Friday, 26 September 2008

This week I have been mainly drinking...

Eiken Artois.

Well, not exactly "mainly drinking": I picked up a heavily discounted three quarters of a four-pack from paupers' corner in Tesco.

I'm not one of these real ale drinkers (I don't even use the expression "real ale" if I can possibly avoid it) who bangs on about "the war against lager". I love lager!

I should clarify, I can't stand the dismal stuff like Fosters and its mass-market rivals that clog our pubs. I like the fancy proper imported stuff that hides modestly on the lower supermarket shelves. The stuff I get to drink on too-infrequent trips across the channel.

Here's the Eiken Artois blurb – "Named from the Flemish word for Oak, Eiken Artois is a deliciously refreshing yet full flavoured oak aged lager brewed in Belgium to 4.6% ABV. Brewed with carefully selected aroma hops, this unique beer is then oak aged to create a fruity, hoppy lager with subtle floral notes and hints of vanilla."

That sounds quite interesting. It seems InBev wants to capture a bit of the kudos the craft sector gets for flavour enhancing techniques. But hang on, Artois is firmly mass-market, and mass-market means bland. 

The mouthfeel was thin and good-but-remote aroma (like looking the wrong way through binoculars), coupled with the merest hint of oxidisation, my first-impressions weren't good. Not horrible enough to make me put it down though.

Further lingering sips revealed some interesting mid-palate flavours: caramel, vanilla, and the flavour of the inside of Crunchie Bars that I can't remember the name of. These flavours I often find particularly in reputable Czech lagers (Gambrinus springs to mind) so that 's a very good sign.

Unfortunately it suffered badly from the binoculars-backwards effect. I can imagine good brewers thinking "finally, we can do something tasty" but their bosses countering "don't you dare doing something too tasty, we don't want to alienate core brand-loyal customers."

The launch of this Artois sub-brand is a classic example of parent-brand-on-the-decline-syndrome. Stella Artois (the Manchester United of beer) sales are past their peak (good!) and InBev are desperately trying to retain customers, in this instance the ones who may be ditching Stella in favour of tastier craft beers.

So, does Eiken Artois offer anything for the connoisseur? Well, put it this way: if your non-beer-savvy mate gets some in for the footy, don't write it off, it's not unlpeasant.


Alistair Reece said...

I love a good lager, especially a good Czech one, and perhaps this is the product of over-exposure, but Gambrinus is a mere shadow of its former glory. The only major Czech lager I really enjoy these days is Budvar, although there are plenty of smaller brewers making excellent lagers - I know Primator is available in the UK through Laithwaites, and well worth getting hold of.

The Woolpack Inn said...

I like your blog - I'm not sure I agree with everything you say, but agree with enough not to bother arguing.

Keep it going..


Anonymous said...

Hmmmmm yeah I had a couple of pints of this the other day - whilst it was better than normal Stella I can't say I loved it, it was like it hinted at some flavour and then snatched it away again - kind of like when you make orange squash but put too much water in! But then again I like my lagers to be quite flavoursome.