Beer Tasting, BJCP-Style

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A good friend of mine, Mark, gave me an interesting beer from Lithuania and asked me to do an "official" beer tasting about it. The only way to be truly as objective as possible is to use the BJCP guidelines in order to rate the beer.

Following the guideline-style "adjudication" of the beer, I will add my own much more subjective editorial comments, full of snobbery to be sure.

Without further ado, my subject for tasting this evening, supplied by my good friend Mark, is Zhiguly Beer Grand, from Gubernija brewery in Siauliai, Lithuania.

The hard part here is that the BJCP Guidelines don't cover for what this style of beer is, which is a Euro Strong Lager. American Light Lager doesn't quite fit. Closest beer-wise would be a Bohemian Lager, in my opinion. Technically, this is European malt liquor...the Euro version of King Cobra or Colt 45. But given the region and brewing technique, I'd put this in the Bohemian Lager camp.

Presentation: Green glass 16.9 oz. bottle, boasting a 9.5% abv, poured into a British Imperial Pint glass. No freshness date apparent on the bottle. With 9.5% abv...who needs fresh?

Appearance: Pale gold, almost brilliantly clear. Yielded a 1" slightly off-white head; vaguely cream-colored. Shrank quickly to about 1/4" and dissipated from there. Very dense, but ultimately poor retention. 2/3

Aroma: The famous Saaz hop is present right up front; very typical Bohemian Pils smell right away. Earthy, somewhat cornhusk-scented; noticeably adjunct-heavy (I'd say corn). There is a lingering sweetness in the distant background. Mostly, however, what you get is huge alcohol. The alcohol pretty much burns away whatever else there was that is truly pleasant about a typical lager of this style. Way too much alcohol. 5/12

Flavor: Big earthy, spicy hop up front, as I'd expect from a beer of this general style. Definite cornhusk graininess, but that Bohemian "skunky-funk" like Pilsner Urquell (a wonderful commercial example...the gold-standard of Bohemian Lagers) is present. Then the alcohol hits. This is more of an alcohol warmth like you get in a solid stout or even an Imperial Pilsner or Double IPA. This is like a shot of vodka in a light beer. The hops and sweet malt backbone are completely overshadowed by a massive alcohol burn. 7/20.

Mouthfeel: Lighter-bodied than a true beer of this style, most likely from the use of adjuncts to lighten the beer and boost the alcohol content. Despite the big alcohol, it was not dry. Medium carbonation, appropriate to style. Leaves an unpleasant alcohol taste in the back of the throat with a strange, cloying sweetness. 3/5.

Overall Impression: This was tough, but no matter if I compared this to an American Light Lager, a German Pilsner or any other similar lighter lager, I'd get near this result. This is a European malt liquor for all intents and purposes, with a rushed fermentation. Alcohol of this proportion for a lighter beer than a porter or stout is better suited for the crazy American Double- and Triple-IPAs, or the newer Imperial Pilsner style (which Sam Adams does quite well). This beer deviates from American Light Lager and Standard Lager, especially in even with those, this beer is so unbalanced by the alcohol with absolutely nothing to compete with it. The "by-the-book" flavors of a Bohemian Pilsner were there, they were just utterly decimated by the alcohol and adjunct tastes. 4/10.

Total Score: 21/50. Drinkable, but there are serious flaws.

This beer is fine if you are out to get sloshed. There's not enough to taste here to make this a beer you sit and drink and enjoy. Like malt liquor, this beer's goal is to get people drunk. I sincerely hope that the procurer of this beer for me didn't pay more than $1.50, because this is imported as a .99 cent beer. And that's about says it.


Mike 4:07 PM  

Ugh. Sounds vile.

Reminds me a bit of Baltika 9. (Baltika comes in 3, 5, 7, 9, which vary by style and ABV). 9 comes with a stupendously high ABV, and has almost the same qualities you describe here.

The first time I tried it I sorta liked it -- expecting a watering Pislner rip-off, I was psyched to get some body and the ripping alcohol content. Plus, on an empty stomach, I was well-nigh bombed by the end of the first bottle, so #2 went down reaaaaaaaaal easy, like the 14th Bud at a frat party in college.

But the second type I drank it, all I noticed was the cloying sweetness, a metallicy thing, and lots of alcohol.

Just thinking about it now makes me wretch.

* * *

By the way, I registered at Beer Advocate this morning and perused it for about 20 minutes. I still think they pack in more hassle than it's worth, but I'll swing by from time-to-time.

Where's Michael Jackson hiding out these days? He have a blog or website? For my money, he's the best beer writer out there. I have one of his pocket guides, but it's 1996 or so, so a lot of US beer is missing.

Smitty 5:13 PM  

Well, at least registration at BA is free. Mostly at this point, I only visit to use the Home Brewing Forum, the Great Lakes Region Beer News Forum and to look up beers before I try some to see what some other folks think. Hell, I barely have any reviews listed on it...the site more utility than it is bona fide entertainment/lifestyle for me.

Michael Jackson makes an occasional appearance on BA from time to time, but I haven't seen anything from him in a while. The real movers-and-shakers are at the American Homebrewers Association/Brewers Association where Charlie Papazian (genuflecting) is still a regular contributor. I've seen Jackson there too.

As for the reviewed beer: absolutely. Maybe to be honest, I should review it compared to other malt liquors, which it is far better than. If I had to drink a choice between this beer or, say, Olde English, I'd take this one in a heartbeat. But the BJCP doesn't have a malt liquor category. Hmmm...why would that be...

Oh yeah. It promotes quality craft beer.

Bob 3:12 PM  

If it's the Mark I am thinking of, it sounds like his taste in beer is about as bad as his taste in cars...

Sorry Mark, but I just had to say it.

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