I know this is a wee bit unusual, me opting to review another lager, but I wouldn’t do it unless I thought it was something special that you might like to try yourself. If there’s one lager I’ll always give the benefit of the doubt at the bar, it’s the Pilsener style due to its light yet expressive use of hops and malts, giving a high-quality, refreshing and natural (i.e. no preservative headache) drink. Therefore it’s no surprise that Budweiser Budvar is on the list of great drinks. What the dark version does is to use different malts, changing the beer dramatically (as you can see in the picture – it ain’t pale). In terms of brewing uniqueness, it’s bringing back an old style, so it’s not innovative exactly, but it’s rare and ballsy. The combination of malts makes it different to most lagers out there, and thus attractive.
When I saw this on the shelf, next to its pale counterpart, I was immediately grabbed. What’s this dark drink doing in Budvar’s clothes? I got me a bottle right there and then. I was hoping to save it for a rainy day, but curiosity got the better of me and I opened it that same night.
- 4.7% ABV
- Available in 500ml bottles
- “Best Lager in the World” Beers of the World magazine’s ‘World Beer Awards’
- Hops: Saaz (obviously)
- Malts: Munich, caramel, roasted
- 100 day brewing cycle (90 of which are for fermentation)
- Brewed in Cesk, Czech Republic
Look The bottle isn’t too dissimilar to the original Budvar, except some of the red bits on the label are brown and the foil is black, not gold. The foiled cap is nice and fancy, a special presentational touch.
In the glass it’s basically black. When you hold it up, it lets a little light through and becomes the colour of shallow coffee. The head is decent, lively but not overly so. 7/10
Aroma First off it didn’t seem too different, just perhaps a hint of deeper golden malts than a paler pilsener. After some serious sniffin’, however, you find aromas not too dissimilar to the Rauchbier I reviewed a while back. Not as strong as that was, of course, but there’s definitely a smoky toastiness. Complex enough, but not very strong. 7/10
Taste Ooh yeah that’s interesting. Obviously malt led here, you get quite a bit of coffee and chocolate, some caramely notes, good smokiness like you might find in a stout or a porter. I think I get some slight licorice/aniseed too. It’s rich and complex, has a creamy mouthfeel and a decent, long finish with just a whisper of hoppy tanginess. It’s not exactly refreshing, but it’s good to savour. I can imagine swigging this at a beach party, after the sun’s down and the fire’s up. 8/10
Value Well I coulda got one for £1.99 or three for £5, so of course I went for the offer. It’s a pretty standard price for imported brews of this kind. It was a nice surprise, and definitely something I’d buy again. I’d like to be able to fill up a fridge without breaking the bank, but hey, this is true quality, and for that, we must pay. 8/10
Session This bevvy stands up well during a session. It’s quite a heavy flavour, but its carbonation gives it a weird lightness too. It’s not too strong a flavour to put you off drinking a lot, and I could have many of these after getting tired of the paler drinks. 8/10
It’s funny, I spend so much time trying to convince lager drinkers that they should try an ale for a change, and here’s a lager I’d recommend strongly to ale drinkers! Whatever you like drinking, be it ale or lager, this is a drink that could very well change some perceptions. Even more likely, though, is that you’ll just thoroughly enjoy it, unless you have an insipid palate and think Carlsberg is like a party on the tongue…
Final Score: 76/100