My recent beer reviews for The Brew Club have focused on European lager beers, particularly pilsner style lagers including the original Pilsner Urquell and Staropramen. This beer review covers the resurrection of two classics. Heinekin Pils and the ‘Party Seven’.
The first of these classics is Heineken Pils, first brewed in Amsterdam in 1873, it won the Gold Medal at the Paris exposition in 1875 -evidence of the way Pilsner Beers were sweeping Europe. Consistency was guaranteed when H.Elion (a pupil of Louis Pasteur whose first name is lost to history) isolated the ‘Heineken A’ yeast strain in 1886 (check my earlier article about yeast for other examples of Louis Pasteur’s influence on brewing). The company was sold from family ownership after the second world war, but Freddy Heineken bought it back in the fifties and drove the growth of the company until his death in 2002 aged 78.
While Heineken is viewed as a premium imported brand in the United States, it was brewed under licence in the UK by Whitbread from the 1960’s. Buoyed by its innovative advertising campaign ‘Heineken refreshes the parts other beers cannot reach‘ it became Britain’s best selling beer in the seventies with over 500 million pints a year being consumed. The British-brewed Heineken was brewed to a paltry 3.6% ABV and as British drinkers became more accustomed to stronger European lagers (brewed to around 5%) the sales of Heineken declined. In 2003 the licence to brew Heineken in the UK was revoked and Heineken started exporting ‘proper’ Heineken from Amsterdam into the UK.
So that’s the first classic to be covered… ‘real’ Heineken.
The second classic is slightly more prosaic… the ‘Party Seven’.
Back in the 1930’s, Watney’s brewery effectively invented ‘keg’ beer, which was filtered and pasteurised within an inch of its life, but had a long shelf life and was easy to transport. Other brewers followed, and by the late 1960’s, the British beer market was dominated by ‘Watneys Red Barrel’, ‘Double Diamond’, ‘Courage Tavern Keg’ and ‘Whitbread Tankard’. It was the dominance of keg beer that prompted the formation, in 1971, of the CAMpaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) which has played a major role in the resurrection of ‘Real’ Ales and the subsequent consignment of the worst of the keg beers to history.
The best-selling beer for home consumption in the sixties was Long Life ‘the beer specially brewed for the can’. Watneys then took the keg process further and invented larger beer cans for parties… introducing the ‘Party Four’ and ‘Party Seven’ cans in the mid sixties. These contained (as the name suggests) four and seven pints respectively and were ‘de riguer’ for parties (they featured prominently in the UK version of ‘Life on Mars’). In 1968 a special CO2 powered tap was produced to complete “the authentic pub experience’. Argh!
In the seventies Lager became more popular, imported brands (often brewed under licence) included Carlsberg and Carling Black Label, while other established brewers invented their own pilsner-style beers such as ‘Skol’ and ‘Harp’. Bitter consumption fell into decline and the Party Seven faded into folk memory.
In recent years, a few European Brewers (including Warsteiner) experimented with 5 litre cans, but Heineken effectively reinvented the market in 2007 with their pressurised 5 litre keg. And so the resurrection of the two classics is complete…
A five litre cask contains the equivalent of nearly nine British pints, or eleven American pints which makes it ideal for a proper Brew Club tasting plenty to go around, and while the first couple of pints are very lively, you quickly learn the best way to pour the beer.
The beer, as you might expect, is crystal clear and a very pale amber colour, beneath a pure white foaming head that leaves plenty of lace down the glass as you drink. Sadly the nose is slightly unpleasant, even soapy, as though you hadn’t rinsed the glass out properly (trust me – I had – and I even passed the glass to my wife (who doesn’t drink beer) for affirmation). This is a disappointment because otherwise it’s a pleasant enough lager, pure and simple.
The 5 litre barrel makes it convenient for a summer barbie. Mind you after some ribs, or garlic prawns the chances are my barbie guests won’t notice the soapy nose!
Three Stars – it’s good, but not great. Rating:
Bob the Brit