A couple of years ago, while on a business trip to Brussels, I first encountered beers by Mongozo. It was a coconut flavoured beer which I described on my personal blog as ‘light, refreshing and having a full coconut nose – imagine a Pina Colada shandy”.
Mongozo – as I’m sure you’re aware, is a toast, meaning “Cheers” or “to your health” in the Chokwe language of sub-Saharan Africa. Their beers are brewed in the Netherlands (Holland) using ‘fair’ trade sourced ingredients from around the world. Since 2001 the Mongozo range has grown to five exotic flavours – Palm Nut, Banana, Coconut, Mango and Quinua ‘the golden grain of the Andes’. I freely admit that while the Coconut beer I tasted was an interesting diversion, I wasn’t in a hurry to try the rest.
Mongozo Premium Pils
That was until recently, when Mongozo clearly decided to go mainstream and launched their Premium Pilsner. This is no run of the mill Pilsner though, being certified Gluten Free, Fairtrade, Organic and Vegan; and brewed to a respectable 5% ABV.
I was fortunate enough to be invited to the UK launch of this beer and since the last time I refused a drink was 1978 (it was a Thursday and it was raining as I recall) I made my way to the London Museum for the launch, organized by the beer’s importers ‘Cave Direct’.
The new Pilsner is actually very good, and stands as a premium lager in its own right. Okay so you won’t be terribly surprised to learn that it’s a pale gold colour, with a crisp white head, hoppy nose and refreshing mouth feel and flavour. There’s a hint of rice in the mix which adds an extra mellowness, but that’s neither unusual nor particularly unpleasant. While it might upset the purists, I can think of several beers that I enjoy that include rice in their recipe.
You might recall that I tasted a selection of Gluten-Free beers for The Brew Club in early 2010 and they all rated between 3 and 3½ stars on my personal rating scale. Mongozo stands up against any of those, and fills the 5% gluten-free premium lager gap quite nicely. Having tasted Mongozo Premium Pils at home, without the influence of enthusiastic importers I think I’d give this three and a half stars as a Premium lager.
But… when you add its Gluten-free, fair-trade, organic and vegan friendly attributes this adds another star… that they’ve produced such a fine beer within those constraints is little short of amazing. 4½ stars.
While at the tasting, I also tasted Mongozo’s Banana flavoured beer.
And this puts me in a difficult position. Since I started writing beer reviews for The Brew Club, I have striven to become a serious beer writer and reviewer. I joined the British Guild of Beer Writers, I have gently poured bottle conditioned ales and sought out rare Trappist beers. I have sipped beers from the ends of the earth, and beers that cost more than single malt whisky.
And then I tasted this banana beer and I enjoyed it!
Don’t get me wrong, this is very much a guilty pleasure, but a single sip transported me to a warm sunny beach, with waves lapping gently and a warm gentle breeze wafting through the palm trees.
Okay, so it won’t ever compete against Timothy Taylor’s Landlord or even a Sam Adams pilsner, but for pure pleasure these beers are hard to beat.
There was a grin on the face of everybody that tasted both this, and the Mongozo Coconut beer.
Looking back at my blog entry from Brussels and I’m there holding a Mongozo coconut shell with an inane grin.
What can I say? These beers are good fun, and at the end of the day, we drink beer for pleasure don’t we?