Posts Tagged ‘premium’

Beer Review: Taj Mahal Premium Lager Beer

26 April, 2010

A NEW beer turned up in the Brick Lane off-license a few months ago. Taking the spotlight from, but not replacing the colourful, mock-Bengali curry beer, Bangla Premium Beer, is another beer designed to compliment your curry. Costing a national deficit creating £2.95 pence, here is a bottle Taj Mahal Premium Lager Beer.

Taj Mahal Premium Lager Beer bottle

Nowhere near as bright as Bangla, there’s no mistaking the India and curry connection. It might say “Premium” on the label, but it looks economy. Even so, we know better than to judge a beer by its bottle.

Taj Mahal Premium Lager Beer neck label

The neck-label hints at why it really is “Premium”. “Slow brewed in India” is why I hope it’s going to be worth your time.

Taj Mahal Premium Lager Beer front label

It’s called “Taj Mahal” and has a photo of said Indian landmark to prove it. To hammer home the point of this beer, the label background seems to be taken from the wallpaper from a curry-house.

Cosmetics aside, it does say everything you need it to say. It has the word “lager”, so you’ll know where to align your expectations. It’s a big 650ML bottle and the alcoholic volume is 4.5%. Normally I’d be moaning about it not being very high, but this is a curry beer. Trust me, the last thing you want to cool your mouth down with is Robinson’s Old Tom Strong Ale.

Then there’s the few more hints about why I’m hoping that Taj Mahal is going to turn out well. “Slow brewed in India from the finest malt & hops”. First, it’s brewed in India. Not a deceptive pretend-foreign beer like so many others. Second, fine ingredients are always good. There are still a lot of questions though. Let’s see what the back label has to say…

Taj Mahal Premium Lager Beer back label

Quite a lot, apparently. All of which I’d class as small-print. I know you love details so, (takes a deep breath), here goes…

Ingredients are “barley malt, adjuncts, hops for bitterness”. Some hoppiness is good for a lager. But what the heck are “adjuncts”? Leave a comment if you know.

It’s “best served chilled” and you need to “consume within day of opening”. Whether that means it’ll still be good to top-up your hangover with your Pot Noodle breakfast the next morning is unclear.

It is, I’m utterly delighted to report, “Produce of India for export”. It was even “Brewed under license from United Breweries Limited, Bangalore, India by Blossom Industries Ltd., Village Jani Vankad Nani Daman 396 210”.

Also on there are the details of the imported and exporter. The Hertfordshire based importer is SOP International Ltd, with a website at www.sopinternational.com and a homepage at http://www.sopinternational.com/d-chi467-taj-mahal-taj-mahal-premium-lager-beer/. The Indian exporter is UB Global with a website at www.ub-global.com and an interesting beer page at http://www.ub-global.com/beer.html.

And that’s all the small-print. So, what does Taj Mahal Premium Lager Beer taste like? How does it compare to the other curry beers? Not just the against specialists like Bangla, Cobra and Kingfisher, but the ones that get it spot-on by accident, like Grolsch and Holsten Pils. It’s time to find out.

Taj Mahal Premium Lager Beer poured into a glass

This fridge cold bottle poured so easily, not even I made it glug. Much. For those of you, like me, who don’t do Euro measuring, 650 millilitres (the size of this bottle) is more than a Pint glass can hold. As I discovered.

What does Taj Mahal look like? In the glass, it’s predictably Pilsner lager yellow. Very carbonated, yet it only manages a thin, patchy layer of foam. It really is very fizzy. So much so, the fizzing is audible.

What does Taj Mahal smell like? If you’ve ever sniffed a Pilsner lager before, you’ll have a good idea. It has that familiar whiff of malted barley. At this stage, I was hoping to smell at least a some hoppiness. But alas, I can detect none.

What does Taj Mahal taste like? The first two gulps are easy ones. Being a lager, especially one for your curry, you might not expect it to have flavour. And… it doesn’t.

A good curry beer needs to be refreshing, clean and crisp, ideally with a mild, bitterness. And a few gulps in, that seems to be what Taj Mahal is. While it’s cold, it feels refreshing, clean and crisp. But does it have the bitter, hoppy finish? It is slow brewed and even mentions “hops for bitterness” on the label. Apparently, they didn’t add all that many hops. You just can’t taste them. You do get one of the gentlest, mildest bitter finishes of any lager, ever. Will that be enough to soothe your mouth from chilli agony? Only partly, I suspect.

What am I liking about Taj Mahal Premium Lager Beer? While it’s cold, it is supremely easy to drink. Even not beer drinkers will be fine. It is very accessible to the curry munching masses that frequent Brick Lane every evening. If you like your lagers to be clean, crisp and refreshing, Taj Mahal fits the bill nicely. Rather surprisingly, it’s not gassy. And it’s one of the few that comes in bigger-than-a-pint 650ml bottles.

What am I disliking about Taj Mahal? That drinkability and refreshment comes at the expense of watery-ness. It is very light and watery. Normally I like that in a lager. But for something that’s “slow brewed” and so bloody expensive, you expect more than fizzy water. And that leads onto the next issue. The price. I wouldn’t mind so much if it was exclusive ale brewed with myrrh. But it’s a curry beer, to be drunk in vast quantities because your mouth is on fire. With so little in the flavour and taste department, it’s also lacking anything to differentiate it, or to add any charm. And, as it gradually reaches room temperature, which it inevitably will, it loses some of the crisp, refreshing-ness.

How can I sum up Taj Mahal Premium Lager Beer? I would like to try it with a curry because it would probably do rather well. At least while it’s cold, it is crisp and refreshing enough to extinguish the inferno raging in your mouth during a curry.

Compared to my other curry favourites, it’s no failure. But neither does it win. It’s just lacking something in the taste department that the others have. Something hoppy. If you’re having a night out, need a beer for your curry and have the money to spend, Taj Mahal is perfectly fine.

Normally, I like simple, cheap, watery lagers. They’re honest and drinkable, so I rate them highly. Taj Mahal Premium Lager Beer though is slow brewed and expensive. Sure, Taj Mahal is fine, but cheap lagers a third of the price are at least as good. For that, I’m rating it low.

Rating: 2.3

Have you tried Taj Mahal Premium Lager Beer? What did you think of it?

Leave your comments and recommendations down here.

Beer Review: Cusqueña Premium Beer

26 November, 2009

SOUTH AMERICANS are interesting and passionate folk. They make beer, too. But for some reason, the ones I’ve tried so far aren’t good. Or memorable. Brahma Premium Lager, Aguila, even Club Colombia Extra Fine and Corona Extra aren’t bad, just unmemorable. Excellent on holiday to South America, but just don’t work here in cold, rainy, London. That said, I’m an optimist, so maybe this offering from Peru will fare better. From the Bethnal Green Food Center, I’ve finally gotten around to this bottle of Cusqueña Premium Beer.

From a distance, it looks like your typical brown beer bottle. But look closer at the middle. All around the middle is a textured Inca style pattern. It looks good, and it feels good to hold. I don’t know where they got the idea from to do this, but I like it. Why don’t all bottles have unusual surfaces. An added benefit would be that you could tell one beer bottle from another just by touch. Useful in poorly lit nightclubs.

The label is a beg neck-label. The front of which gets my hopes up that this might be the best South American beer yet.

In the background, which doesn’t show up in photographs, there’s a stylised picture of what must be the Andes, with some settlements. Starting from the top, there’s some tiny writing saying that this was brewed by the convolutedly named Union De Cervecerias Peruanas Backus Y Johnston S.A.A. from Lima, Peru.

Under that is a very helpful pronunciation. Apparently it’s not “Cu-kwen-iya” like I thought, but “Cus-Ken-Ya”. Whatever it’s called, it’s “The Gold Of The Incas”. Presumably the only bit that the Conquistadores didn’t take. Incidentally, why can’t we get similar pronunciation help  on Polish beers?

Next, I’ve read enough beer bottle labels to know that “Cerveza Premium” means “Premium Beer”. But, if you know your Spanish and want to correct me, or translate anything, please do so in the comments at the end of the post.

Under the logo is more good news. This is “Imported Beer”. Not a local knock-off. Always a good sign. It’s a “100% Malt Lager”. Something I’m not sure what to read into. And the vital statistics are plain for all to see. This is your worldwide standard 33cl bottle containing a 5% volume beer. You couldn’t make it any more middle of the road.

There isn’t a back label. Rather there’s some small-print either side of the join. And it looks like this. Well not exactly like that. Without a camera, it’s actually quite readable.

On one side is the ‘story’. And strangely for a lager that isn’t European, it makes my mouth water. Admittedly, it’s mostly marketing mumbo-jumbo, but the imagery works for me. The main facts are that Cusqueña goes back to 1911. From the “the foothills of Macchu Picchu, it’s supposed to be “crisp, pure & totally refreshing”. Then they really pique my interest with this: “It is truly the finest premium lager from Latin America”. We’ll see about that.

The ingredients list is on there. No surprises. As is the UK distributor’s details. This came via Chilli Marketing Promotions Limited. They have a telephone number and a website at www.cusquena.co.uk.

A quick look at the website reveals why I’ve seen Cusqueña being promoted where I live, so often. The Vibe Bar on Brick Lane, for example. They’re aiming it squarely at trendy Hox-ditch people. Like me. On the front page, there are a handful of promotional pieces, and literally one is for a place in Shoreditch and the other is for a place in Hoxton.

The rest of the label truly is small-print. This bottle has 1.65 UK units of alcohol. If you bother to keep count of such things.

So, what does Cusqueña Premium Beer taste like? Will it be my new favourite South American beer? Does it deserve a place in the clutched hands of those of us who call Shoreditch our home and playground? There’s only one way to find out. To stop being pretentious and to get to the fun part.

In the glass, my room temperature Cusqueña frothed up nicely. And collapsed almost as quickly. If you’ve ever drank a big-name Pilsner style lager before, you’ll know what it looks like. White head, and yellow, gold liquid.

Will Cusqueña hold any odorous surprises instead? A quick sniff reveals not. It smells exactly like every other unremarkable lager. That is to say, it smells of the familiar blend of malted barley.

So it looks and smells ordinary enough. But what does Cusqueña taste of? A quick swig proves that it tastes much like others as well. But a couple more gulps and it does redeem itself from mediocrity. Okay, I should probably have it chilled, instead of room temperature. Even so, I can tell that it would be clean and crisp if it was colder. As for refreshment, I think it needs to be cold for it to be that. But that’s ok. It’s not bad in those departments, even at the wrong temperature.

It’s a lager. That means it has no flavour. That’s okay too.  Especially with Cusqueña’s aftertaste. A little like Colombia’s Aguila, it is very smooth and drinkable. But unlike Aguila, it’s not too watery. What you get instead is a gently taste of malted barley and a soft and inoffensive bitter finish. At least at room temperature, it has a richer-and-smoother-than-expected malted barley taste. There’s something almost warming about it. I’m not sure what would happen to that when it’s cold.

What am I enjoying about Cusqueña Premium Beer? I like that taste. Usually, your beer would be a darker hue, with a different smell to manage it. So it was a pleasant surprise. Trying a chilled bottle is now on my to-do list. I want to see just how clean, crisp and refreshing it is. My guess is that it would do well. And that’s important, because that’s what a good lager should achieve. I like how smooth and easy to drink it is. Both of which hint at how well made it is and how good the ingredients are. And I like the bottle with the funny, textured middle.

What am I not enjoying about Cusqueña? The last beer I tried was a strong ale. So I’m missing the flavour and quirkiness. Although that’s a bit like comparing an I-MAX cinema to a hot dog. They’re not even attempting to achieve the same things. Comparing it to other lagers then, and Samuel Adams Boston Lager and Pilsner Urquell come out on top. It’s doesn’t have the same class, heritage or distinctive taste.  It’s expensive and not that easy to find, too.

To sum up, Cusqueña Premium Beer is above average, easy to drink and my new favourite South American beer. Possibly even my new favourite Latin World beer. Compared to what most trendy galleries and bars around Shoreditch serve, this competes well.  Good, solid and drinkable if indistinctive.

Rating: 3.75

Have you tried Cusqueña Premium Beer? What did you think of it?
Leave your opinions, recommendations and places to buy, here in the comments.

Beer Review: Crest Super 10% Super Strength Premium Lager

14 April, 2009

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

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

Crest Super front of can

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

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

Crest Super join side of the can

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

Crest Super barcode side of can

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crest Super poured into a glass

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: I’ll leave that up to you.

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

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

Update:

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

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

Beer Review: 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: Castello Premium

19 September, 2008

WHAT can you say about Italian beer? Peroni was a triumph of style over taste and Peroni Nastro Azzurro was boring. It’s difficult to raise expectations then, with this little green bottle of Castello Premium.

It has a neck label. But it says nothing about what the beer will be like. It looks nice enough, but you get the impression that they’re more concerned with brand building than anything else.

It’s much the same with the front label.

Castello Premium front label

To be fair, the colour scheme is good. The big shield and castle illustration give it a good South-European look. And the banner across the top saying “Birra Fruilana” is delightfully baffling. “Birra” must mean “beer”, but can someone translate the other word please? Sadly, the label says nothing about what this beer is actually like.

Being almost entirely in Italian, I couldn’t learn much more from the back label either. Italian translators, if you’ve got a bottle nearby, do please leave your translations in the comments at the end of the post.

Castello Premium back label

The only words I could make out from the Italian language description mentions quality ingredients. My guess would be that the rest of it was equally vague and marketing led.

Under that, in a dense, multi-lingual block of text, is the name of the brewer. Castello Premium is courtesy of Birra Castello S.P.A.. Not being familiar with Italian geography or addresses, I couldn’t make much sense of the address. So I did Googled the names it mentioned for some answers. Apparently, it comes from a street called Enrico Fermi (after the famous scientist), in the municipality of San Giorgio Di Nogaro in the province of Udine in the North-Eastern province of Fruili-Venezia Guilia. Is there any connection between that name as the “Fruilana” on the front of the bottle? And would the hot Italian girl called Guilia I met last year happen to come from the province of Fuili-Venezia Guilia? Answers at the bottom of the post please.

Next up is the list of ingredients. The ones this one mentions are water, barley malt, maize and hops. Few surprises there. Although maize doesn’t always get a mention. Do most beers and lagers have it but fail to mention it? Or is this one a tiny be special for having it as an ingredient? At times like this, I wish I knew more about beer. Shame I’m too lazy to look it up.

The next little detail is the web address. The one they have printed on the label is www.birracastello.it. You’ll probably want their English language website, which is at http://www.birracastello.com/. Parts of it feel rather unfinished and navigation is a pain. This goes into the list of not-so-great brewer websites. Which by now, is very long indeed.

Last two details on the back label are the most important. Which is why they’re also printed in the biggest typeface. The bottle is the ubiquitous 33 centilitre size. Whilst the alcoholic volume surprises no-one by being equally unimaginative at 5%. I’ve got a feeling this is going to be as average as the summer we just had.

What will it taste like? Will it be better than the two Peronis? Let’s find out.

Castello Premium is very easy to pour as it has almost no head. Then, after a moment, the tiny layer it does have almost completely vanishes. I’ve seen ciders with more head on them. The colour is respectable shade of amber. And there is a lot of fizz going on in there.

Does it have a smell? Yes, just about. It smells of a lagery blend of malted barley and the usual beer ingredients. It’s quite weak and smells much the same as the bland, big-name lagers.

What does it taste like? A couple of gulps in, and it tastes like any other competent lager. There is no flavour. That void is then filled by a light, bitter aftertaste. That lagery “bite” isn’t excessively rough. Nor does it roll it strongly or unpleasantly. It just gets on with its job of delivering a zingy “bite” in a light, mild way.

What is there to enjoy about Castello Premium? Again, it depends if you like lagers. If you do, you’ll appreciate the light and drinkable aftertaste. You’ll like the way that you don’t have to think about complex flavours. Even if you don’t particularly like lager, you might like how easy to drink that aftertaste is.

As you’ve probably guessed, Castello Premium won’t be for everyone. People who don’t like lager for instance. There’s no flavour. All you get is a run of the mill lagery bitter aftertaste. It might be a tolerable aftertaste, but you won’t be inspired to buy a case of the stuff. Even if you think it’s quite good, it’s not far removed from equally or cheaper priced and easier to buy rivals.

Castello Premium is a middle of the road lager. As average as you can get. It doesn’t offend. But it won’t inspire you. If I was visiting the region this came from, I’d be more than happy to drink Castello and its sister brews. Although it’s not exactly better than the two Peronis. If you don’t have a thing for Italian beers or European lagers, then look for something better.

Rating: 2.2

Have you tried Castello Premium? What did you think of it? Can you offer up any translations?

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

Beer Review: Keo Premium Beer

8 September, 2008

HAVE you ever tried a Cypriot beer? I haven’t. That’s why this little bottle from Cyprus caught my eye in one of the thousands of international mini-marts in Bethnal Green.

It’s not the most attractive looking bottles on the market. But it looks cheerful enough. Let’s start in the usual place with the neck label.

Usually, when a brewer has won an award, they hide it away. There might be some small medals printed somewhere. Or perhaps a reference to it being ‘award winning’. But I’ve never seen a bottle that puts so much emphasis on one award it won over twenty years ago. Yet that’s exactly what Keo Premium Beer does with its “Golden Award Brew ’87 UK”. It really does take pride of place. Up here on the neck label, we learn that it won the “Gold Medal for Excellence Brewing International Awards”. We also learn that this is “Cold Filtered”. I hope that’s a good thing.

The front label may not be classy. It doesn’t bring centuries of heritage from monastic beginnings. But I do like how cheerful and Cypriot it all is.

Keo Premium Beer front label

For a start, there’s enough Cyrillic text to convince you of its origins. There’s a meaningless crest made out of hops. And the “Golden Award” proves that they are trying ever so hard.

Elsewhere, they describe it as “Cyprus Exclusive Quality Beer”. And in the middle of the roundel, they proudly announce that Keo was “Brewed on the Island of Cyprus”. And that’s good news. It means that it’s imported, and, hopefully, not brewed in Luton or Edinburgh like so many others.

Happily, the back label is half Cyrillic and half English. It doesn’t do much else though. It’s not what you would call over laden with detail.

Keo Premium Beer back label

Most prominent are those vital statistics. The bottle is the standard 33 cl. And the alcoholic volume is a moderate 4.5%.

In the English half of the description, they go with “KEO is an exceptional lager beer, traditionally brewed and matured, bottled fresh and unpasteurized, to retain its natural flavour, aroma and freshness”. Helpful or vague and meaningless? Leave your opinion in the comments at the end of the post. Personally, I’m none the wiser about what to expect. It does sound good though.

For those who really must know, it contains water, malt, maize and hops. There’s no need to worry about those tiresome units of alcohol either. That’s because there are none. At least not any printed on the label. Lastly from the label is that oh-so welcome confirmation of where Keo came from. Not only is it a “product of Cyprus”, but it gives the Cyprus addressed it was brewed in as somewhere called Limassol.

What do I expect from Keo Premium Beer? Not that much. Coming from the European part of the Mediterranean, it’s up against Latin competition from Damm Estrella, Peroni and Peroni Nastro Azzurro. None of which are much good. Sure, they were competent enough. But if you had the choice, you’d choose the wine from those countries instead. Expectations are low then, as I crack open the bottle to discover how it tastes.

The head needs a few small pours before you’ve filled the glass enough to drink. It dies down to a decent layer of froth, but watch out for it when you pour. It doesn’t smell to bad for a lager. Sure, it has the same malted barley blended smell as every other lager. But it get’s the strength and richness right.

How does it taste? Not bad. Lots of the lagers I’ve tried recently have no flavour, then hit you with a rough bitterness. Keo Premium Beer does it differently. It delivers the bitter “bite” almost right from the start all the way through to the lingering aftertaste. It’s leaving a fuzzy tanginess in my mouth. That taste also seems a little more flavourful than most. Maybe it’s the maize? That’s an ingredient I don’t see listed much elsewhere. The taste isn’t particularly strong, but you certainly can’t accuse it of being weak and tasteless. I’m going to describe it as rich but not too strong or harsh.

There are a few things I’m enjoying about Keo Premium Beer. The way it delivers the taste is different to any lager I can remember trying. The Keo take on the familiar lager blend is surprisingly tasty and drinkable. There does seem to be a bit of arable flavour mixed in with the familiar lager “bite”. I’m about two thirds of the way through the bottle now, and it all seems very drinkable and competently put together. For a lager.

What of the downsides? Well, it is gassy. I can tell that from all of the burping. Then there’s the flavour. Yes, I am enjoying it. But it is lingering and strong enough to stop it from being crisp and refreshing. Much more than a couple of bottles, and your mouth will start to feel very unpleasant indeed.

To sum up, Keo Premium Beer is a surprisingly full-flavoured and drinkable lager. I hope Keo make ales. I think they’d be good at it. As it is, this lager does a good, competent job of being drinkable. That said, it is still a lager, so if you want real flavour from a bottle of beer, there is much else to choose from. If you’re on holiday or doing a stint with the Armed Forces in Cyprus, Keo will provide more than acceptable refreshment.

Rating: 2.8

Have you tried Keo Premium Beer? What did you think of it?

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

Beer Review: Brahma Premium Lager

6 September, 2008

THE next big-name bottled lager falls into the Latin-world category. That’s because this stunningly good looking bottle is Brahma, all the way from Brazil.

Being what it is, it’s immediately in competition with the likes of Sol and Corona Extra. It looks a bit like them too. Does anyone know if there’s a reason why beer from South-America all seem to have clear glass and a bright, cheerful look?

Brahma goes a step further. If Cola-Cola bottles look like women, this bottle of Brahma is so curvy, it looks like a woman dancing. This is one curvy, and stylish looking bottle.

Enough salivating over the looks. It’s substance that matters. And this one has all the details in a wrap-around neck label.

Brahama neck label 1Brahama neck label 2Brahama neck label 3

It’s hard to know where to look first. Everything is in a good looking jumble. In the absence of any order, I’ll call out the details as I see them.

“Desde 1888” probably means “Est” or “Since” 1888. So the Brahma name has some history to it. They describe it as “Premium Lager” which puts it firmly in the mainstream. And Brahma seems to come from Rio De Janeiro. Since it has that printed on the label. I must say, this is one of the hardest to read labels out there. The microscopic text printed in various combinations of shiny on matt and vice-versa makes it almost impossible.

Persevering, I can tell you that this is the ever popular 33 centilitre bottle. And that the lager within is a nearly strong 4.8%. It also contains malted barley. But then I discover some disappointing news. Brahma Premium Lager wasn’t imported from Brazil at all. Instead, it was “brewed in the UK to the authentic Brasilian recipe” by brewing giant InBev in Luton. Yes, Luton is Britain’s answer to Rio De Janeiro. It’s where I would have picked, too.

If there is any more information written on the label, I can’t see it. The way this one was printed and designed, there could well be more to read. I just don’t have a magnifying glass to hand. So without further ado, it’s time to crack open this bottle. What will it taste like? And how will it compare to its competitors? Keep your expectations low.

There is absolutely no head. Something that makes pouring it very easy. Not that you’ll want to. At 330 millilitres, it will be a little too much for just a half-pint glass like mine. In the glass, it’s a nice shade of amber. It certainly looks better than the anaemic yellow you find with lots of other lagers.

How does it smell? Does it even have a smell? Yes it does. Just about. You can barely make out the same blend of malted barley and hops that you get with virtually every other lager. It’s ok for a lager I suppose. Just don’t compare it to an ale.

How does it taste? A couple of gulps in, and this is a lot like its South-American competitors. There’s barely any malted barley flavour before that familiar lagery “bite” kicks in. That aftertaste “bite” is about the only thing you’ll notice.

Is there anything to like about Brahma Premium Lager? There is. But only if you like lager. Lager fans will enjoy how light and easy to drink it is. They will also relish that lagery “bite”. It’s also possible that they will like how few different flavours and tastes there are in Brahma. It is smooth though. I’ll give it that.

As you’ve probably guessed, there’s a lot I’m not enjoying here. A lot of which is down to it being a lager. A fact which renders my criticisms unfair. But which I intend to vent nonetheless. To start with, there’s no flavour to speak of. Then there’s the bitter “bite” that is simply too rough.

To sum up, Brahma Premium Lager is a lager. If you like big-name lagers, this is a perfectly good example. By all means, try it. If, however, you like flavour and some level of depth, look elsewhere. If you accidentally pick up a bottle of this instead of Sol or Corona Extra, well, then you probably won’t notice any difference.

Rating: 2.25

Have you tried Brahma Premium Lager? What did you think of it?

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

Beer Review: Obolon Premium

1 September, 2008

IT wasn’t only Russian beer I picked up from west-London, Russian shop, Kalinka. Here’s my first beer from the formerly Soviet Ukraine: Obolon Premium.

The gold labels on the green bottle look good. And embossed on the shoulder is the Obolon name in Cyrillic. The labels even have some English. So everything is looking rather more export worthy than Zhigulovskoye.

The swooping neck label looks good too.

Even if it doesn’t say anything. Really. It doesn’t. Just the name of the beer.

The roundel is a little quirky too.

Obolon Premium front label

For some reason, there’s a small curve protruding from the top-right corner. It looks a bit like a growth or a handle. Unnecessary, but a strangely welcome addition to an otherwise conventional label.

It features a powerful looking crest. It has griffins and everything. The “Obolon” logo looks unusual and Ukrainian, at least in my uninformed opinion. Unusually, they’ve elected to write the size of bottle right in the centre. So you’re there’s little reason to miss the fact that this is a 500 millilitre bottle, or 1 pint, or 0.9 Fl. Oz.

Back around the edges and some sanity returns. Around the top, is that ever so welcome text “Brewed & Bottled By Obolon Brewery, Kiev, Ukraine”. That god it wasn’t brewed in Luton or Edinburgh like so many so-called foreign imports.

Around the bottom border are what look like medals. Just slightly too small for me to read, they look real. Obolon Premium is award winning. Excellent. The alcoholic volume is down there too. This bottle comes in at a slightly above average 5.2%.

Over on the back label, and the interesting facts keep on coming. And in English too.

Obolon Premium back label

Although this was brewed and bottled in Kiev in the Ukraine. It was “specially made for” Gary Magan & Co Ltd London, UK”. What’s going on? Maybe the web address it lists at www.garymagan.co.uk will answer some questions. And it does. It turns out that Gary Magan is a UK imported of Ukrainian drinks. Their page on Obolon is at http://www.garymagan.co.uk/obolon/beer_obolon.htm. But I must warn you, that page will make you want products that you don’t have.

Back to the label, and they describe Obolon Premium as having been made “using classic technology and special recipe”. The ingredients are part of the same sentence. And those ingredients are “select malt, high quality hop, brewer’s yeast and pure spring water”. Top marks for effort. I’ve never seen a label try so hard.

It’s trying so hard, that they even add details you never thought to ask about. Did you know that per 100 grams, this beer has 45 kcal or energy? Or that it’s best kept between 5 and 20 degrees C? Did you care? Me neither, but I’m glad they thought to put all that on there.

As there’s nothing left to read. Or make fun of. It’s time to discover exactly what Obolon Premium is like. As it’s the first Ukrainian beer I’ve tried, it’s going to set the bar for all others to follow. Will it be better than Polish, Czech, Lithuanian and Russian beer? Let’s find out.

Well, it pours easily enough. It comes with a head, but there’s nothing uncontrollable about it. After a few minutes, it settles down into a blotchy layer of cream. Sitting on top of the amber coloured liquid, it all looks quite acceptable.

It smells ok too. Kind of malty and hoppy. I little like that of the better lagers out there.

But how does it taste? A few gulps in and, I’m not enjoying it. It’s bitter. And with a lingering bitter bite that doesn’t let go. The flavour is a little malty in a malted barley lager kind of way. But that diminutive flavour is dwarfed by that brutal aftertaste.

I desperately want to like Obolon Premium. So, there must be something I like here. But what? Well, it is crisp. And somewhat refreshing. But I can see that vanishing after you’ve had a bottle or two. What else is there? It is strong enough. I’m about three-quarters of the way through now, and starting to forget about the horrid aftertaste. I’m also finding it surprisingly easy to drink.

As you’ve probably guessed, Obolon Premium has downsides. Let’s start with that taste. First, there’s little in the way of flavour. Then you get an overwhelming, bitter bite. As usual, the fanatics will leave comments saying that I’m a clueless clod. But to me, that taste is as cheap and nasty as a students diet. Besides that, it’s a little too carbonated and gassy.

So where does all this leave Obolon Premium? It’s a disappointment. Not as easy to drink or interesting as I wanted it to be. You’ve got to pity Ukrainians if this is typical of what’s available there. Compared to competitors from the old Eastern-Block, things don’t look good. Obolon Premium tastes ghastly. But it’s good enough to make me want to try some other Obolon beers. Try it just to tell people you’ve had a Ukrainian beer.

Rating: 2.1

Have you tried Obolon Premium? Or another Obolon or Ukranian beer?

Then leave your corrections, opinions, thoughts, requests and recommendations in the comments boxes below.

Beer Review: Zubr Premium

18 August, 2008

NOT to be confused with the Polish Żubr, this Zubr Premium is Czech. And it appears just when I thought I had tried all the Czech beers. I wander how it will compare to the under-whelming Ostravar, Praga and Budvar or the above-average Staropramen? There’s only one way to find out…

Zubr Premium bottle

First impressions? The shiny silver labels look great. But stuck onto a muddy brown bottle? After yesterday’s marvellously colour-coordinated Harbin Lager, this looks a little on the cheap side.

The small roundel logo on the neck foil is good.

Zubr Premium neck foil

It informs us that this brewery dates back to 1872. Not very far back, but enough to give it some heritage. Then there’s the logo inside the roundel. It looks like a bull in front of a castle. Am I seeing things? What is it supposed to be?

As for the three words around the border of the roundel, two of them are close enough to English to understand. And those words must be “Traditional Czech”. But what of the third word? If you know what “Kvalita” means, do please leave a comment at the end of this post.

The front label is sharp, shiny and good looking.

Zubr Premium front label

Simply a big version of the roundel, everything is nearly in its place. The words around the border say “Czech Beer” and “Premium Quality”. Whilst in the bottom corners are the vital statistics. This bottle is 0.5L (or 500 millilitres if you prefer). And it weighs in at a somewhat unusual 5.1% volume. I like that. 0.1% more than the continental average. Brilliant.

Lastly, around the bottom of the roundel are what look like medals. Or are they crests? Either way, the shininess of the label and the tiny size of whatever it is they are make it difficult to know.

Over on the back label, and everything is straightforward, easy to read and English. This must be an export version.

Zubr Premium back label

They open by describing it as a “Classic Czech Beer” that has a “Golden Honey Colour Traditionally Brewed Using the Finest Ingredients”. A statement that you could copy and paste onto nearly any beer bottle and get away with it.

Next up is the address. This beer comes courtesy of the Zubr Company, Přerov in the Czech Republic. The web address it gives, www.zubr.cz, even ends in the CZ country code. Again, I’m so pleased to see another genuine imported beer in an off-licence refrigerator cabinet. Incidentally, the English language section is at http://www.zubr.cz/en.

There’s not much else to report. There’s no ingredients list. No UK units of alcohol symbol. But they do say that this has 2.6 units of alcohol per 500 millilitres. Does anyone know what system of units this is from? How do these units compare to UK units of alcohol? Leave your knowledge in the comments at the end of the post, please.

Now it’s time to open this bottle and see how it compares to the other Czech beers. Will it be better than Staropramen? My money is on ‘no’.

Zubr Premium poured into a glass

In the glass, it really is “golden honey” coloured. Which makes a change from pale yellow lagers. There’s not much head though. Moment after that photo was taken, it became an odd patchwork of bubbles on the surface. Not so good, as I like a decent layer of froth.

The smell is… not particularly strong. But what it does have is not bad. It smells vaguely of malted barley, but not in the same way as lagers do.

A couple of gulps in, and I’m fairly impressed. Nowhere to be seen is the half-absent blend of lagery flavours. Instead, Zubr Premium tastes, quite vividly, of malted barley and hops. All of which give a pleasant, strong-ish, and reasondly lingering bitter after taste.

There is much that I like about Zubr Premium. And that surprises me. Because I didn’t expect there to be anything. I like that it has flavour. I like that the flavour tastes good. I like that the strength of the flavours means that it is drinkable. I like that it’s different enough from the others to be distinctive and having some of the elusive characteristic that is… well… character.

There must be something I don’t much like about it. Half-way through, and there are one or two problems. I’m burping more than usual, so it must be gassy. Even though it has flavour, it’s not truly full-bodied. All of which means that it will soon feel like you’re drinking foamy water. The flavour, even though I’m finding it somewhat tasty, would wear thin after a few bottles or pints. Not as badly as the lagers, but there’s not enough depth too keep you as interested as, say, an ale would.

What Zubr Premium is, then, is a tasty beer. No lagery awfulness, but no serious complexity either. Just a good, decent, well flavoured beer. I didn’t expect it to fair well against its Czech competitors. But this is up there with Staropramen. Maybe even slightly ahead. I’ve got to recommend this for anyone curious about Czech or European beers.

Rating: 3.2

Have you tried Zubr Premium? Can you translate anything on the label?

Leave your corrections, translations, opinions and recommendations in the little boxes below please. And remember; bookmark this blog! You can’t risk missing anything.

Cider Review: Westons Premium Organic Cider

15 August, 2008

SINCE reading the CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) web page about Real Cider, I’ve been looking out for real cider. Sadly, the shops are full of big-name, mass-produced ice-ciders. And that’s irritating. In Tesco, the closest thing I could find was this bottle of Westons Premium Organic Cider. If anyone knows just ‘Real’ this cider is, do please leave a comment at the end of the post. For now, I’m just looking forward to trying a cider that wasn’t produced on a vast scale by a company with an advertising budget of millions.

Westons Premium Organic Cider bottle

First impressions are tremendous. The plain looking labels give it a farmyard look. And the organic credentials will delight even Prince Charles. Just take a look at the neck label as a starting point.

Westons Premium Organic Cider neck label

Westons Premium Organic Cider won the “Organic Food Awards” in 2003 and 2004. That theme of being organic and natural continues on the big front label too.

Westons Premium Organic Cider front label

The front label is also about the only place on there where you’ll see any graphics. In the background is a cider apple that looks like it was plucked from a clip-art tree. If this were a big-name brand, I would knock it for that. But with such a thoroughly local cider, I just can’t bring myself.

Instead, I’ll point out that Westons were established in 1880. Giving it considerably more heritage than I first thought. Under the small word “naturally” is perhaps the most prominent use of the word “Organic” you’ve seen on a cider. So much so, it doesn’t really have a name. Just “Organic”. Something I’m sure Westons would be delighted for you to associate with their cider ever after.

All the vital statistics are at the bottom of the front label. This is a 500 millilitre bottle. And the cider within has a volume of 6.5%. A percentage point or two above the big-name ciders. And very welcome.

There’s some surprises down there too. This cider also won the “Organic Food Awards” is 1998. That brings it up to three “Organic” awards. Not bad. Unsurprisingly then, there’s a big “Soil Association” “Organic Standard” symbol on there. Just to reinforce the organic message.

The back label is what you’ll be hoping for by this point. Informative and straightforward.

Westons Premium Organic Cider back label

Apparently, the organically grown cider apples in this, stick to the strict “Organic Certification UK5” from the “Soil Association”. That’s all well and good, but what will it taste like? The label has an answer there too. This one goes with key words and phrases including “easy to drink” with a “ripe apple aroma” with a “refreshing” and “well balanced taste”. No hyperbole here. That all sounds honest enough to be true. I hope it is.

Also on the label, they recommend that it is “best served chilled”. Which I’m doing having stored it away in the fridge. Then there’s the part where they take the natural and organic theme a step beyond. That’s because Weston Premium Organic Cider is “suitable for vegetarians, vegans and coeliacs.” Vegetarians and vegans you might expect to see covered, but coeliacs? According to the charity Coeliac UK, it’s a nasty disease that means some people can’t eat gluten. Isn’t it customary to simply write “Gluten free” on packaging and labels?

For the chronically worried, the number of UK units of alcohol is 3.2. Still worried? I recommend a bottle of cider or ale to calm your nerves. That’s not the only symbol on there however. There’s also one informing us that they are a member of “The National Association of Cider Makers”. Never heard of it. But then I am an exceptionally uninformed reviewer. If there is such an association, then I’m glad that they’re part of it.

Lastly, right down at the bottom of the back label is the all important address. Important because where a beer or cider comes from is always interesting to know. Take the Asian, European and American beers that talk about authenticity, but were made just down the road for example. Fortunately, there’s no such trickery here. That’s because Westons Premium Organic Cider comes from H. Weston & Sons Ltd. in Much Marcle, Herefordshire, England. They even have a good website that avoids the Flash-frippery of the big names. The address is www.westons-cider.co.uk.

Time to crack open this bottle of organic cider. I’m looking forward to this. And not entirely sure what to expect. Which is the level of mystery I want from an ale or cider.

Westons Premium Organic Cider poured into a glass

In the glass, it has a very deep apple-ish amber colour. Deeper amber than most of the big-name ciders. It’s not as fizzy as them either. I’d call it ‘lightly-sparkling’. Neither still nor fizzy.

They describe it as smelling of ripe apples. It does smell apple-y. I’d say it smells most like Gaymer ‘K’ but more natural. I like it.

A few gulps in, and it’s drier than expected. And it tastes of apples. Obviously. But much more so than the big name ice-ciders. What you notice most of all is how dry it is.

There’s plenty for the cider fan to like here. It has much more taste than the trendy ice-ciders or white-ciders. It’s at least as dry as Savanna Dry, and still manages to be easy to drink. And it’s strong and not at all gassy. This is quality stuff.

What about the downsides? Well, if I had to nitpick, I’d pick the dryness which is drier than to my taste. All the cider aficionados out there will now pipe up and tell me that’s exactly how it should be. And that my opinions are stupid piles of grime. Undeterred, I’ve got to say, it is dry.

So, what is Westons Premium Organic Cider all about? In a sentence, it’s a well made, tasty, drinkable, strong, dry cider that happens to be organic. I liked it. It does what you want a small, regional cider to do. Well worth a try if you like cider but are tired of the tasteless dross that is the mainstream.

Rating: 3.8

Have you tried Westons Premium Organic Cider? What did you think of it?
Leave your corrections, opinions and recommendations below and I look forward to reading them.

Beer Review: Staropramen Premium Beer

6 August, 2008

WEEKS ago, Tesco started selling four-packs of the Czech import, Staropramen. And that made me curious to know if it was better or worse than other Czech beers, Ostravar, Praga or Budvar. Not that it would need to be far above average to beat its competitors. I held out for a few weeks hoping that I would find it being sold as single bottles. But before that could happen, curiosity got the better of me, and £3.69 pence later, here I am with four bottles of what could be yet another average Czech beer.

Staropramen Premium four-pack

On the outside, everything looks very good. The four-pack cardboard packaging looks interesting and expensive. As does the bottle.

Staropramen Premium bottle

The green glass matches the green and red of the labels very well indeed. This is shaping up to be more sophisticated that it’s hurriedly imported competitors.

Staropramen Premium Beer neck label

The neck label has a smaller version of the tasteful “Staropramen” logo. Plus a very important word. “Imported” is always a welcome sight on a beer. Unless you’re in Belgium.

Staropramen Premium Beer front label

The main front label continues with much the same theme. There’s a detailed background picture that, going by the big red name “Prague”, is indeed the capital city of said country. The “Staropramen” logo is there, looking like the name of an American baseball team. There are the helpfully vague words “Premium Beer” underneath that. Also in the middle of the label is the Staropramen crest, made up of barley and hops no less. It also proudly displays the year 1869. Surprisingly, a year that makes it one of the youngest Czech beers that I’ve tried. Apparently age has no bearing on flavour with these bottles.

This is a front label with a busy border. Nowhere more so than around the bottom edge. The big red stamp declares Staropramen as the pride of Prague since 1869. And that this 330 millilitre bottle has the ubiquitous 5% alcoholic volume.

The back label is rather less busy. Almost empty is comparison.

Staropramen Premium Beer back label

This emptiness comes from only having three languages on there. Which makes a change from some export beer bottles that try to squeeze in so many languages that it makes the Lisbon Treaty seem readable in comparison.

All this space means that we get something unusual: a full ingredients list. Take a look on any other beer bottle, and chances are that all they will say is “malted barley and hops”. Not here. Staropramen was made with “water, barley malt, barley, maltose syrup, hops, hop extract”. No big surprises. Just good to have all the details for once.

There are some other interesting details in there too. It was imported and distributed by “The Pioneer Brewing Co.” of Luton, with their full address and telephone number. There is the full address of the brewer too. And yes, Staropramen does come from Pivovary Staropramen a.s. from Prague in the Czech Republic.

Lastly, there is a web address. The http://www.staropramen.com/ website, like those of other brewers, is Flash heavy. It’s also a good way to tempt yourself with more beers that they don’t sell where you live. Unfortunately, if rather predictably, on the website they describe this bottle as “Premium Lager”. Better get a head start on the opening of this bottle by feeling bored now.

Staropramen Premium Lager poured into a glass

Once poured, Staropramen Premium Lager comes with a surprisingly thick head. If you can pour it that is. The head overwhelmed my little half-pint glass. It stays around too. Even minutes after pouring, it’s still a thick layer of froth. No patchy bubbles here.

It looks better than I expected it too, as well. It could easily have been a cheap pale yellow colour. But instead, it’s a slightly darker amber hue. A small difference, I’ll grant you, but welcome nonetheless.

It has a richer smell than lots of the big-name lagers too. I’d say it smells mostly of barley. And for a lager, that’s an unusual blend. How would you describe the smell?

At this point, I normally try the drink and report that the look and smell were all just a disguise for an atrocious and bland taste. Not so here. Remarkably, I quite like it.

It still tastes lagery, but this take on the flavour is one of the better ones. A light tasting barley and hops are what you notice first. Gently followed by a light, lingering bitterness. The whole thing is tastes rounded and well balanced. All without the aid of rice to the blend.

I didn’t expect to have much praise to heap on Staropramen Premium Beer/Lager. Boy, have I been proved wrong with my preconceptions about this one. It looks, smells and tastes of quality lager. When the website described it as having a bite, I expected another Bavaria Holland Beer. That had a lagery bite. I hated it. But lots of you left comments saying that you loved it. With Staropramen, there is no real bite as far as I can taste. Instead, it’s an easy to drink, relatively tasty and well balanced lager.

Being a lager, it inevitably has down sides. It may be one of the most accessible lagers on the market, but if you positively hate that lagery blend of flavours, you won’t be a fan of this. Other downsides? Well, its one of the gassier lagers I’ve tried. The head can get in the way if all you want is a quick drink. And if you truly want interesting beer flavours, why not try a real beer or ale instead of a lager?

To sum up, Staropramen Premium Beer/Lager is so much better than I was expecting. I’m not a fan of the lagery “bite”, so I was delighted to find it almost absent from this bottle. With it’s well balanced taste, it’s not only my favourite Czech bottle, but one of my favourite bottles lagers, full-stop. That said, it is still a lager. If you like lager, by all means enjoy this one. As for me, I’ll be enjoying something with real flavour, probably with the word “ale” written somewhere on the bottle.

Rating: 3.25

Have you tried Staropramen Premium Beer/Lager? What did you think of it?
Leave your corrections, opinions, thoughts, ideas and recommendations in the little comment boxes below.

Beer Review: Grolsch Imported Premium Lager

10 July, 2008

THE final leg of my tour of green-bottled lagers from North-West Europe (until I find more) brings me to Grolsch Imported Premium Lager. A bottle you probably know better as “the one with the funny top”. There was no way I could look at bottles of beer without this one. The traditional “Swingtop” give it style points right out of the starting blocks. A normal bottle top trumps a screw top. This trumps a normal bottle top. But a traditional “Swingtop” is top of the pile… until someone mass produces beer with wine bottle style corks.

Grolsch bottle with swingtop

Of course you can get regular size and shape Grolsch bottles with normal tops. But they aren’t imported. And don’t have the novelty opening mechanism. First impressions then, are outstanding. The downside is that the off-license where I bought this were charging £1.99 pence for the privilege.

Apart from the bung and metalwork up top, there is much more to admire. The bottle is larger than its rivals. It dispenses with front and back labels, favouring instead elaborate embossment. There’s the large “Grolsch” name embossed on two flatter sides. There are what look like grips on the other two sides to help you to grab hold of the bottle.

Grolsch Imported Premium Lager 3/4 bottle view

And there’s the “G B” crest. The one that features the G and B initials and hops, with the year 1815 either side. A date that gives it competitive levels of heritage of its rivals.

With most of the bottle dedicated to style, the neck label is where it all happens.

Grolsch Imported Premium Lager neck and top

And it all looks very nice. The familiar “Grolsch” logo is there, helpfully reminding you of all the advertising they have. At this point, I must say that I do like the name “Grolsch”. It’s impossible to say out loud without making you sound Dutch. Try it yourself. Unless you are a native Dutch speaker, in which case you’ll sound perfectly normal when you say it.

Back to the label, and I’m glad to see the words “Premium Lager” standing out for all to see. Look a little closer though, and the crest above it is different to the crest embossed on the bottle. Why is that?

Squint even harder and you can make out some interesting words around it. The top says “Royal Grolsch Holland”. Does that make it as royally approved as Carlsberg, which is famously by “appointment to the Royal Danish Court”? Sadly, the writing around the bottom doesn’t answer any questions. Can someone out there translate “Vakmanschap Meesterschap” please?

I like the strip of label that extends upwards displaying the text “The Original Swingtop” and “Imported”. But, isn’t it in the way of the swinging metalwork? We’ll see how it fares later on.

As you would expect, the neck label wraps around the bottle and is crammed full of details. Here is just the left-hand-side of it.

Grolsch left neck swingtop label

The only details worth noting on there are some of the most important. That is to say, the vital statistics. This bottle is the ever so unusual 450 millilitres (45 cl) capacity. So, be ready with a pint glass, but don’t expect it to be filled. The alcoholic volume is sadly rather less interesting. You could tell before you even picked this bottle up in the shop that it would be the continental favourite of 5%. On the plus side, at least it isn’t a weak, domestically produced lager. A fact reinforced on the other side of the label.

Grolsch right neck label swingtop

That is because, buried deep in a multi-lingual morass of text are the words “Brewed and Bottled by Grolsche  Bierbrouwerij, Enschede – Holland”. The other small-print on this side is the ingredients list. For the curious, they are “water, malted barley, hops”. Nothing you wouldn’t expect.

With that done, it’s time to delight in the unusual opening of this bottle and sample the contents within. Not forgetting of course to answer the big questions of our time. Questions such as what it Grolsch Imported Premium Lager like? And how does it compare to Bavaria Holland Beer, Heineken Imported Lager Beer, Beck’s Imported and Carlsberg Export?

Grolsch swingtop bottle poured

That was exciting. The neck label duly gave way to the swinging metal work. And the bung unbunged itself with a loud pop. That’s an experience every beer and ale should give you.

Grolsch Premium Lager poured into a glass

Grolsch Imported Premium Lager is head happy, so you have been warned. Fortunately it does settle down fast enough so as to not leave you waiting for long. And some careful pouring on your part could mean you don’t have to stop at all.

So it has a good thick head. But what about everything else? The colour is a pale amber. But better looking than the anaemic yellow of most other lagers. Although this ones does look very fizzy.

The smell is weak. There isn’t much smell, but sniff hard enough and you can detect a whiff of malted barley and hops. The best way I can describe the smell to you is with the word “clean”.

This is a lager with flavour. And that flavour is… well… lagery. Much stronger and more prominent than I was expecting. I didn’t expect it to taste any different to its rivals, but it does. It tastes as different as it looks.

The overwhelming taste is bitter. From the first taste to the lingering aftertaste. It’s not as “sharp” as some cheaper and nastier lagers. More full and, relatively for a lager, intense. What about the flavours within that taste? They are the usual lager flavours of malted barley and hops. Probably. I can’t actually detect much beyond Grolsch Imported Premium Lager’s bitterness.

What do I like about Grolsch Imported Premium Lager? It’s not as gassy as I feared. Three quarters of the way through the bottle and I still haven’t burped. This is a lager with flavour which is unusual in itself. And, even more unusual, that flavour is one you can grow used to. Its high-quality, and drinkable. And, it comes in a fun bottle.

What don’t I like about Grolsch Imported Premium Lager? I’ve been here before. With a good quality lager trying to scoot around the fact that I don’t like lager. So yet again, the taste and flavour that is has, is off-putting to anyone who isn’t already a fan of lager. It’s also quite expensive.

Where does all of this leave Grolsch Imported Premium Lager compared to the competition? Unlike with other green-bottled Continental lagers, you can tell it apart from the competition. Unlike other strongly flavoured lagers such as, say, Michaelob Lager, it’s made well enough for you to get to used to the taste without pouring it down the drain in disgust.

If you like your lagers strongly flavoured or with an interesting bottle, then this is the lager for you. Recommended for the “Swingtop” if nothing else. Good lager too.

Rating: 2.7

Have you tried Grolsch Imported Premium Lager? What did you think of it?
Share your corrections, opinions, thoughts, ideas, suggestions and recommendations with the world in the little box below.

Cider Review: Savanna Dry Premium Cider

29 June, 2008

FOR some reason, I’m unusually susceptible to cider advertising. Which is why I’ve ended up with a bottle of Savanna Dry Premium Cider, even though I don’t like dry cider.

Savanna Dry Premium Cider bottle

This one came from Tesco, where they’ve been heavily promoting it for some time. Its long has premium shelf space, and, last week, a little tag hooked onto the place where they put the prices for each product. The tag suggested drinking it from the bottle with some lemon. As I don’t have any sour citrus fruit handy, and too much class to drink from the bottle, this is going straight into the glass. Let me know in the comments what you think of it with lemon. Is it better or worse for it?

At just over £1.50 pence, this little bottle is at the premium end. It does have the advantage of having a name that matches its character. Wouldn’t it be great it a Brazilian firm started producing Rainforest sweet cider?
[EDIT: I’ve just checked the receipt, and the actual price was £1.31. Cheaper, but still at a premium.]

What can I say about the bottle? Well, it’s small and dumpy looking. And it’s transparent. So you can see the pale yellow cider held within.

The front label sums up what you need to know with excellent imagery.

Savanna Dry Premium Cider front label

The crayon effect gives it an unusual look. The pictures of savannah landscape and the prominent word “Dry” all add to the image of a drink that will make you thirsty.

The back label doesn’t add much in the way of a description. But it does answer some questions about its origin.

Savanna Dry Premium Cider back label

First up, we learn this drink’s vital statistics. This little bottle holds the typical 330 millilitres of liquid. But it has an above average 5.5% alcoholic volume.

You won’t be surprised to learn that is contains sulphites. But what will surprise you is that we get a full list of the ingredients. For the first time, pretty much ever, we can see what goes into a cider. This one is made with “apple cider, glucose syrup, apple juice concentrate, flavourings, carbon dioxide, colour (E150c), antioxidant (sulphur dioxide)”. That was interesting to learn. Sort of.

There’s a web address. Which is www.savanna.co.za. The observant among you will notice the unusual “ZA” country code on that address. And, sure enough, it’s confirmed by the back label. Perhaps the most prominent part of it is the line “Product of South Africa”. Suddenly, you realise that the “Savanna” name and graphics aren’t just marketing.

This is the first African cider I’ll have tried. And I’m looking forward to it. The African lager I tried, Castle Lager wasn’t bad. This might even change my mind on dry cider. Either way, it’s time to open this expensive and well travelled bottle and see if it’s any  good.

Savanna Dry Premium Cider poured into a glass

First impressions are, it’s very fizzy. No head though. Possibly because of its dry character, it reminds my of some Strongbows. The colour is a darker shade of yellow. Apple juice colour. It has a similarly rich apple-y smell too. Appetising, if like me, you like apples.

The character is exactly as it says on the bottle; dry. No surprise there. But it is very effective. Just a couple of gulps, and you get that dry sour taste at the back of your tongue. The taste is, no surprise either, as it tastes of apples. Not strongly so. Nor with the barely noticeable weakness of some ciders. Savanna Dry is somewhere in-between. But you’ll hardly notice. And that’s because your mouth will be feeling as dry as the savannah of this cider’s name.

It is however, not as dry as I feared. I was half expecting Sahara levels of dryness and unpleasantness. But it never seems too dry. The high-quality is very much in evidence. And that makes it drinkable. Which, I never expected to say about Savanna Dry.

To sum up, Savanna Dry is an expensive, but quality dry cider. If you like cider. And you like it dry, this is a must. If you like cider, but don’t normally touch anything “dry”, it’s still worth giving this one a go.

Rating: 3

Have you tried Savanna Dry Premium Cider? Have you tried it with lemon stuffed into the neck of the bottle?
Then share your opinions, thoughts, ideas, suggestions and recommendations with the world here please.

Beer Review: Bass Premium Ale

20 June, 2008

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

Bass Premium Ale 4-pack

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

Bass Premium Ale can

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

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

Bass Premium Ale logo

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

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

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

Bass Premium Ale barcode side of can

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bass Premium Ale poured into a glass

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 1.4

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

Beer Review: Bangla Premium Beer

11 June, 2008

SOME rummaging through the off-licenses of Brick Lane brings me to yet another beer from the Sub-Continent. Why do I say “Sub-Continent” instead of “India”, as was the case with Kingfisher Lager Beer and Cobra Extra Smooth Premium Lager Beer? That’s because this one is from Bangladesh. Here is a little bottle of Bangla Premium Beer.

Bangla Premium Beer bottle

The price was reasonable. And there were big versions over 500 millilitres in case you decided you liked this obscure and hard to find beer.

The neck label sums up everything to expect from the labels wrapped around this bottle. Plenty of bright, bold yellows, oranges, greens and golds. And everything written in not only English, but also, presumably, Bengali. So, can anyone out there confirm what language it is? And if you can translate any of it, do please leave a message at the end of this post.

Bangla Premium Beer neck label

As far as what it says, the message is kept simple. “Bangle Premium Beer” says everything you need to know. And what’s better, it doesn’t say “Lager” anywhere on it. Good news indeed.

The front label stays with the lively, colourful style. And it’s one that I like. It’s unlike anything else I’ve seen, and gives it a fantastic and distinctive look.

Bangla Premium Beer front label

The border looks like the decoration you see on the walls of curry restaurants. Normally, that would be cheesy, for this beer, it looks just right. Under the bi-lingual “Bangla Premium Beer”, there’s even a little map of Bangladesh. At the bottom of the label, the alcohol volume catches your eye first. 5.2% is the above-average volume for this beer. Either side of that, are things that look like medals. But I think they are just there for show.

It’s hard to see everything on there properly. And even harder with the photos taken by the Mesolithic era camera phone I’m using for the photos on this blog. There is one solution though; buy the bigger bottle version. Is there any demand out there for me to get the bigger version of this bottle?

The back label keeps things simple. All the details you want to know are there. And in both languages.

Bangla Premium Beer back label

Besides the slightly unusual 5.2% volume, the bottle size is out of the ordinary too. No 330 millilitres here. This is 275 millilitres. Why that is, I’m not sure.

The bi-lingual blocks of text aren’t anything out of the ordinary. The first part reads like a tourist brochure for Bangladesh. The next part purports that Bangla Premium Beer is inspired by Bangladesh’s cultures and “culinary delights”. And, that it’s brewed stronger to go well with “strongly flavoured foods”. Do you think they’re hinting that this should go with a curry? What a novel concept for an Asian beer.

The UK units of alcohol are on there. This little bottle has 1.4, so you’ve got room to have at least two before the Government starts wagging its finger. Like every beer, this one contains barley malt. And they have a website. Theirs can be found at www.banglabeer.co.uk. Although there’s not exactly a world of content to be found there yet.

That’s nearly it from the small print. Apart from one small and disappointing fact. This beer wasn’t imported from Bangladesh. Instead, it was brewed and bottled in Manchester, here in the UK. Disappointed? I am a bit. It’s like going on holiday to Italy and having pizza made over here. Not necessarily bad, but not genuine.

Now though, it’s time to set aside these worries and answer some questions. Such as is Bangla Premium Beer better than other Asian beer? And how does it taste?

Bangla Premium Beer poured into a glass

In the glass, the rationale behind the odd size of bottle becomes clear. It fits the half-pint glass perfectly. Fantastic. All 330 millilitre beer bottles should be replaced by proper half-pint bottles. And 500 millilitres bottles supplanted by full-pints. Who else is with me on this?

The beer itself is golden amber in colour. And the head doesn’t disappear moments after pouring. What you get is a creamy layer sitting on top. Not bad at all.

The smell is good too. It’s a blend of the usual beer smells, but it has some sort of rich quality to it. More emphasis on the malt perhaps. Whatever it is, it’s better than I expected.

All of which prepares you well for taste. Which is also rich. But also smooth and surprisingly full-flavoured. The bitterness is what you notice most. It lingers for a time, but it’s well balanced by the rest of the blend.

Amazingly, this is the most ale-like beer I’ve ever tried. The flavour is rounded out by one of the best blends of ingredients I’ve seen. Besides the tangy, hoppy bitterness, is the presence of everything else. Malted barley probably. All of which make it full-flavoured, rich, smooth and delicious. Staggering for a cheap beer brewed in this country. It’s also refreshing, not gassy at all and very drinkable.

If I had to look for downsides, it would be difficult to find many. Comparing it strictly to big, heavy ales that are full of soil and leaves, you could say that it’s rather light on strong flavours and smells. But that’s unfair, since it only ever calls itself a “Premium Beer”. What is my biggest legitimate complaint? For the time being then, that it’s not imported and that it’s so hard to find. So far, I’m only award of one shop on Brick Lane that sells it. It also doesn’t break new ground as far as flavours are concerned. There are no fruits, honeys or gherkins amongst the flavours.

To conclude Bangla Premium Beer, I recommend you try it. If you can find it. For me, this was the beer that thought it was an ale. It actually has taste and flavour, which is very welcome after the dross I’ve been trying recently. Those flavours are balanced nicely. It’s very drinkable and the whole package is quality.

Rating: 4.2

All of this makes it the best Asian beer yet. It’s better than Cobra Extra Smooth and much better than Tiger and the other utterly average Asian beers on sale in Britain. So if you know a better one, leave a message
Leave a message too, if you can translate anything on there. Or if you have any opinions, corrections, ideas, suggestions or requests.

Beer Review: Ostravar Premium Czech Lager

4 January, 2008

Regular readers will know that I am not a fan of cheap lagers. The bitter/sour taste and aftertaste, and the drinkability are a good simulation of what it would probably be like to consume dishwater. So it is with some trepidation that picked up a bottle of premium Czech lager called Ostravar.

Since I am biased against lagers in general, this one doesn’t stand much chance of scoring top marks from me. That said, I am open minded. The ‘Premium’ and ‘Czech’ elements may well raise this above the hundreds of cheap bottles of dishwater. So lets see how it does.

First impressions are good. The bottle isn’t exceptional, but the label has that ‘imported European’ look. To open it, one must first unwrap this gold coloured leafing from around the top. Arguably a clever marketing device to add that premium feel, but it worked on me. What do you think of brewers who add this?

Ostravar Premium Czech Lager bottle
Ostravar Premium Czech Lager front label
Ostravar Premium Czech Lager back label

Poured into a glass, this produces a satisfying layer of foamy head, atop the golden liquid. This 5% half-a-litre produces a fine hoppy aroma too. By this time, it is indeed living up to its Premium billing.
Ostravar Premium Czech Lager poured into a glass

Being lager, it cannot escape that bitter/sour taste and aftertaste that I detest. But until it’s cheap dishwater counterparts, this is considerably smoother and easier to drink.

All in all, a solid premium lager. For a lager, it’s better smelling and better tasting than most. On the other hand, it’s still lager. And on that basis…

Rating: 3.5

If you like your lager, you’ll enjoy Ostravar.


%d bloggers like this: