Around the World in 80 Beers episode 3: Turkey
Name: Efes Pilsner
Style: Pale Lager
Brewed by: Anadolu Efes
Alc: 5% abv.
Price: $17/6 x 330ml
It was always going to happen sooner or later. I’m sure the Turks could make some fine brews if they set their minds to it, and maybe they do, but like many other countries the only stuff that seems to escape their borders and make it down to this chilly little backwater is the seemingly omnipresent thin, yellow lager that doesn’t do anyone any favours, least of all the Turks themselves, because this could have been made by almost anybody with a requisite disregard for taste, pride and distinctiveness. It’s not awful, though it is common as muck and very difficult to enjoy. Or, as it turns out, to write about without sounding like a complete dick.
It claims to have a “unique” taste arising from its use of rice (which is neither unique nor, I would argue, something that should be a source of pride), with a tangy malt and hops aroma, rich malt in the mouth with a bittersweet finish. Not quite, I say. Initially grassy, herbal and metallic – a not entirely successful mix – on the nose, it’s a clear, watery yellow with a smallish, short white head which, when it disappears after a minute or less, takes any aroma with it. In terms of flavour, there is a very slight initial citric tang, some sweet malt with just enough bittering hops for balance, and it is pleasantly effervescent with a dryish, short finish but the main impression is one of absence rather than achievement. If this beer has a personality it is that of someone who would rather be elsewhere, one who puts in an appearance so as not to offend but has no interest in carrying on a conversation and responds to your bubbly enthusiasm with thinly veiled contempt. It seems joyless, perfunctory and sullen, a beer that is only going through the motions.
Muscially this is of course best matched with that annoying, screechy Turko-pop that blares out of taxis, tea-shops and teenagers wherever you go in that part of the world, music that is at once almost totally anonymous and yet thoroughly ubiquitous, music that only sneeringly hints at the ethereal beauty that belongs to the cultural heritage of a nation like Turkey yet is trotted out regardless in an unceasing quest for sonic dominance, a triumph of vapid banality over substance and artistry. But in a nod to the alleged German origins of this brew I’ve gone for Atiye Deniz, a German-Dutch-Turkish pop act who has fused her continent-straddling origins into a sound that cunningly combines the formulaic predictability and crass fleshiness of Western-style pop with the confusing mishmash of decontextualised Eastern vocals and instrumentation.
Harsh? Ok, yeah, probably. My apologies to Ms. Deniz who perhaps isn’t all that bad after all but I hate pop and I do not feel like being generous towards this beer either. Unfortunately its fate was sealed when I had the last Tui sitting in the fridge after I’d finished – this was partly to compare their relative dishwateriness, partly to get the taste of bland nothingness out of my mouth, and partly out of the inevitable self-loathing I felt at shelling out $17 for a six-pack of this stuff for no better reason than to rack up another country on the list which is, of course, the only fathomable justification for drinking this vaguely beer-like fluid – and to my utter shock the Tui was superior in every way. According to wikipedia this is apparently the 8th most popular European brand, from the 5th biggest producer. My disappointment is profound on many levels.
Verdict: This has been called the very definition of cheap Euro-beer, and fair enough too. Drinkable but dull, watery and disappointing. I’ve knocked off a couple of points too for them having the gall to call it a Pilsener. 39/100.