Baltika and the state of beer in the UK

Published on 28 July 2003 in , ,

A report on BBC News Online last week spoke about Russian beer, Baltika coming to the UK.

In Russia, Baltica brews 10 different beers. Most but not all, are lagers. Whilst in St. Petersburg (where Baltika is brewed), I got to try the lovely brown ale (number 4), a rather nice lager (number 7) which reminded me of beers like Cobra and Kingfisher, and the pretty naff lager, number 3. There’s also the porter (number 6) which is supposed to be very good.

Unfortunatly the one we’re getting in London will be the number 3. Talk about a wasted oppertunity to educate people into the ways of drinking something with flavour.

The sad thing is that there are plenty of beers (from UK and abroad) with some real bite to them, but why aren’t they promoted by the big brewers?

Indeed a recent advert by the Witchwood brewery featured the tag line "What are you afraid of lager boy? Scared you might taste something?".

Although it could be said that the brewers aren’t exactly helping in what they foist upon the mass market. A recent edition of the CAMRA newspaper, Beer, reviewed several UK brewed lagers and their foreign counterparts. The UK versions of Grolsch and Stella were both highlighted for being bland, boring and tasteless beer in comparison to their continental cousins. In case you’re suspecting foul play by ‘ale swigging beared freaks’ or whatever, the panel voted the UK version of Kronenburg to be far better than the French original.

Recent advertising campaigns seem to do little more than concentrate on how cold the stuff is – the market following in the footsteps of Caffrey’s, whose only notable feature is that it can take a red hot, fresh from the dishwasher glass, and after a few seconds at the Caffrey’s pump, will be stone cold. Guiness Extra Cold takes everything remotely good about the stout, and turns it into a frozen lollypop.

Of course when it arrives, taste is unlikely to have much mention in any advertising, with the marketting people more likely to try and promote some idea of Russian-cool. You don’t need to worry about colour, or taste if you’re selling like that. People will try it anyway. Which means that it’s yet another wasted oppertunity to bring to the UK, something a little bit different.

Until then, I guess I’ll just have to head over to Beers of Russia and get my fix of the proper stuff from there.