There’s no English writing anywhere on it. There’s no importer sticker on it. But, unlike Soborne, there are clues out there this time. Even if Ukrainian food and drink importer Gary Magan didn’t import this bottle, he has it on his Obolon page at http://www.garymagan.co.uk/obolon/beer_obolon.htm called “Deep Velvet”. And I’m glad he does. The official Obolon website has a page about it, in English at http://www.obolon.com/en/production/beer/7/ where they call it “Velvet”. So this time, we have not just a name, but a proper description too! How different is this to the enigmatic Soborne experience?
The neck label is indecipherable again. It says something about Ukrainian beer and some medals. But the real thing to look at is the colour. It’s a green glass bottle, but look how it changes when it reaches the beer. On the outside at least, it looks like the colour of black ink.
The front label is the same shape as the other Obolons such as Soborne and Premium. And, like Soborne, it has no English. But, we can figure out what the alcoholic volume is. Either by reading one of the websites I mentioned above, or deciphering the Cyrillic that tells us this has an impressive 5.3% alcoholic volume.
Like the other Obolon’s, the back label makes as much sense as an electric car in the countryside.
Ukrainian translators, if you can read anything on the label, do please leave your translations at the end of this post. About the only things I can make out at the 0.5L bottle volume and the official Ukrainian language web address at www.obolon.ua.
Normally at this point with a bottle of Obolon, or pretty much any other strange East-European bottle, would be to crack it open and say “gosh, this is unexpected”. Not this time though. The official website describes it as “It is dark beer. It has a nice sweetish flavour of caramel malt.”
Gary Magan goes even further describing it as “Ukrainian high quality dark beer, is classically brewed to the original recipe from selected hops, malt, fermenting yeast and pure spring water. Special brewing technology brings this beer dense, smooth, deep velvet texture with rich malt and caramel flavour.” That sounds delicious. And different from the usual East-European lagery beers that make over here. In the comments on this blog, people are always going on about how good the East European dark beers, porters and stouts are. But I’ve never had the chance to try them. Until now; thanks to Obolon Velvet.
Hopes are high for Obolon Velvet. Will it be the best Ukrainian beer I’ve tried so far? Will it be the best East European beer I’ve tried so far? It’s not impossible. Let’s see what’s it’s like.
In the glass, it looks as good as you hope it would be. Sure, it froths up a bit, but it settles down quickly, leaving a consistent layer of creamy head. A head that’s a sort of brownish colour. As for the beer itself, it looks as dark as a porter or dark ale.
How does it smell? In a word, excellent. It has that roasted smell that you’ll recognise form other darker beers. I’m not skilled enough to glean more facts from the smell. Other than to say it is excellent. In a lightly hoppy and un-formidable kind of way.
What does it taste of? It tastes much the same way that it smells. It has a lightly roasted malty taste. There’s not an awful lot of flavour. But you hardly notice, because Obolon Velvet is all about the aftertaste. It has a gently bittersweet taste of roasted maltiness and a little bit of caramel.
About half-way through this bottle of Obolon Velvet now, so what am I enjoying about it? Quite a lot of things as it happens. I like how interesting and complex the taste is. I like that there’s no long bitter finish or “bite” to worry about because it is so well balanced. I like how rich, smooth and full-bodied it manages to be, without falling into the trap of being treacle. I love how drinkable Velvet is. Just like the quality bottles British ales I love so much, you can taste how natural the ingredients are and how well it’s made.
What don’t I like about Obolon Velvet? I don’t like the fact that I might never again get to enjoy it. It is not easy to buy. The bottle I bought was maybe a little more expensive than, say, bird flu. But, if you’re honest with yourself, you’d enjoy Obolon Velvet more than bird flu. If you had to nitpick, the lack of much flavour could be an issue. As could the slight gassiness that caused me to burp more than usual.
How can I sum up Obolon Velvet? It turns out that all the people who recommended the hard-to-find dark beers from East-Europe were right. If Obolon Velvet is anything to go by, the Eastern European brewers have been making interesting ales for years, without us even noticing. This is an excellent drink. Whether you’re a fan of interesting ales or intrepid explorer of unusual bottles, this is worth your time and money. If you can find it.
Have you tried Obolon Velvet? What did you think of it? Can you translate anything?
Do please leave your opinions, translations, corrections, requests, recommendations and places to buy, here in the comments.