Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Ring Came Off My Pudding Can!

Beer: Ochakovo - Lager Premium
Brewery: Ochakovo (Moscow)
Type: pale lager
ABV: 4.5%

Despite seeming to be a bit of a beer snob, I actually ask very little of the beers I drink.  Namely:
-I expect them to be somewhat drinkable.
-I expect them to have a bit of alcohol in them.
-I also expect to be able to open the damned thing.

Apparently, the latter novel drinking concept didn't go over well at any of the Ochakovo brewery meetings:

Beer Executive #1: So, we've got to send out premium lager for export to North America. Any thoughts on how we should bottle it?

Beer Executive #2: How about if we put it in an unnecessarily-tall bottle...

BE#1: Right, right. Go on...

BE#2: And then we put our brewery logo on a twist off cap for easy drinking!

BE#3, awakening from stupor: Easy drinking? Fuck that! (takes another long swig from his vodka bottle) We've got to make the West pay for what they've done to Mother Russia. Dosvedanya! Vladimir Putin! (hurls on floor)

BE#2: But our sales will decline!

BE#3: Never! Those stupid bastards will buy our beer because it's foreign; they don't care what's in it! If we really want to clamp some balls, we'll put a ring on the top that's difficult to open! Then they will feel Mother Russia's sting!

BE#2: But we'll piss off the Canadians!

BE#3: Two words: Sidney Crosby.

BE#2: Fuck 'em.

BE#1: Da.

Clearly, this bottle opening design is some sort of cruel, Russian joke. I couldn't make heads or tails of it: do I pull the key up and rip it off, or turn it sidewards and twist it around? There was, of course, a helpful picture diagram to help me figure it out, drawn with all the care and attention to detail of an Ikea instruction manual. So basically, I was fucked.  I ripped the damn ring off and threw it away in disgust, cursing Boris Spassky while I did it. I almost gave up all hope, until I channelled my inner Lyle Lanley and stabbed the bottle with my penknife. The beer was successfully opened; the penknife was immediately promoted to Field Marshall.

Phil Hartman continues to enrich our lives with each passing day...

So, I finally got the damn beer open. Turns out, the ring wasn't sent there to annoy me. It was sent there to warn me.

What a boring brew this was.

After opening, Ochakovo lager poured an aggressively boring light golden, with about a 1/2 inch of head that died almost on impact. Poor retention, no lacing. Hardly any visible carbonation. As visually appealing as a Stalin-era apartment complex. Somewhere, Vladimir Putin is laughing at me while doing lines off of a hooker's stomach while hunting that most dangerous game.....Man.

The nose isn't bad for a Euro-style lager: malty and hoppy, with notes of lemon, biscuits and spice.

The taste was also hoppy and biscuity, with that lemon zing kicking around near the back, but the whole experience was overlaid with a skunky, watery taste. Kind of like eating a great sandwich on stale bread, the skunkiness ruined any positive assets this beer brought forward. To no one's surprise, the mouthfeel was watery and the carbonation lacking. (Grade: D)

Unlike Frodo, I should have listened to the whisperings of this ring: "Don't drink me....don't drink me...." It would have saved me a great deal of hardship and a lengthy paddle down the River Anduin. The whole experience has left me fairly bummed, and a little pissed at Russia, which isn't fair, because I know Russian beers can be better than this. These guys were the reason, after all, for the growth in popularity of one of my favorite beer styles: Russian Imperial Stout. 

I'm going to assume that for me to truly get to experience the Russian beer scene, a trip to Eurasia is probably in order, because between Ochakovo and Baltika (the only offerings at the LCBO), there's not much to go on.

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