A World Cup happened in 2014, so to celebrate we at FatalDose did what every good man should do – book as much time off work as possible and enjoy the World’s Premier football entertainment festival with good friends, and good beer.
On this occasion we celebrated by sampling 16 of the “best” and most refreshing ales from around the world – the fact that there was football happening on the TV and that these beverages happen to come from each of the countries in the last 16 of the tournament was an afterthought. Or was it?
United States | Bud Light
The “healthy” alternative to Budweiser because it contains less calories. 16% less in fact, but also, uh, 16% less alcohol. Perhaps it isn’t quite the marvel of engineering Bud breweries would have you believe then, but this crisp taster with a slightly grainy aroma remains hugely popular in the US, being in fact the current #1 selling lager.
Verdict: We’ve had Bud before and it hasn’t really changed over the years; to be honest we didn’t think it was taking this beer competition thing too seriously. But the brewers responsible for this batch had clearly put their heart and soul into it – far tastier than we remembered, file under “keeper”.
Brazil | Bohemia
The oldest beer that’s still in production in Brazil is one of the best. Despite being around since 1830, Bohemia is a favoured tipple for many locals. Light and refreshing, especially when served ice cold, as it usually always is, it’s the perfect antidote to a hot summer’s day.
Verdict: We were expecting big things from Bohemia and though our first sips were rather underwhelming, we got stuck into the bottle and ended up wondering if it’d be our favourite. Unfortunately we woke up with the mother of all hangovers and vague memories of stumbling around wearing a giant wig and crying a lot. Not an experience we’d like to repeat.
Mexico | Corona
Why does Corona get served with lime? It’s more likely to disguise the “skunky” taste that’s associated with beers served in clear bottles than to keep the flies out, but whatever the reason Corona remains one of the world’s best selling beers, is synonymous with the summer and if properly chilled, is properly refreshing.
Verdict: A middle-of-the-road offering from a beer that’s become a little synonymous with being found everywhere without really exciting or delivering anything new. A safe bet for sure, but there’s very little here that’s likely to take it further.
Germany | Krombacher (Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier)
Rumour has it the inventor of Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier created a beer so impressive they named it after the noises he made after downing a seventh straight bottle (he was allegedly trying to say “we can stop those happy Argies”). There’s little doubt that our slurring genius had something rather special though – a naturally cloudy, fragrant and yeasty wheat beer that regularly rates highly amongst those in the know.
Verdict: Germany prides itself on producing solid beers time after time but has never really done quite enough to out-flavour the competition at the final hurdle. This one was truly an exception. Despite a brief bout of the hiccups we powered through and ended up having the party to end all parties.
Netherlands | Grolsh
The Netherlands is home to many fine, well-exported beers. Heineken is their best seller, but we prefer a Grolsh. Mellow flavours and a good balance of hop and malt make it very drinkable, with a low bitterness and dry finish, and it also omits that sweet edge that can be overpowering.
Verdict: We weren’t entirely sure what to expect from a country that boasts a number of impressive lagers, but our first sip of Grolsh was a memorable one. The rest of the bottle went down pretty well too, though did get a bit flat towards the end.
Belgium | Jupiler
The Belgians know a thing or two about drinking beer, but we must admit to not knowing a hell of a lot else about Belgium. We’re copping out here and going for its best-seller – Jupiler. It’s a fairly sweet and subtle clear blond beverage with light malt flavours, and what it lacks in character is made up for by being refreshingly refreshing in the warmer months.
Verdict: Belgium’s beer industry is packed with talent but sometimes when all these original and exciting flavours come together it doesn’t quite work. Jupiler performed about as well as we’d expect, which is to say, fairly disappointing.
Chile | Cristal
A popular one amongst Chileans, and marketed well enough to ensure that you’ll be able to pick up a bottle just about anywhere you go, Cristal delivers a distinct sweetness with grainy malts and a hint of bitterness that makes this a palatable beer, albeit one without a lot of character. An inoffensive, refreshing slurper for a hot day.
Verdict: “Chi-chi-chi, le-le-le” we shuddered, after raising this ice-cold bottle of Cristal to our lips. It didn’t disappoint though, displaying all of the character it’s renowned for and a bit more.
Costa Rica | Imperial
Though there’s not a lot of choice here, Imperial is a 2007 award winner and it’s been around since 1924, so has some heritage. There’s a pronounced and distinctive taste overtone with an effective balance of malt, grain and hops, and it remains Florida’s favourite beer, having subsequently worked its way across the Caribbean.
Verdict: We thought the competition in this beer-a-thon would be too much for Imperial but despite having a fraction of the pedigree of competing breweries we were impressed by the way relatively mundane ingredients combined to produces such sharp flavours. It certainly put some of the better known beer producing countries to shame.
Uruguay | Pilsen
Another country with rather a lack of choice when it comes to sweet amber nectar, beers like Pilsen are slowly pulling the locals away from wines in Uruguay, and for good reason. A malty, fruity aroma welcomes your nose before your lips touch the glass, where grain and dash of honey help add a smooth bite to an impressively refreshing beverage.
Verdict: Uruguay has always been a little precious about its Pilsen, and doesn’t take kindly to those who suggest it can’t compete with some of the finest producers in the world. We were briefly impressed by this year’s entry, but ultimately decided that this mouthy offering was all bark and no bite.
France | Kronenbourg
A staple in much of Europe, Kronenbourg is one of France’s favourite premium beers, and a great accompaniment to a beer garden during the summer months. A distinctive citrusy aroma and taste go down nicely thanks to the smooth, almost creamy texture, which leaves a slightly dry aftertaste that just has you reaching for more.
Verdict: A stalwart in beer production and distribution around the world, it’s fair to say we don’t enjoy Kronenbourg quite as much as we used to (ever since that unfortunate head-butting incident) but this was a pleasant return to form.
Argentina | Quilmes
There’s no hiding Quilmes’ country of origin, what with the blue and white bottle design and the fact that it sponsors the Argentinean national team. Slightly grainy but with a strong malty base, it’s a crisp and clean drink with almost no aftertaste, which does lead to a slightly watery finish. Still, inoffensive enough to suit most occasions.
Verdict: We expected more from Quilmes, and though they delivered a lager that kept us interested until the last few drops were eked from the bottle, it was an unnecessarily bland experience that was mostly devoid of flavour.
Colombia | Aguila
Founded in 1913, Aquila has been around a while, and remains one of Colombia’s more popular tipples. A rather complex taste with a strong, grainy flavour and aromas of spice, perfume and hops, it does take a little getting used to and may not be the best choice for the less discerning of customers.
Verdict: We really weren’t expecting much from the rather inconsistent Aguila, but were more than pleasantly surprised by a barn-storming bottle of fizz that just kept on going – all in all it was a rather “Hamez-ing experience.
Greece | Mythos
Available in just about every Greek restaurant in and outside of Greece, along with a good deal of supermarkets, Mythos is certainly the best known of Greek beers and achieves this by being palatable without really standing out. Extremely clear with hints of corn and hops, it is smooth enough to the taste with a low, even sweetness that leaves a slightly dry finish.
Verdict: A previous favourite of ours, Mythos seems to be rather frustrated at its lack of interim success and threw just about everything at us in the space of one downed bottle, but ultimately suffered from a bout of “tries too hard”.
Nigeria | Star Lager
Being Nigeria’s undisputed #1 beer, it’s also the one you’re most likely to find outside of the country, but probably doesn’t stand up too well amidst the range of other exports you’re likely to see on the same shelf. Star is fairly smooth, malty and easy to drink, with slightly nutty/herbal flavours, but none of these characteristics stand out enough to elevate it above an average tipple that’ll quench your thirst but little more.
Verdict: It would be fair not to expect too much from Star Lager, and since we didn’t we were pleasantly surprised by the first few sips. Unfortunately despite its early promise it got warm and flat towards the end, leaving us to discard the rest of the bottle.
Algeria | Tango
Unrelated to the popular orange drink, Tango is one of Algeria’s few notable beers but does carry some similarities in its use of fruit flavours – specifically light cherry, mango and lime through a grainy texture that still manages to taste rather watery with a lack of bitterness, but also a lack of distinctive aftertaste.
Verdict: Another beer that we didn’t think would excite, particularly because it was supplied in a can. But Tango did quite the opposite, largely due to these subtly planned low expectations. Though at times unsure whether we were about to slip into a drink-fuelled rage or an ecstatic, karaoke-going high, we can say it was a hell of a ride.
Switzerland | Feldschlossen
There is no shortage of good beers in Switzerland, and Feldschlossen is gaining in popularity due to its clean, light, floral aroma and moderate hoppy bitterness, with a distinctive grainy scent and hint of caramel sweetness that combine very nicely to leave you with a pleasant aftertaste that’ll have you coming back for more.
Verdict: Despite some promising undertones, this rather gassy beer left us feeling quite sick after a few sips. Far from the worst tipple we’ve tried, but distinctly lacking in ambition and the most disappointing entry on the list.