Saturday, January 22, 2011

Turkey Beer!

"You can't be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline - it helps if you have some kind of football team, or some nuclear weapons, but in the very least you need a beer."  - Frank Zappa

Looks like the LCBO has released another pilsner in from a country that one doesn't normally associate with beer brewing, in this case that nation is Turkey.  I'm not sure what to think about this, but I'll give everything a go, especially if it means I get to knock another country off my all-time beer drinking list (still waiting on Swaziland, though...) 

I shouldn't be surprised that Turkey produces an internationally-distributed pilsner: though it is predominantly a Muslim country, among Middle Eastern nations Turkey is certainly among the more secular and thus has fairly permissive alcohol consumption laws.  Efes is by far the most popular brewery in the nation, and its flagship pilsner is as synonymous with the notion of "Turkish Beer" as Imperial is for Costa Rican beer, or Kingfisher is with Indian beer.   A quick hunt online doesn't reveal the existence of many other Turkish breweries, and those few can hardly compete with Efes in terms of output and commercial presence (the brewery sponsors Efes Pilsen S.K., a top-flight Euroleague and Turkish league basketball team).  Thus, it looks to me that if I'm ever going to sample a Turkish beer without having to make the trip to Istanbul, this is going to be the one.   Let's have at it.

Beer: Efes Pilsner
Brewery: Adadolu Efes Brewery (Istanbul, Turkey)
Type: Pilsner
ABV: 5%

Poured into a tall lager glass.  Keeping the expectations of style in mind, the brew is a fairly nice golden colour, if not a little washed out, and leaves a generous inch of foamy head.  Flecks of lacing grace the top layer of the glass, while the head itself dissipates into a thin little ring.  Constant carbonation throughout.

The nose is pretty mild, with only the faintest notes of bready malt, lemon and grassy hops.  

For what I tend to categorize as a "Euro lager" (a European mass-market lager that can be sometimes difficult to distinguish from one another), Efes Pilsner wasn't bad.  In fact, it was pretty drinkable.  Sweet and malty up front, and finishing slightly dry with a mild hop taste.  A touch of lemon in there as well.  Bready, and with a flavor that leads me to assume that there is some rice involved in the brewing process.  The hop presence is muted to the point that it's hard to really identify this brew as being a 'pilsner'.  (This is not uncommon for mass-market brews; Labatt likes to stylize itself as a pilsner, despite the fact that it has almost no hop flavor and tastes nothing like an actual German pilsner)

The carbonation is never overbearing, but towards the end of the pint becomes fairly weak, too weak to keep the malty sweetness in check.  Then again, if it were too carbonated, I'd be complaining about drinking seltzer water, so really what I think this brew needed was a bolder hop profile, which is something very few big breweries are wont to do.  The body, I have to say, is fine for the style, in the medium-light range.

Pilsners are a tricky brew for me to review, especially mass-market ones, because they really seem to taste identical to one another.  Hard to praise, oh so easy to slam.  In this case, however, I found Efes Pilsner to be a very drinkable little brew, something I would gladly have several of in a single session.  While it may be a bit sweet and lacking in a bold hop presence, there still isn't much wrong with it, which for a cheaper import brew I have to give credit.   If you just want a good-tasting brew from country you wouldn't normally associate with beer, Turkey's Efes is certainly a good way to go.  (Grade: B-)

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