Heineken UK relaunch

Today’s issue of Marketing Week carries a story about Heineken, who are apparently relaunching in the UK with a more “continental” image. They want people to drink Heineken in smaller measures, with a thicker head, as a “premium beer”.

This won’t do anything about the actual taste of their beer – it’s still “cooking lager” – but it is an interesting step away from British lager culture.

Marketing Week also points out how badly Heineken goofed when they relaunched last time, putting their beer’s ABV up to 5% just when everyone got upset about binge-drinking. They spent a fortune on announcing “new, stronger Heineken”, and then a year or so later their competitors were all announcing, for example, “new, weaker Becks”, or Stella, or Carling.

They’re also announcing a new “draught keg” for home use. Er… Party Seven?

Lithuanian Lager Face Off Part 2: the face offening

svyturys_taste_test.jpg

A few weeks ago, we had a “taste off” between two lithuanian lagers – Utenos and Kalnapilis.

We weren’t blown away by either, but slightly preferred Utenos. This time, though, we went back to our old favourite for comparison – Svyturys.

They’re very proud of Svyturys in Lithuania, and it was one of the first Lithuanian beers to be imported to the UK. They have several varieties. Tonight, we tested Ekstra Draught (unpasteurised), Gintarinis (with a gold label) and Svyturio (with a red label).

Gintarinis is supposedly a pilsner (“Pilsner my arse” – Boak) but is not especially hoppy or “dry”. It’s really a slightly more hoppy version of a helles.

Ekstra (unpasteurised) is the poshest beer in their range, and a Dortmuner type. Its bottle is very swanky – no label except at the neck, with a big logo embossed in the glass. The beer is very nice, and very much “true to style”. It’s hard to say if the “draught” status makes much difference, but its nice to see this kind of thing happening.

They don’t say what type of beer Svyturio is supposed to be – only that it’s a cross between Gintarinis and Ekstra. But it tastes quite different. Guilty admission – we actually did a Pepsi-style blind taste test, and we were only able to identify “red” as different from the other two. It’s much thinner, despite being stronger, and pleasantly bland. It’s also a little lighter in colour.

Gintarinus initially won in the blind test, but as the beers warmed up, it started to smell a bit off. This could have just been an off bottle though.

We can’t quite work out whether Svyturys is a force for good or evil in the beer world. On the one hand, their website boasts such delights as Svyturys Extra Cold, and the tempting promise of “even lighter beers” to come (urgh…). On the other hand, we always enjoy a bottle of it, and even Roger Protz rates it (in “300 Beers to try before you die”).

We’re now going to try and track down the rarer treats in the Svyturys range – Degintas (a baltic porter type), Baltas (a wheat beer) and the most enticing, Baltijos, which according to the website is “distinguished for its hard scum”. Yummmmm.

Boak and Bailey

Government strategy on binge-drinking

The UK Government have announced a new “alcohol strategy”, with the title “Safe. Sensible. Social.” [Link to 1mb PDF]

Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker said:

It is unacceptable for people to use alcohol and urinate in the street, vomit and carry on.

It’s almost regarded as acceptable to drink to get drunk and we want to change that attitude.

Apart from the fact that I don’t know exactly what “carrying on” means (laughing? swearing?) I broadly agree with these sentiments.

I also think, though, that cheap, nasty beer which it’s impossible to drink for any other reason than to get drunk, is partly to blame. There’s a good reason why you don’t hear much about “ale louts”, isn’t there?

More nice tasting beer; smaller measures; in nicer glasses; and a beer “tasting” culture, would all help to combat so-called binge-drinking.

Times article

BBC news online

The Devil Tavern

I saw this sign on an office building on Fleet Street in London, and was intrigued.
deviltavern.jpg
You don’t see pubs called “The Devil” much these days, even though Britain is actually much less religious now than it was in the 18th century.

How did this long-gone boozer get its distinctive name? Well, it was originally called “The Devil and St Dunstan”, but St Dunstan got dropped. Samuel Pepys mentions the Devil Tavern several times in his diaries.

Here’s a bit on the history of the pub:

The noisy “Devil Tavern” (No. 2, Fleet Street) had stood next the quiet goldsmith’s shop ever since the time of James I. Shakespeare himself must, day after day, have looked up at the old sign of St. Dunstan tweaking the Devil by the nose, that flaunted in the wind near the Bar. Perhaps the sign was originally a compliment to the goldsmith’s men who frequented it, for St. Dunstan was, like St. Eloy, a patron saint of goldsmiths, and himself worked at the forge as an amateur artificer of church plate. It may, however, have only been a mark of respect to the saint, whose church stood hard by, to the east of Chancery Lane.

Quotation from: ‘Fleet Street: General Introduction’, Old and New London: Volume 1 (1878), pp. 32-53. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.asp?compid=45023 . Date accessed: 04 June 2007.

The June Session – attempt #1

I was so looking forward to our first Session. This month’s challenge was to blog about a local brewery or brew, perhaps to act as a guide to tourists or visitors to your town. Living in London, we have a great choice of beer brewed within 150 miles, and we could (we excitedly thought) even extend our options further by opting for somewhere near Bailey’s original manor (Somerset).
session logo
Alas, it wasn’t to be. A tough day at work rounded off a stressful week, and before we knew it, we were in a middle-of-the-road pub (Greene King!!) drinking for the sake of drinking. OK, so I’m pretty sure it’s within 150 miles, but I wouldn’t particularly recommend it to tourists.

Still, this led naturally onto a friday night curry, which for us means a bottle of fantastic Lion Stout. I cannot get over how delicious this beer is. The most remarkable thing is the incredibly long and rich aftertaste, although I also find the dark beige head very appealing. It’s 8%, treacley without being sickly, roasted without being overly bitter – it’s dessert and coffee in one sweet decadent glass.

Of course, if you’re a Londoner you can’t get much less local than Sri Lanka…

lion stout
Find out about the origins of beer-blogging Friday on Appellation Beer


Link to Gastronomic Fight Club, host of this month’s session.