Review #17 – Holsten Pils

From the label: “Holsten Pils gets its unique and distinctive taste because more of the natural sugars turn to alcohol during our enhanced fermentation process. This also makes it lower in carbohydrates than some other leading lagers.”

Name: Holsten Pils

Style: German Pilsner

By: Holsten-Brauerei AG (Carlsberg)

Origin: Hamburg, Germany

Alcohol: 5% abv

Price: $3.20/500ml can

From: Pak n Save


Perhaps by this point I should just call it tight-arse Wednesday and be done with it.

This one is better than expected but I really wasn’t expecting much. It pours a clear, straw colour with a medium to large foamy, almost rocky head though this clears a little too quickly. The aroma is subtle but there’s a slight hoppiness to it of some kind, more vegetal than floral. The flavour is probably best described as minimal; neither sweet nor bitter, a transparent pale malty taste with no hop flavour whatsoever and a very slight dry, metallic tinge. This isn’t overpowering though and you couldn’t reasonably accuse it of tasting cheap and nasty, or at least not as cheap and nasty as you might expect. The mouthfeel is pleasantly full, almost creamy, with good carbonation and there is a short, dry finish – if it wasn’t for this you might almost feel like you’re drinking nothing at all. It’s probably safe to assume this drink is meant to be bought and consumed in bulk without putting any great strain on the palate at all. Well, fair enough. Mission accomplished.

Because it’s difficult to fill up a page on how this stuff tastes and because tight-arse Tuesday seems to be the day when all that goes out the window anyway it might be worthwhile to look at what really matters here. So how drunk can you get for a dollar? Doing a simple enough alcohol percentage times serving size in litres divided by price in dollars yields a figure of 0.78 for the Pils, which compares to 0.85 for the undrinkable Atlas 12%, and close to exactly 1 for the Melchers Dutch Gold so it’s cheap but not rotgut cheap. Buying a slab of Tui, Lion Brown or Speights at best seems to come in at between 1.1 and 1.3 but if you’ve only got, say, $10 in your pocket the Pils is a reasonable option and you won’t find yourself with a fridge full of rancid goat waste. It’s worth remembering though that some of the craft beers are astoundingly good value: the Tasman Lager comes in 0.76 and the Coopers Vintage Ale at 0.70 (by comparison, the Epic Larger is at 0.38, the Tuatara XI 0.46 and the Brewdog Hardcore 0.35).

In the end this is a more than decent beer designed with a clear purpose in mind and can actually be enjoyed on that basis. Proudly displayed on the can are the words “pure brewing excellence” and a logo proclaiming 1879 as the date the brewery was established, so there’s heritage there and what is either pride or German irony that I don’t get. It’s tough to put a finger on why, but you get the impression that they could make beer of far higher quality without a great deal of effort. As far as the music goes though it’s a beer that is uncompromisingly mainstream and is unburdened by such considerations as novelty or ambition so is best matched with something blandly hooky, shallow, simple, unchallenging and uncontroversial. The biggest problem I have is finding something along those lines that doesn’t just piss me off because again, this beer isn’t actually bad by any means. I’m going to go with the Eagles, who over a stupidly long career and despite being relentlessly middle-of-the-road with too many guitars and letting the drummer sing far too often and putting out that one dreary song that goes on forever and every single covers band on earth always plays it every single bloody time have somehow managed to acquire countless millions of fans, including one slightly cranky and irregularly headed Wellingtonian who still finds himself humming along to Tequila Sunrise when he accidently turns the radio on to

Verdict: Better than expected and definitely drinkable but not interesting in any way. Almost entirely devoid of flavour but because there are no major flaws it’s the pick of the Euro-cheapies so far. 61/100.

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