Name: Baltika #3
Style: Pale Lager
Brewed by: Baltika Brewery (Saint Petersburg, Russia)
Alc: 4.8% abv.
Price: $6.25/500ml bottle from Regional Wines & Spirits
(Yes there is much to say about the last week or so, what with Beervana and such. It’s on the way, I promise. In the meantime…)
Around the world in 80 beers episode 4: Russia
From the outside, everything about Russia seems big. Big empty spaces, big novels, big problems. And deep. Deep thoughts, deep voices tinged with hardship and anger. One doesn’t consider them a people given to frivolousness and half-assery. This though is not a big beer, nor a particularly deep beer. Admittedly from Baltika’s range this would be the one with the broadest appeal in the foreign market. They have a dozen or so of which #6, a Baltic porter, I think sounds the most intriguing. But it is the lager I ended up with. Truth be told, despite the friendly (one hopes) words on the label “Meet the Russian Beer” there’s very little that feels Russian about it at all.
Now I know I said this was brewed in Saint Petersburg, where Baltika’s head offices are located. It is a little disappointing though that this one seems to have actually been brewed in Germany. Apparently in 2011 Baltika, which is by all accounts going gangbusters and is now Europe’s second largest producer after Heineken, opened a brewery in Germany though I have no idea exactly where. Thanks to google translate I can safely say it isn’t in Mehrweg or Pfandflasche and there is little else to help on the bottle, or indeed on the web. Oh well.
It doesn’t really matter anyway, it’s quite the generic European lager. Almost disappointingly safe, this is not a beer that leaps out at you part-way through and surprises you with papaya or elderberry. Grainy, straw on nose for just as long as the creamy looking, very slightly off-white head lasts (which is long enough), very slightly hazy golden body, a nice creamy mouthfeel, not big on flavour, low carbonation and bitterness but just ever so slightly more bitter than sweet with a subtle, short dry finish. There’s not much to recommend this but it is better than average Euro lagers (an unreliable survey of other reviews would suggest the most common response is a resounding “meh”), to the extent that I would check out the Baltic porter, but probably not a lot else in the range. It’s just ticking the box, really, which is disappointing and a little shameful for all concerned.
I wish there were something, anything, special about this beer so I could match it with something like this, or that it had more attitude so I could link to something like this, or even something identifiably Russian so I could go with this, an example of Russian chanson, which wikipedia had led me to believe was something like the Russian equivalent of Mexican narcocorridos, folky-sounding songs celebrating, and presumably appealing primarily to, the criminal underclass. Tangential, yes, but I might never get the chance to work in any of this actually interesting stuff again. Instead I’m forced to go to slightly-better-than-bog-standard-Euro-pop, blandly utilitarian and virtually undistinguishable among its peers. Here’s Dima Bilan then. This won him a Eurovision title in 2008. And here is his 2010 duet with Anastacia. So what is he up to these days? He recently competed to represent Russia in Eurovision for the third time, with help from half of the entity formerly known as T.A.T.U. Here ya go. They did get beaten though, by, er, whatever this is. Seriously. Dima had competed three times and performed at least five times, so perhaps they were sick of him. I know I am. Me, I think this one aims low and nails it, but one might justifiably expect more from Russia. I also think I have made my opinion of Euro-lagers plain enough and am now off to do something a bit less soul-destroying. Those dishes won’t wash themselves you know.