Here’s something unusual… Chinese Beer from Australia! And not only that, you get a second review for free!
Since I started writing for The Brew Club I’ve been taking more interest in the beer shelves at my local supermarket.
For the most part the bottles are pretty nondescript, with a few exceptions like the embossed Cusquena and Cobra bottles. The other day I saw a bottle shaped like a chinese ‘Pekong’ Happy Buddha holding a gold ingot above his head. Closer investigation showed the beer to be imported from Australia, but brewed ‘to an authentic Asian recipe’. That means rice in the mix, along with the usual malted barley and then a hefty dose of aromatic Czech Saaz hops.
Well, I confess my curiosity got the better of me, and I am rather fond of oriental beers, so I purchased a bottle of ‘Lucky Beer‘ and took it home to chill.
The beer is brewed to a respectable 4.8% by Australia Independent Brewers in Smeaton Grange, New South Wales, and pours a bright crisp amber colour with a clean white head. No surprises there. There’s a slightly hoppy nose, but not excessive,and the flavour is a crisp clean, slightly sweet pilsner that will go well with Asian food.
Actually given the rice in the mix I was hoping to pick up more of that rounded sweetness you find in Tsing Tao, but it was nowhere to be found. So it doesn’t taste like a Chinese lager, but is it Asian? I returned to my beer fridge and found a bottle of Bintang (review below), Indonesia’s finest, and opened that.
Yep, that works. In a blind tasting I don’t think I would tell Lucky and Bintang apart… that’s pretty authentic Asian flavour in my book.
Obviously the bottle is the main selling point of this beer, there’s even a guy in Chicago who converts the bottles into drinking glasses. That said, while I wouldn’t go out of my way to buy it again, there’s more to it than just the fancy bottle.
Which brings me, while I’m here, to Bintang.
The Bintang brewery was founded in 1929 and now have two breweries in Indonesia, the company is part of the global Heineken group and are responsible for brewing Heineken and Guinness for the Indonesian market.
Given that I couldn’t differentiate between Lucky Beer and Bintang, you can already surmise that I’m going to give this three stars and say that it’s light, crisp, slightly sweet, and refreshing with a hint of Saaz hops on the nose.
Bintang (meaning ‘Star’) is by far the best selling beer in Indonesia, including resorts like Bali and is consequently familiar to our friends in Australia.
I think the key to beers like this is, given that there are a number of well regarded beers brewed locally, would I pay a premium both in terms of cash and ‘food miles’ (the distance food has traveled to arrive on your table) for beers like these?
In all honesty probably not.
They’re both fine beers, and as I’ve suggested would go down well with an Asian meal, but if I was to go for a brew that’s had to be shipped a long way, then I think I’d probably go for Tsing Tao.
Have you tried Tsing Tao, Lucky, or Bintang? What’s your favorite?