I've decided to drink one beer from every country in the world. I know it's a tough job, but someone's got to do it. And that someone is me. The rules: I have to drink the whole beer, I have to photograph it to prove that I've done it, and it has to be an official, commercially produced beer (no homebrews). The only countries I can skip are ones that don't produce beer (haven't found any yet).

Sunday, August 4, 2013

#24: Estonia

OK after a long absence while I finished my MBA, I'm breathing life into this blog again. And we now have the first Baltic country for the blog: Estonia. It's a small cold country in northeastern Europe who speak a strange language that bears some resemblance to Finnish (an even stranger language). Their main beer company is called Saku, and I stumbled across this Kuld beer made by Saku at a small bottle shop on the New South Wales south coast around Christmas time last year. What choice did I have? I purchased and quaffed this beverage as a matter of no small urgency!

Kuld is actually a pretty damn good beer. It has an odd taste that is somewhere between a pretty hops-y central European pilsener, and a German krystalweizen. I'm not at all sure how they pulled it off, but it kind of works. Due to its strong and strange flavour, I don't imagine I'd like to drink a bunch of them in one sitting, but drinking one was perfectly enjoyable and quite recommended, if you ever manage to find it.

Name: Kuld
Country of production: Republic of Estonia
Style: Some kind of pilsener?
Taste: Puzzling, medium hops, krystal-style grainy finish
Cost: around AU$8 per bottle
Availability in AU: Very low
Cred: Medium
My score: 8 out of 10 long bitter struggles against Soviet hegemony

Sunday, January 6, 2013

#23: Croatia

Being pretty close to squat in the middle of Europe, I figure Croatia would produce and consume a fair bit of beer, at least for a country of a bit over 4 million people. I've occassionally been able to stumble across this beer, Karlovacko (which I suspect is pronounced "Karlo-Vachko", though admittedly I'm making that up), and figure my chances of ever finding a Croatian craft beer are slim to none, so I might as well do this.

Not really much to say here; it's a very bog-standard European yellow lager. Decent quality, fairly boring. Tastes kind of like Heineken and 14 million other similar beers. Goes down pretty well on a hot day, inoffensive but not original taste, blah blah. It apparently won some sort of award at some sort of event, but you know, so did Taiwan Beer, so go figure. I look surprisingly excited in that photo, considering how unexciting the beer was; I offer no explanation thereof.

Name: Karlovacko
Country of production: Republic of Croatia
Style: Pale lager
Taste: Like almost every other European pale lager
Cost: around AU$5 per bottle
Availability in AU: Fairly low
Cred: Medium
My score: 6.5 out of 10 frenzied bouts of inexplicable and ruthless warfare

Thursday, January 3, 2013

#22: Namibia

Namibia? For real?? Yes I was quite excited to discover a Namibian beer, "Windhoek", on the menu at a South African restaurant in East Sydney. Namibia is a large country in south-eastern Africa, almost as large as South Africa, yet with only two million people. According to my good friend Wikipedia, they fought a protracted war of independence against South Africa from the 1960s to the 1980s, eventually gaining independence, and presumably, some level of happiness. I only really know of it from when they played in the Rugby World Cup when it was in Australia, and to shore up the non-existent level of support for the team here, the organisers encouraged the locals to turn up and "Go Nuts for Namibia!". Which apparently they did, which is cool.

Anyway I wasn't expecting much from this beer (I figured it'd be similar or worse than the South African mainstay beer, Castle Lager), but was very pleasantly surprised! While on paper the beer style is pretty typical European lager, you can straight away taste the quality in this beer. This is up there with the better German mainstream lagers and pilseners. I had a brief look around the label and noticed to my surprise, it said the makers had brewed it, by choice, according to the famous Reinheitsgebot, or German Beer Purity Law! Very cool. There are probably some descendents of German and Dutch settlers in Namibia, and they've decided to stick to the old ways and make proper beer. Impressive! Anyway, while not really "craft" or unusual, Windhoek is a refreshing tasty beer that I can recommend to anyone fortunate enough to stumble upon it.

Name: Windhoek
Country of production: Republic of Namibia
Style: Lager
Taste: Crisp, slightly hopped Central European style lager
Cost: around AU$7 per bottle (it was at a restaurant)
Availability in AU: Extremely low
Cred: Very high (when did you last have a beer from Namibia?)
My score: 7.5 out of 10 protracted struggles for independence

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

#21: El Salvador

El Salvador is a very small and densely populated country in Central America (or at least that's what Wikipedia tells me). It's between Guatemala and Honduras and is subject to frequent devastating natural disasters, and that's about all I know about it. Strangely enough, this small country produces a beer that keeps popping up all over the damn place, Cabana. Sadly, I have very few good things to say about it. It has the Central American style of pale and mild lagers, but takes it to quite an extreme level. In fact, this is one of the most tasteless beers I've encountered. Apart from having some alcohol content, it's quite similar to mineral water. While it doesn't have any actual unpleasant tastes, like Hite or Taiwan Beer, I can't really recommend it for anyone other than someone who hates the taste of beer, in which case they should probably drink something else. It would go down easily on a hot summer's day, but so would a Corona or Dos Equis, which taste better than this.

Name: Cabana
Country of production: Republic of El Salvador
Style: Lager
Taste: Almost nothing whatsoever
Cost: around AU$4 per bottle
Availability in AU: Surprisingly high
Cred: Low
My score: 3 out of 10 mudslides

Monday, December 3, 2012

Countries 1 - 20: Thoughts so far

OK I've now reviewed 20 different beers from 20 different countries. What are my thoughts so far?

1) There are basically two kinds of beer in the world: commercial beer, and craft beer. Commercial beer is made by big companies in factories, and within each type of beer (ale, lager and pilsner), they all taste almost exactly the same (the vast majority are lagers). Craft beer is made by beer nuts, with love, and almost always tastes great.
2) The difference in price between commercial and craft beer is not very much, but the difference in taste and quality is enormous. I do not therefore consider there to be much point in buying commercial beer (I now only do it for the blog and only if I cannot find a craft beer from that country).
3) The "new world" countries are producing some amazing craft beers, that rival or beat the "old world" European countries. The amazing Epic Hop Zombie from New Zealand is a case in point. Australia and USA are not at all far behind.
4) Picking a beer for Australia is going to be extremely difficult, if not impossible. There are so many good ones. (My local pub, The Union, has regularly rotating taps of extremely good Australian craft beer so I am currently very spoiled for choice).
5) Some countries you would think would be difficult to find beers for, e.g. El Salvador, are not (their crappy Cantina beer is now turning up everywhere). Other countries you would think would be easy (e.g. France) are actually very difficult (are there any French beers in the world? Anywhere? Ever? I can't find a damn single one).
6) I have a long way to go but I doubt I will encounter a beer worse than Taiwan Beer. It's so awful.
7) There are many, many countries in the world. It's not an easy quest. But I'm having a great time.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

#20: Cyprus

Cyprus is a small island republic in the Mediterranean, mainly known for being a battleground for an ancient dispute between Greece and Turkey as to who owns it (don't the Cypriots get a say in any of this?). It's certainly not known for making beer, so when a Cypriot beer turned up on a menu in a new Greek restaurant in Sydney, I obviously jumped at the opportunity.

Keo is as far as I can tell the main beer brand in Cyprus, and to me, it tastes quite a lot (like, really a lot) like the Greek beer Mythos which I did for this blog a while ago. Basically, another pretty generic straw coloured European lager. It worked pretty well with the tasty Greek meal I was eating it with, but if I went back I would probably choose another more interesting beer.

Name: Keo
Country of production: Republic of Cyprus
Style: Lager
Taste: Pretty bog-standard cheap European lager, reminiscent of Mythos
Cost: around AU$5.00 per bottle
Availability in AU: Low
Cred: Medium to high
My score: 5 out of 10 ancient struggles for national identity

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

#19: Vietnam

Vietnam is one of those countries that I'd really like to go to but never quite make it. I suppose drinking their beer is a (very, very feeble) step towards that goal? Anyway, last time I was at a big bottle shop I got the only Vietnamese beer they had, Halida. Which wasn't the one I wanted. You see, a couple of years ago there was an odd little Vietnamese restaurant near my place in Newtown, that never really had anyone in it. My partner and I went there one night and the food was not bad. But they didn't do well and shut down. While eating there though I managed to try "333" beer, which is apparently wildly popular in Vietnam and the beer that everyone drinks. I think Halida is their version of Australia's "Fosters"; nasty export stuff that they manage to sell overseas because people don't know better.

The night we ate there and I had 333 beer was quite a while ago though, and long before I started the beer quest. So I didn't photograph it and can't remember what it tasted like, but I remember I liked it. Unlike Halida, which I'm sad to say is not very good at all. There's not a lot to say about it; it's just really, really generic industrial lager. Not as bad as say Hite or anything, but not as good as the better ones like Efes or Bintang. It reminded me of Beer Lao somewhat, actually; perhaps it's made from a rice or part rice base. Anyway, Halida is not great, and whoever makes 333 Beer should get their act together and ship it to Australia; I'd probably buy some!

Name: Halida
Country of production: Socialist Republic of Vietnam (wow, one of the few socialist countries that puts "socialist" instead of "democratic" in its name).
Style: Lager
Taste: Typical mass produced lager
Cost: around AU$4.50 per bottle
Availability in AU: Low
Cred: Low to medium
My score: 5.5 out of 10 ferocious guerilla armies