the taste of the hops does it’s best at compensating. One of the reasons that it’s so light and drinkable, is that it’s on the watery side. That means you don’t always feel like you’ve just taken a gulp, when you just have. The pilsner style won’t be to everyone’s taste either. I get the feeling that it wants to be an ale. If the boffins at Perła could come up with a bottle conditioned ale using their Lublin hops, the results could be outstanding. Sadly, we’ll never know as long as they limit themselves to the pilsner style.

To sum up, Perła Chmielowa Premium Pils Beer is one of the best Polish beers I’ve tried. In fact it could be the best. It’s also one of the best lagers I’ve tried. If you can find it and you like lagers, this is one to try. It’s also worth a go for people like me who don’t normally go for pilsner style beers.  It deserves to take the place of the inferior big-name Polish beers that occupy shop and supermarket shelves across Britain.

Rating: 3.65

Have you tried Perła Chmielowa Premium Pils Beer? What did you think of it? Can you offer up and translations, pronunciations, explanations, opinions, requests or recommendations? Then do please leave a message here!

Thanks for reading and check back here soon for another bottle of Polish beer.

Beer Review: Birra Peja Pilsner

24 September, 2008

ANOTHER bottle of beer from another part of the world. When I spotted this in a local shop for just over £1, I had to try it. This is Birra Peja Pilsner.

There’s not much to say about the little brown bottle. The labels don’t make it much of a product to look at either. I think it looks a little like Holsten Pils. You can just tell that this is going to come from somewhere a little unusual. But where?

Birra Peja Pilsner neck label

The neck label certainly doesn’t tell us. It sticks to the basics of the logos plus an established date of 1971. Not exactly brimming with heritage, is it?

Birra Peja Pilsner front label

The big roundel that is the front label is where to look for the answers. It has a logo that looks like a shield. The picture on it is hard to make out though. Is that a bridge spanning two mountains?

The top border, I think, says something about being a quality beer. The bottom border of the roundel, then, is the place to divert your eyes. That’s because it says “Kosova’s Finest Beer”. That’s right, this beer is apparently from Kosova. That’s one more country to tick off the list, as this will be not only my first beer from Kosova, but from the Balkans.

To check that Kosova it is indeed located where I think it is, I begin Googling. Watching the news over the past few years tells me that the Balkan politics makes the Middle-East seem as simple as breathing. First port of call was a Wikipedia entry at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kosova. A page that tells us that that “Kosova” is the Albanian name for “Kosovo”. The same place that in February 2008 declared itself independent, but which only some other countries recognise. What with the pushing and shoving from the Serbian people and their Russian friends, it’s a miracle this bottle escaped to London at all.

As is the way with many of these imported bottles, this one has a little white sticker. And here it is.

The unusual thing is, this one wasn’t imported by a British firm. It was imported by a German one. This bottle therefore comes courtesy of Kelmendi Import & Export, Ratingen-Homberg, Deutschland.

Fortunately, we still have a proper back label to entertain ourselves with. And what’s more, some of it is written in English.

Birra Peja Pilsner back label

Usually, brewers like to write something on the back label that describes the beer. Something that sums up the quality or the history. Or, at very least, some hokum dreamt up by people who practice something called marketing. In the case of Birra Peja Pilsner, we get none of those things. Instead, we have the terse, technical and unglamorous term “Pasteurized beer”.

The next detail tells us that this was brewed and bottled by “Birra Peja”. Who come from Pejë. Which is presumably a place within Kosovo, or Kosovë as they spell it.

Next up is the list of ingredients. This one mentions water, barley malt and hops.

Under that is this bottle’s vital statistics. As you’ve probably guessed, this is the regular 0.33L bottle. The alcoholic volume is a surprisingly low 4%. That’s surprising because the Polish like their considerably stronger. It appears as if people from the Balkans, or at very least Albanians like their beer to be less anti-social. The other little detail on there is that this has an “Extract 11.0%”. Whatever that means.

Lastly, tucked away at the very bottom of the label is the web address. The one this one has printed on it, is www.birrapeja.com. I’ve just had a quick look, and like nearly every other, it’s Flash dominated. That said, it’s the least flashy Flash driven site I’ve seen for a while. If you’re after the facts and answers quickly, it’s a surprisingly effective place to start.

Time to crack open this bottle and answer some questions. This time, those questions are what will it taste like? And… as this is the first beer I’ve tried from Kosovo or the Balkans, that’s about it really. I’m fascinated to find out.

If you like to pour your beer into a glass, watch out. This one comes with a big head. And, unlike lots of others, this one doesn’t die down in a hurry. A few moments later now, and it’s a big, undulating layer of froth. The beer itself is a very lager looking pale yellow colour. Things aren’t looking good.

Fortunately, it smells a bit better. Yes it has that familiar, lagery smell of malted barley. Somehow though, Birra Peja Pilsner succeeds in smelling warm, rich and malty. All of which is making the taste a mystery. What will it taste like?

A couple of gulps in, and I’m enjoying how Birra Peja Pilsner tastes. Being a pilsner style lager, it doesn’t have much flavour. What it does have is a light, malted barley aftertaste. The familiar, lagery “bite” is very light and subtle. The whole bitter aftertaste experience rolls in, passes by and leaves your mouth with a lingering, tangy bitterness. It’s also a different experience to many other bottles, which scores it points for distinctiveness and character.

What is there to like about Birra Peja Pilsner? A bit more than with many lagers. I like the light, malted barley taste. I think the “bite” isn’t as strong and off-putting as with some lagers. I also think the aftertaste is nowhere near as revolting as many other lagers are. All of which makes Birra Peja Pilsner rather drinkable.

Nearing the end of the bottle now, and there are some things about Birra Peja Pilsner that are putting me off. For one thing, that insane head could be a problem if you like to drink your beer from the glass. It’s quite a gassy beer. Although both of those things could be because of a bumpy ride from Peja, Kosovo to London. Because it’s a lager, it has no real flavour. The aftertaste, which seemed terrific at first is starting to annoy me. It’s lingering badly now and not in a pleasant way. That’s something stopping it from being clean and refreshing, which a good pilsner lager should aim for.

It’s a mixed result for Birra Peja Pilsner. It tasted great at first, but by the end of the bottle, it tasted foul. If I visit Kosovo, which some day, I hope to do, I’ll happily drink Birra Peja Pilsner. If you’re curious to try bottles of lager from unusual places, then Birra Peja Pilsner is one to try. Lager aficionados will probably get a kick from it too. Personally, I won’t be buying up any more bottles of the stuff.

Rating: 2.15

Have you tried Birra Peja Pilsner? Are you from Kosovo? What reputation does it have there and can you offer up any translations?

Do please leave your corrections, opinions, thoughts, requests and recommendations here.

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: 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: Praga Czech Premium Lager

10 May, 2008

THE last Chech beer I tried was Ostravar. And I didn’t think much of it. It was good, but nothing special. So it’s with low expectations that I move on to Praga.

Praga Czech Premium Lager bottle

This 500 millilitre bottle was cheaply purchased from my local corner shop.

The neck label has the word “Pilsner” on it, which is a good start.

Praga Czech Premium Lager neck label

But all the labels are among the worst I’ve seen.

Praga Czech Premium Lager front label

That plain white background. It looks terrible. Not so much “Premium”. More “Economy” and “Cheap”. Remembering the saying that “It’s what’s inside that counts”, we shall press on. It could be a pleasant surprise, right?

The label does have an “Est” date of “1363″. In the corner, it mentions a volume of 5%, which is respectable. And at the very bottom, it tells us that this is a “Product of the Czech Republic”. And that means that this is an imported beer. Which works to its favour.

Over on the back label, and things don’t get much better.

Praga Czech Premium Lager back label

Giving it the benefit of the doubt, let’s read on.

Grabbing your attention is a red bar running across the middle of the label. And that bar features the text “The Award Winning Bohemian Pilsner”. This is award winning? Seriously? Maybe it’s worth giving a chance to after all.

The label continues by informing us that Bohemia is the origin of Pilsner. And that it is world renowned for the quality of its beer. And that comes as something of a shock. I didn’t even know that Bohemia was a place.

It continues by saying that Praga is an outstanding example of premium lager from the Bohemia region. So outstanding in fact, that it was voted number one 5% Pilsner at the Czech Brewing Industry Awards in both 1997 and 1999. Mind you, with only the likes of Ostravar to compete with, that couldn’t have been a particularly big mountain to climb.

There’s also a brief sentence informing us of the origin of Praga. Apparently, this comes from the Hostan brewery. And that it’s heritage dates back to 1363. A very long time indeed.

The ingredients list includes barley, malt and hops. Lastly, the producer is listed as a “Starobrno” from Brno in the Czech Republic.

It’s a hot evening here in London, so I need a refreshing beer. Time to see if Praga does the job.

In the glass, Praga has a decent, foamy head. And a deep, amber colour. Good start.

Praga Czech Premium Lager poured into glass

The smell is stronger than I was expecting. It’s of malted barley and hops – no surprise there. But at least it’s strong enough to identify. And not bad if you happen to like the smell of beer.

A couple of gulps in, and I must admit, Praga isn’t as bad I had been expecting. It has a pronounced, lingering bitter taste. Certainly more of a taste than I’d been expecting. Praga is also smooth. And sufficiently refreshing to cool me down on this unseasonably muggy day. And that’s something that makes it easy to drink.

So refreshing is it, that I’m practically ignoring the downsides to Praga. Which are that it’s a gassy old drink. And that there’s not much else to the taste apart from some bitterness. Apart from the bitterness, you can just about make out the malted barley, but this isn’t what you’d call full-flavoured. Not by a long way. And it gets worse. If, like me, you’re not keen on drinks that are mostly bitter, there’s not a lot here to like about Praga.

Praga then, is refreshing, especially if chilled. It’s also drinkable and has more of a bitter taste than you might expect. On the other hand, it’s more bitter than I like, and pretty dull and watery.

Would I recommend it? Yes, if you want a refreshing pilsner lager after a day spent sweating your own weight in liquid. No, if you want flavours so full that they burst over the top of the bottle. Or if you don’t like bitter flavours.

Rating: 3.6

Have you tried Praga? What did you think?
Corrections, disagreements, ideas, suggestions and opinions to be left in the usual place.

Beer Review: Efes Pilsener

10 April, 2008

ANOTHER bottle that doesn’t have a lot to say is that of Efes Pilsener. This one was purchased from my local off-license, but I recently saw Tesco selling this too.

Efes Pilsener bottle

Aside from the little label around the neck, there’s nothing printed on this 33 centilitre bottle at all. Only the name Efes embossed on to the glass. That, and the tall shape give Efes a distinctive look. And I happen to think that it looks stylish. It reminds me of that other stylish bottled beer; Viru Premium.

The small label on this bottle, doesn’t ruin the enigma of this beer, either. There’s very little detail on it. That’s because what you normally call the front label and back label on any other bottle are both shrunk down to fit on the small label around the neck.

Efes Pilsener front of neck label

The ‘front’ has a clean, Continental look to it. The text isn’t very Germanic in style, so it must be from elsewhere in Europe. I wander where? Let’s read on and try to find out…

Around on what would normally be the back label, most of our questions are answered. There’s a web address for www.dreaminefes.com. Clear and prominent mentions of it’s 5% alcoholic volume and the 33 centilitre size. The small print tells us that the ingredients are water, malted barley, rice and hops. Rice? This is the first time that I’ve seen rice on the ingredients list of any beer.

Efes Pilsener back of neck label

Oh look. There’s an address on there too. Maybe that will answer the question of where in Europe that Efes originates. My bet would be that this comes from somewhere in the Baltic. Let’s find out…

“Brewed and Bottled by: Anadolu Efes Brewery” the label starts. And continues with “Bahçelievler, Istanbul, Turkey”. Looks like I was way out on that one. Efes Pilsener is from Turkey. And that makes this, the first Turkish beer that I’ve tried. Is anyone else surprised to discover that Efes is Turkish?

With that out of the way, we can get going with the all-important taste testing. Since I usually love any beer with the word “Pilsener” mentioned on it, my hopes are high. Time to open the bottle…

Poured into a glass, and Efes Pilsener has a good, yet controllable head. It looks very bubbly and is light gold in colour. It also has a very light malted-barley and hops smell. But you need to sniff hard to detect it. I’m starting to fear that this will be another lagery disappointment.

Efes Pilsener in a glass

Fortunately, my fear are unfounded. A couple of gulps confirms that this is indeed, a pilsener beer. The taste is of malted-barley with a faint aftertaste of hops. And the character is light, crisp and refreshing. There’s a lot to like here. It’s also easy to drink. And inoffensive in almost every way.

On the downside, it is one of the more gassy beers I’ve tried. And, unlike the ales that I’ve grown to love, you won’t be finding complex aromas and flavours. I’m also not entirely sure that Efes Pilsener is all that different to other pilsener beers. But I haven’t tried enough lately to be sure of that.

To sum on then. Efes Pilsener is good, decent middle-of-the-road beer. Not as full flavoured as ale or stout. Nor as crappy as lager. Like most pilseners, Efes epitomises was good beer, in the broad sense of the word, is all about. It tastes quite good. But this one lacks the special quality to separate it from the crowd. A notch above average, but not by very far. Worth a try however, if you want to tell people that you’ve had a Turkish beer.

Rating: 2.99

Have you tried Efes Pilsener? Or any other Efes or Turkish beers? What did you think?
Comments, ideas, suggestions and insults in the comment box below please.


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