AFTER the disappointment of Timişoreana, can Romania redeem itself? Hopes are high for this promising looking green bottle of Ursus Premium. Again, bought for about £1.59 pence from the Romanian shop in Edgware, North London.
It’s called Ursus Premium, but how premium is it? Well, it has neck-foil. The beer bottle equivalent of pleasing, melodic front door bell.
Down on the front label, and Ursus Premium sports a conventional roundel.
The bottom border say “King of Beer in Romania”. Whilst the top border has “Regele Berii In Romania”, which, I think, both mean exactly the same thing. In the middle, “Foundat 1878”, making a wild guess, could possibly mean “Founded 1978”.
Elsewhere, things are kept clear and uncluttered. In the bottom half, there are what look like medals. Squinting closely, it looks like they won the prestigious Monde Selection, international silver medal in 2005. I can tell you, having seen that sort of award on bottles before, that only the good ones get it. Expectations are rising then, for Ursus Premium.
The top half of the roundel has a picture of a bear, for some reason wearing a crown. Head-wear aside, two seconds of Googling reveals a Wikipedia page here, enlightening us that “Ursus” is Latin for “bear”. We can only speculate if either the “King of Beer in Romania” or the Ursus bear was crowned, only after a typo.
Over on the back-label, things are the way I like them. Impossible to understand. Translators, I need your help again. What does it all say?
There are however, a few things even I can pick out from the label. It’s pasteurised, not draught, for instance. The official Romanian website for Ursus is at www.regeleberii.ro. Which doesn’t work. So go to http://www.ursus.ro/ instead. It’s a 0.5L bottle, and the alcoholic volume is the usual 5%. Lastly, Ursus Breweries is part of the South-African beer monster, SAB Miller.
In short, there’s nowhere near enough understandable detail on the label to quench my curiosity. So I spent a couple of minutes doing research. By which I mean Googling to read what strangers had to say. A process which quickly led me to the Wikipedia page at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ursus_%28beer%29. Upon which we learn that Ursus comes from the city of Cluj, and that they do make beers I want to try but can’t. Ursus Black, dark lager and Stejar strong beer, for example.
Until those beers turn up in a London Romanian shop, it looks like the medal winning Ursus Premium will be the best we can get. Which returns to my original question… How good is Ursus Premium? What is it like and should you buy it? This is probably a Pilsner style lager, so I’ll be looking for clean, crisp, refreshing, hop tinged, easy to drink beer. So let’s crack it open and see if it is…
Fridge cold, my bottle of Ursus Premium was easy to pour. The white froth, filling my pint glass to the brim perfectly.
In the glass, the yellow, gold coloured liquid looks clear. And it would be, were it not for the massive carbonation. In the time it’s taken to get this far in the description, that full, white head of froth is already half what it started out as. Hopefully it won’t decay any further. I think it looks good. For a lager.
What does Ursus Premium smell of? Lager. Predictably, it has that familiar odour of blended malted barley, that most big-name lagers suffer from. Living up to its Premium billing, that smell is more delicate and ever-so-slightly more hoppily tinged than it’s cousin, Timişoreana.
Finally, you’ve reached the part of this review that you skipped the rest for. What does Ursus Premium taste like? The first couple of gulps were uneventful. So uneventful, it may be difficult to think up words to describe it. First impressions are that it’s lagery.
To elaborate, my fridge chilled Ursus Premium has a neutral, tasteless impression on the palate. But that’s ok. Most lagers don’t try and do anything there. Instead, it hinges on the all important aftertaste and finish. And Ursus Premium’s aftertaste rolls onto the tongue smoothly, but with increasing intensity. You can feel the carbonation, and you’re left with a long-lasting lagery bitterness.
Where Timişoreana was like being hit in the face with a brick made of taste. Ursus Premium is like that first big drop on a rollercoaster. It starts off slowly and smoothly, but a moment later everything’s intense, and you’re either loving it or wanting to stop.
What am I enjoying about Ursus Premium? A premium Pilsner style lager is usually supposed to be clean, crisp and refreshing. Bonus points if it’s also easy to drink and has some distinctiveness like hoppiness. Ursus Premium, to its credit is pretty clean, crisp, refreshing and easy to drink. At least while cold. Lager boys will like it’s lagery taste, an might even call it distinctive, compared to the big-name lagers. I’m just pleased to have found a drinkable Romanian lager. And that will earn you social points for originality, should you decide to bring it to a social gathering or family occasion.
What don’t I like about Ursus Premium? Not everyone is going to like that taste. I can’t imagine many girls enjoying that intense, bitter taste. That strange ‘taste curve’ it has probably won’t go well with curry, although leave a comment if you’ve tried it. It is one of the fizziest beers I’ve ever tried, so it will make you burp. And, if you’re not in Romania, it’s going to be imported, hard to find and very expensive. For the premium you’ll pay, there will be much better tasting ales to buy instead.
To sum up, Ursus Premium is a perfectly drinkable, strangely tasting lager that I’ve warmed to over the course of this review. Nearly at the bottom of the glass now, and I’ve gotten over that unusual bitterness rush. If you’re in Romania, I have no problem recommending it. If you’re anywhere else though, there are much better beers and ales for the price. And that makes it one mostly for the beer explorers and Romanian ex-pats.
Have you tried Ursus Premium? What did you think of it? Can you translate anything from the labels? Got and recommendations of your own, or places to buy? Then leave a comment here.