Lacklustre local lagers leave the experts cold

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 31 July, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 31 July, 2005, 12:00am

Most Hong Kong brews quench the thirst but are lacking in character, our panel says

Summer's here, and it wouldn't be complete without sun-soaked weekends beside a meat-packed barbecue. And what laid-back barbie would feel right without an ice-cold beer in your hand?

But most Hong Kong beer drinkers are swigging flavourless swill that is little better than water. If served ice-cold they quench the thirst and take the bite out of the heat, but a lack of character leaves the palate of more cultured drinkers wanting more.

This is the conclusion of a panel of three seasoned beer drinkers who last week gathered in a bar on Hollywood Road to take part in a Sunday Morning Post taste test.

It was held in the run-up to the release of a new brew, aptly called Lan Kwai Fong Beer, in the bar district's beer and food festival.

Five beers were tested: San Miguel's flagship pale pilsner, Carlsberg, Too Soo and Lan Kwai Fong Beer, which are all lagers, and Aldrich Bay, a pale ale.

The panel was composed of veteran Post journalist Kevin Sinclair, legislator 'Long Hair' Leung Kwok-hung, and former beer columnist Argha Sen.

None of the four lagers impressed the experts. They were all refreshing, but panellists found them watery and difficult to distinguish. Even Lan Kwai Fong Beer, produced by the respected Hong Kong Beer Company, failed to impress, and Aldrich Bay ale was the only beer given a thumbs-up.

Mr Sen said: 'It's slightly fruity and sour. By that I don't mean they taste like fruit, but it had a slightly sour tang to it, and this added some character to the beer.'

Fellow panellist Mr Leung agreed the pale ale had the best flavour, but was reluctant to give his outward approval.

He also took the opportunity to offer a Marxist perspective on beer drinking: 'None of these beers would be drunk by workers. They are not strong enough.

'Sometimes people like miners would have beer for breakfast alongside servings of bacon and eggs. It's because they are in such a dangerous business and they don't know whether they will live to see the evening, so why wait?'

According to consultancy Datamonitor, local brewery San Miguel's flagship pale pilsner accounted for 17 per cent of beer sales in Hong Kong last year.

Carlsberg, which many consider a Hong Kong beer even though production has moved to the mainland, had a third-place market share of 9 per cent, just behind Dutch-brewed Heineken.

More than 95 per cent of beers drunk in Hong Kong in 2003 were lagers, with stronger ales and stouts occupying just a tiny fraction of the market, the report said.