Monday, October 6, 2014

Ethiopian Beer-The complete list.

It was a Sunday night and we needed a mission. An impromptu beer tasting sounded like the right thing to do. We piled into a station wagon and headed to the nearest beer shop and loaded-up on one of each bottle of beer that we could find. We drove back home and pulled out glasses, popped the caps, poured, and started sampling. It was 5 people versus 10 beers. Below are the results. 



Beer: St. George

ABV: 4.5%

Size: 33cl 

Company: BGI Ethiopia
Style: Lager

BGI Ethiopia is the largest brewer in Ethiopia and St. George is the motherload. Up and coming for BGI is Amber and Castel. You see the ubiquitous yellow sign of St. George fighting a dragon in every village and street corner. The draft house near Mexico Square in Addis Ababa is worth a visit and is teaming with locals. If you're lucky, one of the customers sitting at one of the tables surrounded by 10 empty glasses will hook you up with a pint.

What was said:
“beer pong beer”
“party beer for the folks you don’t like too much”
“post yard work beer”
“simple”
“free wedding beer”

Beer: Walia (Ethiopian New Years Beer)

ABV: 5%

Size: 33cl 

Company: HBSC
Style: Lager

HBSC aka Heineken and perhaps soon SABMiller (who recently made a bid to take over the company) pumped out a new brew just in time to usher in the Ethiopian New Year last month. The label has since changed and is now called Walia. A more fitting title might be Whoa!    

What was said:
“weird smell”
“Budweiser backwash”
“too bad to take to anyone’s party”
“smells like the floor of a frat house after a big party”
“I rather have a Milwaukee’s Best”

Beer: Castel

ABV: 5.5%

Size: 33cl 

Company: BGI Ethiopia
Style: Lager

Another BGI product that has a little bit more going for it than St. George. The advertisements around town are geared towards the more polished beer aficionado. The new bottle design forgoes the paper label in place of letters in a relief style. A very non-threatening looking beverage.  

What was said:
“better than the first two”
“good enough for your distant cousin’s 43rd birthday”
“uneventful, yet again”
“smoother going down”
“afternoon beer where there’s nothing else”

Beer: Bedele Special

ABV: 5.5%

Size: 33cl 
Company: Bedele Brewery
Style: Pale Lager

Another company developed by Czech brewers (see: Harar)  bites the dust. The once government owned Bedele Brewery was one of the two snatched up by Heineken. The company hosts Bedele (not tasted) and Bedele Special. If you’re a fan of the can, you’re in luck. Bedele Special now available in a six-pack.

What was said:
“crisp and refreshing”
“a more challenging lager”
“from sandbox to litter box”
“nothing much, but a better fizz”
“old garbage disposal”

Beer: Dashen

ABV: 4.5%

Size: 33cl 
Company: Dashen Brewery, Gondar
Style: Pils
                       
Situated outside of Gondar in Northern Ethiopia, A favorite with the expats. Rumor has it that the beer tour is excellent and has free samples. Our school had a field trip to the brewery and all the kids got was a quiz from their teacher.  

What was said: 

note: This was tasted warm and will post an update soon. 

Beer: Meta 

ABV: 5%

Size: 33cl 
Company: Meta ABO Brewery S.C. Ethiopia
Style: Lager

Also in the frenzy to snatch up Ethiopian breweries, the Diageo Group staked its’ claim on “The Pride of Ethiopia” - Meta. Meta is brewed with malted barley, hops, and spring water. The Meta facility outside of Addis is a perfect place to spend an afternoon. Take a swim in the pool, see the waterfall, enjoy lunch, and drink a beer.

What was said:
 “nice for a yellow beer”
“sweet puppy breath, best light beer”
“taste like Ethiopia”
“sweet smelling, honey”
“Is this a social experiment, are you giving us the same beer each time?”

Beer: Meta Premium 

ABV: 5%

Size: 33cl 
Company: Meta ABO Brewery S.C. Ethiopia
Style: Lager

Meta’s blue label, established in 1967, states: “Crafted with pride, beer matured longer for a superior flavor.” Creeping up on the expat radar and soon to be a favorite.

What was said:
“taste like Friday night at the local”
“an all-nighter beer”
“Tuesday’s $1 beer”
“these chemicals will hurt you at 3 am”
“make me want salty nuts…er…peanuts or cashews”

Beer: Harar 

ABV: 5%

Size: 33cl 
Company: Harar Brewery, Ethiopia (Owned by HBSC)
Style: Lager

Yet another company owned by Heineken. I was told that when Heineken came into the fold, it laid off more than 500 people at the company in addition to making changes in both the brew times to the original recipe. I was fortunate enough to try both Harar and Hakim Stout in the older bottles. There are subtle, but noticeable differences in both. While both are still drinkable, I prefer the original taste.   

What was said:
“I want to like it, but can’t”
“a real Bud? No, a fake Bud.”
“teenaged summers”
“slightly bitter, has a bite, sort of like a pils form Eastern Europe”
“slightly burnt honey taste”

Beer: Amber 

ABV: 5.5%

Size: 33cl 
Company: BGI Ethiopia
Style: Lager

New on the Ethiopian beer scene in recent years, it has been a favorite and a hit with both the locals and feringi (Foreigners). A bottle will set you back a few cents more, but worth it. BGI thought it needed to compete with Harar’s Hakim Stout and Amber was their answer. 

What was said:
“smells like a cute girl named Amber”
“more challenging than others, super sweet”
“Oktoberfest, spicy”
“Ethiopian beer is saved”
“sweet caramel” 

Beer: Hakim Stout

ABV: 5.5%

Size: 33cl 
Company: Harar Brewery, Ethiopia (Owned by HBSC)
Style: Stout

I wouldn’t exactly call this a stout. When I first tasted this a few years back, it had a unique flavor, slightly bitter, burnt caramel, with a long finish. It was unique. Heineken has toned it down a bit in order to appeal to more customers. I’d be happy if they brought back the old label and recipe. If you make it to Harar go to the beer garden and taste the unpasteurized versions of both the Harar and Hakim Stout, they are delicious.     

What was said:
“open 2 hours early to de-fizz and we’re talking beer”
“smells like trouble”
“malty, bitter, lacks the true flavor of the original recipe of this beer”
“extra sugar”
“smells better than it tastes”
The damage.

Not tasted but worth a mention: The Beer Garden Inn (Garden Brau) Blondie and Ebony

 Click here to check out their website.

Name: Dungeon Master Dave
Age: f**k you
Race: Crumpets
Favorite Animal: Intestinal Parasites

Name: Chasing Amy

Age: ”Young enough to still get cute haircuts”

Race: Texan
Favorite Quote: “He’s British and a pilot, so I went home with him.”

Name: Duty Free Nate

Age: Smells like Amber  

Race: Barfly
Personal Goal: Pull an all nighter at the Kebelle

Name: Edy Amin
Age: Slightly underage
Race: Aspiring Oregonian
Favorite Insect: Fleas

Name: Chewbobca

Age: Grayer by the day

Race: Wookie 
Favorite pastime: Walking in circles
Old label. 
Before Walia. 
Detail from a six-pack box. I love the design before the company hired someone who works with photoshop and Illustrator.