Beck’s is Germany’s best-known international beer brand with availability in more than 90 countries. It has for a number of years been owned by the biggest brewing behemoth on the planet, namely AB InBev, a company that brews more than 45 billion litres of beer per year (almost 7 litres per living human being), has a turnover in excess of US$47 billion (about the same as the gross domestic product of Lithuania), and generates more than US$15 billion in profit for its shareholders. Not surprisingly, the company has a reputation for bland beers, cost cutting, buying and shutting breweries and other such shameful shenanigans. Therefore, many beer lovers (myself included) try to avoid their products, preferring to spend our hard-earned money supporting brewers that care more about taste and quality. However, as I was browsing the beer shelves in my local supermarket the other day, I failed to avoid noticing that Beck’s have jumped on the Craft Beer Bandwagon (CBB), launching three new beers on the market: an amber lager, a pale ale and a “traditional” pilsner (called “1873 pils” in reference to the year that Beck’s was originally founded), and providing the consumers with a very handy 3-pack containing one of each, making the purchase process very smooth indeed.
Needless to say, I saw it as my sacred duty to you, the faithful readers of this blog, to purchase one bottle of each of these and conduct a tasting session, to save you from having to go through this potentially costly and painful experience yourselves – and so it came to pass that last night a few weeks ago, I opened said three bottles and poured them into a glass with a minimum of pomp but an appropriate amount of circumstance. The first one out was the 1873 Pils, and it poured nicely – as you would expect, it left the bottle willingly once I had remembered to remove the bottle top and tilted the bottle the required amount, and since I had cunningly positioned the glass underneath, nothing was spilled. There was some head, which is always nice, though this disappeared disappointingly quickly, which on the positive side gave me a golden excuse to drink the beer faster. On the nose, the beer felt wet and a little bit fizzy, but once it found its way down my gullet it revealed a fair amount of taste. Where most German pilsners from the north are quite dry and hoppy, this one was malty and had a touch of sweetness. Certainly not unpleasant, but not something to write a poem about either, except possibly a mediocre limerick.
|It's pils as it was back in 1873, apparently.|
Next up was the Amber Lager. Some of my favourite lagers are amber and some of my favourite ambers are lagers, so I had high hopes that this would be one that would make its forefathers in Vienna proud. Unfortunately, it was on the bland side. Not unpleasant, just lacking something – a bit like a bee happily buzzing around pollenating some fairly attractive flowers, but knowing in its tiny little heart that if it had only found an extra “r” it could be a beer instead.
|Don't underestimate the power of the amber side.|
Finally, there was the Pale Ale. This had more hops and certainly a more flowery sort of taste, though this was also miles away from some of the finer interpretations of the style both in terms of the overall attack on the taste buds as well as the subtler aspects. However, credit should be given for a decent effort – it was quite drinkable, and I finished the whole bottle without having to force anything down. I could go on about notes of freshly mown grass and lightly used badminton rackets, but for some reason such descriptions never enter my head whilst drinking, only when I sit down afterwards to write about a taste I have long since forgotten… so I won’t.
|It's pale and presumably ale, but is it pale ale?|
In confusion, this was an eminently forgettable, but nevertheless not unpleasant drinking session. My prediction is that these beers will disappear from the market as suddenly as they appeared, and looking at their web site just now this is exactly what seems to have happened – the focus is back on the standard pils and the crazy mixtures they concoct up there in Bremen, like beer mixed with lemon, lime and other citrus fruits that really should go nowhere near a decent brewery’s drink portfolio. Never mind – Beck’s marketing department probably has an idea or two on how to continue to contribute healthily to AB InBev’s profits, and they don’t need my help, even though I’d be happy to provide expert advice for a very reasonable 10% cut. Meanwhile, I shall shift my attention to other parts of Europe – I have travelled a bit lately, which has enabled me to expand my beery horizons even further. In other words – stay tuned. As they say in Thailand despite the fact that I haven't been there for 20 years: Chok dee!