30 Oct 2008

Since I have the pictures

Being considered "the guy who knows about beer" has its advantages. Sometimes, when friends go on a trip they bring me something new for me to taste. This is how I got these Ukranian beers.

I could probably write a long post with something about the country and it's beer industry, but these five samples took away all my will and inspiration to do so.

(notice: the names are transliterations of the brands on the labels, according to what little Russian my wife still remembers from school)
The first one I drank was Slavutich svjetle. Basically a fourth rate desítka. Something like an eurolager drunk from a glass that was left for some time in the rain.
It was followed by Chernigivskje Premium. Of the lot, the only drinkable one. It wants to be an Eurolager of a higher standard.
The third one was Afanasij Premium Gold. I would say that not even the name was Premium. Awful and with pride. The label isn't too shabby, though. Maybe I could have brewed tea with it, it might have tasted better.
The fourth, Afanasij Svetloje 14%. Finally a strong beer. Though the strong thing is actually the sugary (cheap sweetener?) taste of this beer that tires on the second sip.
I had left Chernigivskje nefiltrovane Bile for last. A white beer, maybe wheat or at least with wheat. It was going to be different from the rest. I had hopes. Those hopes sank a little when I noticed the logotype of InBev (pardon my French) carved on the bottle. Though to be fair, the one I had liked the most (or disliked the least, everything is relative) so far, had been from the same brewery. How to discribe this beer. It does look like a pretty decen weizen. The rest, on the other hand, is more similar to watered down Fanta Organce than beer. Horrible.

I'm sure there are many much better beers than these five in Ukraine, but I don't think they are the easiest to find. Michal, the friend who brough them to me, goes to Ukraine on business very often. He doesn't have much time to explore and so picked what he was able to find at a supermarket. I've complained a lot about how poor the choice is at supermarkets and shops in Prague. This has helped me see things with a different perspective and feel lucky of living here.

Na Zdraví!

PS: If any of you knows Russian and wants to correct the transliterations, you are welcome to do so.

Choose your preferred Prague hotels and get free transport.

15 comments:

  1. By the sounds of it, those beers lived up to the transliteration for the wheat beer - bile.

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  2. I believe better transliterations would be:

    Slavutich Svitle
    Chernegivskie
    Afanasy

    Never had any of the beers, fortunately, but I can confirm the InBev origin of two of them.

    I was in Bulgaria a few years ago and tried a similar range of local brews - funnily enough, the only one I actually enjoyed was Skopsko, from Macedonia...

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  3. You are so happy that you live in Prague, even if selection in supermarkets is poor.

    Haven't tasted any of those beers, but I assume the situation in Croatia where I live is pretty much the same, a few of the big market eurolagers, the biggest one, Ozujsko, owned by InBev, of course, although they make the really good dark beer, Tomislav.

    I think that for such a big breweries it is the label that counts, not the beer. They like to use flashy labels, they launch the new brands, and they present it to the public as something new and astonishing, and actually it is always the variation on the same tasteless lager made without love or without any concern for the quality.

    Even, I think that they are almost proud to make a beer that has less taste, less hops, less bitterness etc., and market it as something new, fashionable, more drinkable..., there is a beer brand in Croatia, Pan, which use such a marketing: "Less bitterness, more freshness", but the beer tastes like water. I think, the situation is similar in many markets, but many people who simply like to be fancy, and don't know anythong about a beer, but don't want to admit that buy that stuff, and the rest of us, beerlovers, must "suffer" and drink what is offered.

    Well, on the other side, I have an excuse to com to Prague again sometimes again to enjoy some more of the beautiful beers I tasted there :)

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  4. Interesting about the labels. InBev also own Kamenitza in Bulgaria; I don't know what their label was like before, but now it's the worst kind of bland, industrial-looking rubbish (examples on display at Pivovarsky klub). Same goes for Ozujsko....

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  5. I find the Kamenitza label is strikingly similar to Staropramen - and the product is also a thoroughly bland waste of time.

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  6. Hi max
    I did not expect you would write here about those ukranian beers. It is really too difficult find good beers there and beleive me, that I was looking for other beers last few days when I was there :-).
    I think the correct translation for beers is (czech in bracket):
    1) Slavutich svjetle (Slavutič Svitle)
    2) Chernigivskje Premium (černigivskje)
    3) Afanasij Premium
    4) Afanasij Svetloje (I cann't see the ticket clearly)
    5) Chernigivskje nefiltrovane

    Michal

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  7. I was going to say the same about that bulgarian beer. It looks too similar to Staropramen, enough to keep me away from it.

    DeBembo.
    I know exactly what you mean about the stituation in Croatia. I think it is the same in many other countries.
    I really mistrust any beer that is portrayed as something young and new and trendy, specially when it is intended to be drunk directly from the bottle. Examples like that are many, starting with Corona. Not even Germans are safe, look at Beck's gold and Erdinger Champ, or have a look at this blogpost here.
    Can it be that the quality of a beer is indirectly proportinal to the size of its marketing budget? Discuss....

    Michal, and Iain,
    Thanks for the transliterations, I will correct mine right away.

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  8. Velkyal: just caught sight of a Jupiler (Belgium) can in my (soon-to-be-former) workplace...and it bears a striking similarity to Kamenitza...

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  9. I am Ukrainian but live in Prague for 15 years already. I agree that Ukrainian beers have a looooong way to go to reach CZECH standards, or German standards. But they are not that bad :) I mean that in Kiev you can either buy these beers (Slavutich, Obolon', Chernigovskoje, Sarmat etc) or locally brewed Stella or even locally brewed Staropramen or Kozel and even locally brewed Brahma and Carlsberg , and they still ALL taste the same, although my favourite ones are Chernigovskoje and Carlsberg. There are several Czech pubs...but the prices are so high that they change the beer barrel every 2-3 weeks. For your info a 0.5 of draught "czech beer" costs about 15-30 hrivnas (that is 3-6$). The price of "exotic" belgian imported tapped beers is approximately the same! Can you believe that in Kiev Hoegarden or Leffe or some other kind of "popular" beer costs as much a a Kozel or Staropramen?? Many pubs in Kiev have an offer of 6 or even up to 14 beers on tap! The most expensive one costing more than 5times more than the cheapest local one. All of those Belgian and imported beers are crap because they sit around too long. So what do we do? Drink Ukrainian beer that rotates quickly. Or go to the several good mall breweries that brew their own beer, which unfortunately is also very pricey.
    Sorry for the long post :)

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  10. And by the way - the bottle labels are not written in Russian, but in Ukrainian. The transcription is almost the same but the language is different, Russian does not have the "I - i" letter. It is a letter in Ukrainian language though! And the second remark is that "Г" is not G in Ukrainian, but kind of like the Czech H. I know it's confusing but i wanted to mention this since you asked for commenting the translation in the post:)))

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  11. Thanks a lot for the comment.
    You mention a couple of very interesting things. First, I think Chernigivske Premium was quite drinkable. Then, Staropramen and Kozel are really brewed in the Ukraine? WOW! That is something I didn't know! And it is quite surprising that Brazilian Brahma is also brewed there (man, that IS a truly AWFUL beer). Prices, publicans are really stupid, charging the same for a Czech lager (not matter how good) and for a Belgian strong ale makes no sense, more so if we consider that, for sure, the Czech one will always be cheaper to them.
    Seems to me that there are several similiraties with Ukraine and Argentina beerwise. Both countries are dominated by mass produced, bland (at best) lagers, many of which are foreign brands brewed locally, plus a few good craft brewers with high prices and some imported stuff, also quite pricey. Hope thinks change for the better.
    Among those craft brews, which one would you recommend that would be easy to find in Kiev? Thanks
    PD: Sorry for the confusion between Ukranian and Russian, and thanks for correcting!

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  12. Hello!
    My name is Alexander. I’m your colleague from Russia (Moscow). I’m also the author of the beer blogue. From the Ukranian beer I recommend you this one http://www.beerbottle.ru/archives/749 and this one http://www.beerbottle.ru/archives/527
    It is to be regretted that you tasted only “Afanasiy Lager”, because the brewery also produces a very good and tasty Porter. If we find the possibility to deliver it to you to Prague, I would

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  13. Hi Alexander!

    Thanks for writing. I've heard about the Afanasiy Porter, I will ask my friend for it next time he goes there, and also about those two you tipped (are they easy to find in shops?)
    BTW, It will sound silly, but I couldn't help but read Porn on the first beer you mentioned. I thought the "T" was a cross...:)

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  14. Hi,
    It's practically impossible to find this sort of beer in supermarkets. In February my friends are going to visit the beer-festival in Tabor, so they can take one bottle of it with them.

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