Posts Tagged With: Travel

Beercation 2012: Thailand Edition

Where in the world was TYIB?

The fourth and final Asian destination was the truly exotic and intoxicating Thailand. Well, those are definitely not words I would use to describe the beers of Thailand. I’ll be honest, beer reviewing (not drinking) took a back seat on this leg of the trip. Time normally spent thinking about the nuances of malts and hops was replaced with endless site visits to temples and pad thai street stalls. Regardless, the following photograph accurately depicts the beer scene in Thailand.

Beer is a relatively modern phenomenon in Thailand. The first brewery, Boon Rawd Brewery, was opened in 1934. This is likely due to the fact that Thailand was the only country in the region not subjected to European colonialism. Boon Rawd, producer of ‘premium’ Singha, ruled the beer market for most of the 20th century, only facing competition from Chang in 1995, the sweetheart of ThaiBev. Boon Rawd also began producing Leo, a ‘non-premium’ and cheaper lager later in the game and ThaiBev countered with its own ‘non-premium’ beer, Archa. While the aforementioned beers are the heavy hitters in Thailand, there are regionally-produced brews as well (which are generally the more interesting ones). For example, Phuket Beer (yes, found in Phuket) is actually brewed according to the Reinheitsgebot (German purity law). Unfortunately for me, I did not travel south and was unable to find Phuket.

There are very few foreign options, as Thailand imposes a heavy duty on foreign imports. As a result, a number of large international beverage companies have made deals with the Thai beverage industry (ahem, ThaiBev and Carlsberg) in order to get in on the beer market.

One country simply cannot be home to both the best food and beer in the world (just look at Germany as an example). Thus, the fate of Thailand’s beer is to be mediocre and flavorless for years to come. Don’t cry over this unfortunate situation; just go to the closest noodle station instead. You’ll forget there was ever a problem in this world.

Beer: Leo
Brewery: Boon Rawd Brewery
Style: Pale Lager
ABV: 5%

A Thai favorite (their website is, Boon Rawd’s budget beer is not any worse than, let’s say, Milwaukee’s Best or Coors. Like many beers in the region, the body is pale gold and the flavor profile is predominantly corn and grain. The mouthfeel is a little thinner than other Southeast Asian lagers, and actually a bit oily. Despite the adorable leopard on the label, I would not drink this again. It was almost a pour-out, but my hotel room was hot and I forgot to buy water at the nearby 7-11.

Beer: Singha
Brewery: Boon Rawd Brewery
Style: Pale Lager
ABV: 5%

Singha is indisputably the best mass-produced beer in Thailand (sorry, Chang). While it also comes attached to the highest price tag, it’s worth the extra Thai baht. Singha is light, crisp, and is free of any unpleasant aftertastes. There’s actually a trace of hops in there, and it’s not impossible to detect an aroma. However, Singha is best had in Thailand; I purchased a six-pack the other day to indulge in my Southeast Asian nostalgia. The mission was a complete bust, as it didn’t come alongside a carton of mango sticky rice. Also, at the end of the day, it is just a pale lager.

Beer: Chang
Brewery: Cosmos Brewery (ThaiBev)
Style: Pale Lager
ABV: 5.0%

While Singha might be the best beer in Thailand, Chang is the most readily available. I’ll be honest, 90% of the time I drank a cold Chang alongside a large plate of Pad See Ew. This pairing was deceptive: I was convinced that Chang was best beer I’d have ever tried. However, the illusion was shattered when I went to a bar and ordered a Chang sans noodles. Turns out, Chang tastes like water and sweet corn. It does have an exceptional mouthfeel, but it fails every other “premium quality beer” test.

All in all, do not go to Thailand for the beer. I can give you a hundred other reasons to go…just try to sneak an IPA or Tripel in your suitcase.

TYIB, exploring mediocre lagers, one beer at a time.

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Beercation 2012: Northern Vietnam Edition

Where in the world was TYIB?

The third SEA destination was Northern Vietnam. It’s important to make this directional distinction, as there is an established Bohemian beer scene and burgeoning home-brewing community in Ho Chi Minh City, the country’s capital in the south. These do not exist in Hanoi and the surrounding areas in the north. Instead, a collection of mediocre pale lagers and the wildly adored Bia Hoi flow freely in the streets (literally, as beer is consumed while sitting on small plastic chairs outside).

As the story goes, beer was introduced to Vietnam by French colonialists in the 1890s. It was pretty nice of les Francaise to promote the exchange of les traditions culturelle, oui? MAIS NO! Looking to increase profits in their colonial outposts, the French began to charge an exorbitant tax on rice liquor, the primary libation in Vietnam at the time. Simultaneously, they introduced French wine and beer to the country. In order to avoid paying the high tax, the Vietnamese slowly started to purchase the cheaper beer. While the means by which beer became an integral part of Vietnamese culture are dubious, I doubt many would trade Bia Hoi and Hanoi Lager for homemade rice liquor. Well, depending on the night, at least.

A little trivia for the soul: the word for beer in Vietnamese (bia) comes from the French word “biere.” Less letters, same result. Vietnamese efficiency!


Beer: Bia Hoi
Brewery: varies
Style: Rice Lager
ABV: ~3%

Bia Hoi, said to be Vietnamese for “fresh beer” (it actually translates to “gas beer”), is an unpasteurized beer brewed daily with no preservatives by breweries and local shops. Renowned for its low price tag, it’s as good as you would expect a $.20 beer to be. It tastes like a watered-down version of Bud Light, which as you know tastes like a watered-down version of Budweiser, which as you know tastes like a watered-down version of a Czech Pilsner (and that’s a serious compliment to the American classic). It’s quite difficult to read any flavor in this watery concoction, but after enough, themes of straw, rice, and corn emerge. However, what it lacks in flavor, it makes up for in experience. Bia Hoi can only be consumed in Bia Hoi street stalls. You can imagine how rowdy a Friday night in Hanoi can be with thousands of people drinking on the street for hours on end (and don’t forget to factor in thousands of motorbikes!) Now, while this all sounds like fun, there are possible side effects. Other than a hangover, there is no actual way of knowing if your Bia Hoi is actually hoi: some beer vendors have been known to sell the dregs of old kegs of the unpasteurized brew.  I’m not advising against a night of Bia Hoi, but maybe packs some Tums and antibiotics just in case.


Beer: Hanoi Beer
Brewery: Hanoi Beer Company
Style: Rice Lager
ABV: 5.1%

Hanoi Beer is the jewel of Northern Vietnam. Golden in color and rich in mouthfeel, this bia would satisfy most on a steamy Hanoi day. As with many beers of the region, Hanoi Beer is a rice-based lager. The flavor of the rice, however, is not the dominant flavor. Instead, notes of grain, yeast, and grass prevail. It’s a thoroughly average lager, but as the temperature rises, it only tastes better and better. Just like Bia Hoi, Hanoi Beer is brewed with no preservatives and must be consumed the day it is produced.

As an aside, the Hanoi Beer Company was the first brewery in Vietnam. Originally owned by a Frenchman named Hommel, Hanoi Beer was produced using local rice and imported hops and marketed to French expats. However, as the French emptied out of the area in the 1950s, Hommel Brewery was left to the government and was renamed Hanoi Brewery. Hanoi Brewery is still owned by the government and allegedly produces 90% of the beer in Hanoi.


Beer: Biere Larue
Brewery: VBL Tien Giang
Style: Euro Pale Lager
ABV: 4.2%

Biere Larue was the first beer I tried in Vietnam. After a month in Myanmar, I was looking forward to pouring something other than Myanmar Lager into my glass. However, after a few sips of Biere Larue, I developed a major case of nostalgia for my 640ml of Myanmar. It was completely mediocre and unmemorable, with a generic grain taste as the predominant flavor. Nevertheless, Biere Larue is an integral part of Vietnamese beer culture: it was established in 1909 by Frenchman Victor Larue as part of the Brasseries et Placieres de L’Indochine Brewery and was once regarded as one of the best European lagers in the region. Clearly, times have changed, but Biere Larue continues to remind us how far humankind has come in our beer-discerning abilities.


Beer: 333 Premium Export Lager
Brewery: Saigon Beer  Company
Style: Rice Lager
ABV: 5.3%

I debated whether or not to include the 333 in this report, as it hails from Southern Vietnam. It also happens to be the blandest of the Vietnamese beers available in the Hanoi region. I have very few words for this beer. Alright, fine, okay, it has a generic grain flavor profile and is moderately carbonated. There, I did my homework.

In lieu of anything insightful to say about its character, I will impart some knowledge onto you. Production of 333 began in France in 1893 as an attempt to create the sacred German lager (FAIL). Production was exported to Ho Chi Mihn City in the early 1900s, where the recipe became known as the 333 Export Lager. I am going to fashion a guess that when the French left the Indochine colonies in 1954, the brewing facility was handed over to the government and became known as the Saigon Beer Company.

i hope this bia hoi is hoi! một hai ba, yo!

TYIB, exploring colonial history, one beer at a time.

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Beercation 2012: Myanmar Edition

Where in the world was TYIB?

The second destination of Beercation 2012 was the enigmatic Myanmar, Burma, Golden Land. While there are infinite observations to be made about a place that was once second to North Korea as the most isolated country in the world, there are finite beer observations to recount. If only there were as many beer options as golden pagodas! If only there were as many beer options as sticky rice desserts! If only there were as many beer options as foreign investors sniffing around for natural resources! You get my point.

Beer consumption is a relatively recent phenomenon in Myanmar. Before 1988, foreign beer was only found on the black market, and government-operated Mandalay Brewery (the only brewery in Myanmar at the time) had essentially gone bankrupt. In the early 1990s, as the economy began to open to foreign investment, Singapore investors were interested in reviving the brewing industry through privatization. While one investment venture resulted in a lawsuit at the International Court of Justice, another joint-venture with the government led to the establishment of the Myanmar Brewery, which produces “Myanmar’s Favourite Beer.” A few years later, Dagon Brewery was established, providing an alternative to Myanmar Lager and Mandalay Beer (for better or for worse). Mandalay Brewery, Myanmar Brewery, and Dagon Brewery are currently the only brewing facilities in the country.


Beer: Myanmar Lager
Brewery: Myanmar Brewery and Distillery
Style: Pale Lager
ABV: 5%

The Myanmar equivalent to the American Budweiser, Myanmar Lager is certainly an effective way to keep cool during the monsoon season. It’s well-carbonated, crisp, and there’s even a faint trace of hops. I could not have been more relieved to discover Myanmar Lager’s relatively wonderful balance and flavor. Despite being the only beer available in Yangon, I would have ordered Myanmar Lager over most of its foreign peers. If the Myanmar Brewery expands its facilities and begins to export Myanmar Lager on a wide-scale, Asian beer heavyweights such as Singha and Tsing-Tao will face tough competition.



Beer: Dagon Lager
Brewery: Dagon Brewery
Style: Pale Lager
ABV: 5%

The dirty secret of beer in Myanmar, Dagon Lager Beer is seemingly banned from all drinking establishments, to be found only in the depths of cheap grocery stores. I mean, it’s not vile, but as Dagon represents nearly half of all available beer options in Myanmar, I can understand the country’s embarrassment. There is no reason to venture into Dagon territory when Myanmar Lager, pride of the nation, is available pretty much everywhere except religious sites. It pours a pale yellow and has a aluminum and corn flavor profile. While I would absolutely choose a Dagon over a glass of  local tap water, there’s a reason it sits on the bottom shelf.


Beer: Mandalay Strong Ale Beer
Brewery: Mandalay Brewery
Style: English Strong Ale
ABV: 6.5%

Why purchase a Mandalay Ale Beer when you can indulge in a Mandalay Strong Ale Beer? A staple in central Myanmar, Mandalay Brewery puts out completely average brews. While clearly it’s impossible to get bored with the wondrous Myanmar Lager, Mandalay Strong Ale Beer was a welcomed alternative during a trip to Bagan in central Myanmar. It was well-carbonated, with a larger hop presence than Myanmar Lager.

As the political landscape changes in Myanmar, so does the beerscape. Thai Singha Corporation is in negotiations to open a brewery in Myanmar. When the political situation stabilizes, the country will likely begin to import popular international staples such Heineken, Amstel, and Stella as its economy continues to open. But until a craft beer movement develops in Myanmar, Myanmar Lager will likely reign supreme, as it truly is one of the better Euro Macro Lager-style beers I’ve tasted on my travels. MYANMAR LAGER!

never enough myanmar lagers!

TYIB, exploring geopolitics, one beer at a time.

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Beercation 2012: Bali Edition

Where in the world was TYIB?

The first destination of the summer was Bali, perhaps one of the most romanticized islands in the world. Known for its beaches, Hindu temples, and epicurean delights, Bali is as much a surfer’s dream as it is a spiritual center. Annnnd where there is tropical weather, tourist sites, and spicy food, I’ve learned, there is a generic pilsner-style lager lurking nearby to cool down the body, mind, and mouth. Bali was no exception. The Balinese cold one? “International Quality” BINTANG. Oh, and no, your eyes aren’t deceiving you: this label looks exceedingly similar to that of “International Quality” Heineken. Oh, how the remnants of Dutch colonialism linger!

Beer: Bintang
Brewery: Multi Bintang Indonesia
Style: American “Adjunct Lager” (haha not even a real Pilsner–nice try, Bali)
ABV: 4.7%

Serving Style: Bottle
Glassware: Pilsner glass
Drinking Establishment: some cafe on Monkey Jungle Road
Primary Consumer: Kerensa
Secondary Consumers: Traveler-in-crime Lauren


Sight: Clear, pale yellow body with a thin white head.

Smell: Not completely unpleasant, but reeks of corn and mediocrity.

Flavor: It tastes like carbonation. Yes, it also feels like carbonation, but because of its dearth of flavor, the predominant taste is…carbonation. There are faint traces of hops, but that could’ve been from the last IPA I had back in the States.

Feel: See above.

Concluding Remarks:  Well, I didn’t come across any articles on the booming craft beer scene in Indonesia, so I wasn’t expecting a wide variety of Balinese beers upon arrival. However, Bintang appeared to be the only beer available, at least in the center of Bali (Ubud) where we stayed. (If you are interested in reading about the beers I missed in Bali, check out this guy’s survey.) As I concluded all that I can about Bintang in the above remarks, I will leave you with a bit of information that might save your ass in trivia night:

Bintang facilities were constructed under Dutch Colonial rule in 1929. After Indonesian independence in 1949, the facility was called “Heineken’s Indonesian Brewery Company.” The Indonesian government wasn’t having any of this association with the Dutch, and took control over the brewery in 1957. However, the powerful forces of Heineken reigned supreme, and they reclaimed brewing authority in 1967. It was in 1981 that the brewery finally received a Dutch-free identity: Multi Bintang Indonesia. While it certainly has a nice exotic ring to it, a pale lager is still a pale lager.

TYIB, exploring world history, one beer at a time.

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TYIB Goes Global: The Poles

In order to more fully explore the regional beer culture, we took a short train to Szczecin, Poland for its reconstructed Stare Miasto (old town), pierogies, and beer. As this was a much shorter trip than our stay in Berlin, we had less time to consume and review as many beers as possible. Nevertheless, the following is a briefing on the offerings of Poland!


Beer: Żywiec
Brewery: Żywiec Breweries
Style: Euro Pale Lager
ABV: 5.6%

Watery, thin body. Detectable flavors include corn and bread. While easily found in the US, we would recommend picking up the Żywiec Porter instead–more flavor and more alcohol for the same price.


Beer: Bosman Full
Browar Bosman
Style: Euro Pale Lager
ABV: 5.7%

The 1840 Bosman Brewery, owned by Carlsburg, is located right in the heart of Szczecin. They make two beers, the Bosman Full and the Bosman Strong. Found on every tap in Szczecin, Bosman Full is enjoyable, though lacks character. It’s vaguely sweet and grainy, but….that’s about it. Maybe the strong is better?


Beer: Okocim Beer
Brewery: Browar Okocim
Style: Euro Pale Lager
ABV: 5.9%

The Okocim Beer was consumed right before we tried the Okocim Mocne (Strong), which was significantly better. It had a nice malt profile, but again, that’s about it. A little bit grassy, a little bit doughy…a fine beer for a hot day. But not a fine beer for a nuanced beer review.


Beer: Okocim Mocne
Brewery: Browar Okocim
Style: Euro Strong Lager
ABV: 7.5%

It seems to be common for Polish breweries to produce a pale lager and then a strong lager. The Okocim Mocne (Polish for “strong”), is Okocim’s strong lager. Overall, the Mocne has a slightly sweeter and a vegetal/fruit taste. If we were able to find this as college students, at 7.5%, we would’ve forgone all of those Sparks energy drinks for Okocim’s Mocne…


Beer: Książ
Brewery: Browar Bosman
Style: Euro Pale Lager
ABV: 6.5%

Also produced by Browar Bosman, Książ boasts that it uses pure water and is aged below a castle in Książ, Poland. Very thin, watery body with generic sweet grain taste.


Beer: Dębowe Mocne
Brewery: Tyskie Browary Książęce
Style: Euro Strong Lager
ABV: 7.5%

Another Polish Mocne, Dębowe, produced by Tyskie, is not an improvement on the first one we tried. While significantly more flavorful than its pale counterparts, this strong lager is almost cloyingly sweet.


Beer: Mocne
Brewery: Browar Jablonowo
Style: Euro Strong Lager
ABV: 7.2%

Browar Jablonowo has been around since…1992. Their strong lager tastes like it was left in the sun since then. We could not finish this beer, which at best could be described as having a terrible butterscotch flavor.


Beer: Tatra
Brewery: Żywiec Breweries
Style: Euro Pale Lager
ABV: 6.0%

Although the Tatra is quite sweet, after getting through the preceding Mocnes, it was a sip of fresh air. It tastes like corn and apples, with a little bit of grain.


Beer: Harnas
Brewery: Browar Okocim
Style: Euro Pale Lager
ABV: 6.2%

Harnas, another pale lager from the Okocim Browar, is exceedingly watery and has a jarring grainy aftertaste. Nevertheless, if you like seltzer, you’ll enjoy the Harnas.


Beer: Zubr
Brewery: Browar Dojlidy Bialystok, outta Poznan
Style: Euro Strong Lager
ABV: 5.8%

Clearly, you can see the appeal of this beer (read: bison). At this point, all of these Polish lagers are blurring together and blurring the line between what is and what isn’t drinkable. The Zubr Bison just barely falls on the side of drinkable.


Beer: Warka
Brewery: Żywiec Breweries
Style: Euro Strong Lager
ABV: 5.7%

Bland, yet the high carbonation renders it moderately drinkable.

Suffice to say, don’t travel to Poland for the beer selection. Perhaps a quarter of the way through our reviewing extravaganza we should’ve seen the futility and switched to a vodka tasting. Though, I’m not sure that we would have ever made it back to the US…

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TYIB Goes Global: The Germans

Though we did not have a ‘traditional’ Get Blitzed Day, we did have a Get Blitzed Week. Despite the consumption of infinite litres of bier, we attempted to capture as much information on the imbibed beverages. Below is our collection of insights, stories, and reviews of some of the best beers found in Berlin!


Beer: Pilsner
Brewery: Warsteiner Brauerei
Style: German Pilsner
ABV: 4.8%

We wasted (pun intended) no time getting started, and our first review was on the plane, courtesy of Lufthansa, member of the Star Alliance. We managed to acquire three of these on our transatlantic flight, in order to truly appreciate this “premium German beer” (well, to truly appreciate how generous the Lufthansa flight attendants are with booze). While perhaps not the best German Pilsner we have tried this month, Warsteiner puts forth a wholly drinkable, well-carbonated beer, with the expected Euro lager yeast and graininess of a German Pilsner. Certainly worthy of trying up on an eight-hour flight.


Beer: Jetstream
Brewery: Airbräu Munchen
Style: German Pilsner
ABV: 5.0%

TYIB tip #43: If you have a layover in Munich (which is likely if you fly anywhere on Lufthansa–I once had a layover in Munich when trying to get to Madrid), find Airbräu, the brewery/biergarten in the Flughafen München Franz Josef Strauß. Not only do they brew their own beer on site (in the airport), they have a full menu of Bavarian treats and a stellar line-up of beers on tap. The Jetstream, the first beer we tried, is an unfiltered German Pilsner. It had a gorgeous straw body, and was refreshing and crisp, with a robust citrusy hop and grain flavor. This Airport Pilsner was one of the best German Pilsners this month.


Beer: Kumulus
Brewery: Airbräu Munchen
Style: Hefeweizen
ABV: 5.4%

On a mission to try the entire run of Airbräu beers during the extent of our meager layover, the Kumulus, a hefeweizen (wheat beer), was next on the docket. In a rush to drink as much as possible (we do not recommend this tactic before you know what gate you have to run to), we had to drink it on the fly without a photograph or a full review. However, our image-negligence is not indicative of the quality of this beer. The Kumulus is as light, creamy, and fluffy as its namesake, with a clove and banana/bubble-gum presence generally found in hefeweizens.


Beer: Mayday
Brewery: Airbräu Munchen
Style: Dunkelweizen
ABV: likely 5-6%

We sadly had to put this one down pretty quickly, but it was sehr easy! The Mayday, a dunkelweizen (dark wheat) is one of Airbräu’s seasonsal brews, appropriately tapped on May 1st. Brewed with dark barley malt, the taste is a little bit spicy and a lot of bit banana/malts, kind of like a fruity cereal. The medium, low-carbonated feel accentuates this flavor profile. If you find yourself in Munich in the early summer, celebrate May Day with a Mayday. And if you’re not, look out for Airbräu’s other seasonals: Aviator (Doppelbock), Festbier (Oktoberfest), and Krampus (Winter beer).


Beer: Helles
Brewery: Augustiner Bräu
ABV: 5.2%

Whenever I go to Germany, my Nummer Eins  priority is to find the Augustiner Lagerbier Hell IMMEDIATELY. This is one of my favorite German beers of all time, as evidenced by the above photo. In fact, this is one of the highest rated/regarded helles beers in the world. Augustiner is the oldest brewery in Munich (1328!), and has been upholding the Bavarian Reinheitsgebot (“Purity Law”) of 1516 with every beer produced. The Lagerbier Hell is the sublime balance of its three ingredients…water, hops, and barley malt. It’s perfectly carbonated, perfectly balanced, and perfectly incredible. There’s a reason why there are many Yahoo! Answers entries asking, WHO WILL SHIP ME THE LAGERBIER HELL. The answer? No one. Go to Germany.

(After a little research, there appears to be one bar in Philadelphia (St. Steven’s Green) that has it in bottles. Here are the directions: DIRECTIONS TO LAGERBIER.)


Beer: Edelstoff
Brewery: Augustiner Bräu
Style: Helles
ABV: 5.6%

A wee more sweet than the Lagerbier, the Edelstoff is what Augustiner calls an ‘exportbier’ and is expectedly slightly more alcoholic as well (as beers labeled ‘EXPORT’ generally are). Brewed with the “nobelest materials,” the Edelstoff is nearly as amazing as its brother, Lagerbier. The additional sweetness throws the perfect balance, though. Nevertheless, it’s crisp, with a sweet malt and floral hop flavor,  and just a little bit of spice. If you want a taste of Augustiner’s second best, take a trip out to Brooklyn for a bottle, or Valhalla in Hell’s Kitchen for an exceedingly overpriced one.


Beer: Pilsner Klassik
Brewery: Berliner Kindl Brauerei
Style: German Pilsner
ABV: 4.6%

It shouldn’t be a shock to hear that Bavarian beers are superior to a vast majority of non-Bavarian beers. This is further proved by the Berliner Kindl Pils, a pretty subpar Pilsner produced by Berlin brewery Berliner Kindl. Sure, the 1902 brewery is essentially a fetus when compared to the 700-year old Bavarian breweries, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to purchase the Berliner Pils over ANYTHING made by Bavarian brewers. I will add the caveat that we tried the Berliner Pils while watching Eurovision in Prenzlauer Berg, so maybe we mistook the bitterness of the beer for the bitterness we felt when the Buranovskiye Babushki only took second place. Or, it’s just subpar.



Beer: Chiemseer Hell
Brewery: Chiemgauer Brauhaus
Style: Helles
ABV: likely 5.0-5.4%

Chiemgauer Brauhaus is located in the Chiemgau area, which is nestled in the foothills of the Alps and surrounds the Chiemsee lake. Just in case you were wondering, because we were wondering. Anyways, Chiemgauer Brauhaus puts forth a helles to rival the Lagerbier Hell! It’s exceptionally well-carbonated, light, refreshing, and tastes like Germany (i.e., German malts) in a bottle. If I could keep my fridge filled with the Chiemseer Hell, I would. But I can’t, as this might be one of the most obscure Bavarian beers.


Beer: Tannenzäpfle Pils
Brewery: Badische Staatsbrauerei Rothaus
Style: German Pilsner
ABV: 5.1%

Oh, meine liebe, Rothaus Tannenzäpfle (which means “little fir cones” in German). Rothaus’ Tannenzäpfle Pils is, hands down, the best German Pilsner. Ever. It tastes like biscuit dough, if it was a sweet, zesty, herbed, pine biscuit. It is downright disgusting just how refreshing and put-backable this little 33cl treat is. It is no surprise that there is a cult following surrounding the gold-foiled beer.


Beer: Weissbier
Brewery: König Ludwig
Style: Hefeweizen
ABV: 5.4%

After walking the depths of the Tiergarten, stumbling upon a small biergarten at the edge of a lake was the perfect context for enjoying König Ludwig’s Hefeweizen. König Ludwig, also known as the “Mad King” and “Fairy Tale King,” is most famously associated today with the construction of Neuschwanstein Castle and the patronage of Wagner. Many associate his madness and creativity with the modern wealth of Bavaria, inadvertently creating a massive tourism industry in the area. Indulge me for a second, but das König also commissioned a partial replica of Versailles, a quirky Wagner-influenced Venus Grotto, and numerous Moroccan and Turkish-themed rooms. Oh! The beer! Yeah, König Ludwig’s Hefeweizen is fit for a mad, whimsical king: it’s rich, creamy, smells like bubble gum, and oozes sweet bananas and cloves. If you’re looking to try it, just look out for a six-pack with an image of The Castle on it.


Beer: Alterwasser
Style: Radler
ABV: –

As most German beers consist of three simple (yet noble) ingredients, we can imagine that beer-drinking life MUST get a little tedious from time to time. Their solution? Dump a number random drinks into your beer. German beer mixed drinks include the Radler (half lager, half “limo” or a Sprite-like beverage), Diesel (half lager, half cola), and a Colaweizen (half hefeweizen, half cola). And then there is what we ordered by accident…the Alsterwasser. Imagine our surprise, thinking we were about to review a fresh German Pilsner. Upon first taste, we almost did one of those comical sip-spit-spray shticks. The Alsterwasser is similar to the Radler, except a Pilsner is used instead of a Lager. Excuse my German, but it was DAS SUCK. Instinctively, I wanted to devise some sort of tourniquet to stop the flow of this sodabeer. But alas, we drank the Alsterwasser anyways, if only to relay just how terrible it was.


Beer: Pilsener
Brewery: Brauerei C. & A. Veltins
German Pilsner
ABV: 4.8%

The Veltins Pilsner is a solid non-Bavarian German Pilsner. More on the bitter end of the Pilsner scale, Veltins is an alternative to its sometimes-too-sweet Bavarian counterparts.


Beer: Helles
Brewery: Klosterbrauerei Andechs
Style: Helles
ABV: 4.8%

To be honest, this Helles is pretty unmemorable. It has a thin body with great carbonation, but that’s all that we commented on at the time. Apparently it earned itself three pint glasses, though!


Beer: Budweiser Budvar
Brewery: Brewery Budwesier Budvar
Style: Czech Pilsner
ABV: 5.0%

While Budvar is not technically a German Pilsner (it is in fact a Czech Pilsner), it was sorely overlooked during our Pilsner month and we did drink a number of them while dancing to 1970s disco in a 9′ x 10′ bar in Kreuzberg. Budvar (or, Czechvar in the USA…read about the naming CONTROVERSY here), is considered to be one of the best Pilsners in the world, and we’ll jump on that bandwagon. The highlight of BudCzechvar is the unique hop flavor dervied from Saaz hops–it’s piney, earthy, and spicy. These flavors aren’t overpowering, though, and are balanced by the biscuity, doughy Moravian malt. While always better closer to the source, I guarantee that you will not be disappointed if you pick up a 6 of Czechvar.


Beer: Pilsener
Brewery: Flensburger Brauerei
Style: German Pilsner
ABV: 4.8%

And last, but not really least, the Flensburger Pilsener. After meine leibe (Rothaus), Flensburger’s Pils is the best German Pilsner this month. It is exceptionally crisp and balanced, with a surprisingly full herbal, grassy hop flavor, tempered with a bready malt taste. While consuming countless Flensburgers didn’t help my ping pong game that night, it did expand my appreciation for German Pilsners.

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