While scouting the aisles of his local liquor store, Bucky met a man filling his cart with the last of the store's Svyturys Ekstra ("Ekstra"), a Lithuanian beer. Seeing that Bucky was looking for new beers to try, he recommended his favourite brew and kindly handed Bucky a bottle from his cart. Ekstra came in a brown 500 ml bottle, with a production date of January 12, 2013 printed on the label. Ekstra was 5.2% alcohol by volume.
Ekstra is brewed by vyturys-Utenos Alus UAB, which traces its origins to 1784 when Johann Wilhelm Reincke founded Klaipeda's first industrial brewery in the suburbs of Friedrich. The Reincke family emblem sported the sea eagle, a seafaring symbol which can be seen in the coat of arms of vyturys to this day. Rebuilt after the war, brewery vyturys started making beer again in 1946, initially, only in barrels and shipped to pubs in the region of Klaipeda. In 1950, the company installed a bottling line, which was frequently upgraded as the demand for Klaipeda's beer grew.
Once Lithuania was freed from the dark empire, it was reorganized as a public limited company. In spring of 1999, the company was acquired by the Danish firm Carlsberg A/S, which shared its years of experience, renovated the company, boosted its output and provided training for its employees. In December 2001, the breweries of vyturys and Utenos Alus were merged to become vyturys-Utenos Alus AB. Currently, Carlsberg controls vyturys-Utenos Alus UAB through the holding company Baltic Beverages Holding, the shares of which are owned 50%/50% by Carlsberg Breweries and Scottish & Newcastle, a leader in the UK beer market.
Ekstra poured a clear golden yellow colour with about 1" of short-lived fluffy white head which left some minor spotting down the glass. Its aroma was simple but satisfying, being dominated by sweet malts with undertones of grassy hops. The beer's flavour very much followed its aroma, beginning with a strong, pleasant malty sweetness which gives way to a very mild hop bitterness, with a clean, dry finish. Ekstra had a soft mouthfeel and I would describe it as fairly light bodied. There's nothing complex about this beer...it is simply a solid, enjoyable brew, especially for those like myself who lean towards sweet, malty tastes. At $2.35 per 500 ml bottle, the beer is reasonably priced, and that Lithuanian gent in the liquor store did not steer me wrong!
For his first ever Polish beer, Bucky spied a 500 ml can of Tatra, produced by the Zywiec Brewery. Tatra was 5.5% alcohol by volume with a best before date of August 3, 2014 printed on the bottom of the can.
Zywiec Brewery was founded in 1852, in Zywiec, Poland, which was then a part of Austria-Hungary. It was nationalized after WWII when Poland was occupied by the Dark Empire. Today, the Heineken Group of Holland controls the operations of Zywiec's parent company with a 61% shareholding, and has modernized the brewery's production.
Tatra poured a crystal clear golden colour with a thin white head that disappeared inside one minute. This beer actually looks more like a cider...but certainly has the aroma of a beer. Sweet malts dominate the aroma, with a hint of wet dirt...the combination of which actually works well. Its taste was sweet light malts up front, with a hint of wet dirt that disappears almost instantly, and a mildly bitter finish which lingered for a few seconds. I would describe Tatra as a smooth beer, easy drinking and light bodied, though with a bit of a thin mouthfeel to it. In summary, a decent beer most notable for that unique 'wet dirt' aroma and taste (not a bad thing in this case), but not memorable enough that I would buy it again. It was interesting enough that I will try some other Polish beers though. Tatra is reasonably priced at $1.90 per 500 ml can.
Okocim brewery was established in 1845 by Johann Evangelist Gotz, a German beer maker, together with Joseph Neumann from Austria-Hungary and local Polish noble, Julian Kodrebski. The first batch of beer was brewed on February 23, 1846. After the demise of the dark empire in 1990, the brewery was transformed into a government run business enterprise and subsequently auctioned off. Since 1996 the brewery has been a part of Carlsberg Polska, and is located in Brzesko, Poland.
Bucky picked up a 500 ml can of Okocim Premium Mocne Strong Beer ("Mocne") with a best before date of April 14, 2014 printed on the bottom of the can. Mocne was 7.0% alcohol by volume.
Mocne poured a clear, deep golden colour with about 1/2" of short lived off-white head which left no spotting or lacing down the glass. Its aroma was fairly subdued but pleasant enough with sweet caramel malts and earthy hops detectable. The taste began with a definite malt sweetness which slowly gave way to earthy hops with a gentle bitter finish. The carbonation level was quite low and there was no alcohol burn as with some of the lower grade, high alcohol beers (I'm looking at you Faxe). Toward the heftier end of light bodied, Mocne was a pleasant, easy drinking beer that seems to have an undeserved poor reputation judging from the other views I have read. I certainly wouldn't turn down one of these, and Mocne is reasonably priced at $2.35 per 500 ml can.