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BIRS AIN'T BEERS

May 26, 2008

Being in the warm tropics it probably comes as no surprise that Bali's beer sales are quite healthy thank you very much.

 

Growing rapidly each year in stark contrast to the rest of Indonesia which has a predominately Muslim population and the obvious reason why overall alcohol consumption sits at a low 3-4% of  the population. Indonesia's current per capita beer consumption is also extremely low at around 0.6 litres per year, Malaysia's beer consumption by comparison is about 20 litres per year despite the fact that it's also a Muslim country.

 

Balinese who do drink (alcohol) mostly prefer their locally made spirits “Arak” and “Brem”.  Most “Welcome Drinks” offered to tourists at hotels and restaurants are usually a cocktail mix of Arak and a fruit juice of some sort.  Often referred to as “Arak Attack” these spirits are quite often home made "brews" and to the uninitiated can be quite potent with a hit and miss regard as to the percentage of  alcohol/volume content.

 

They say; "when in Rome, do as the Romans do", and I couldn't think of a more suitable quote when it comes to choosing a refreshing beverage on a hot day in Bali and overwhelmingly voted the beverage of choice by tourists from around the world is beer. “Bir” as it is called locally is in such high demand that there have been many occasions quite recently when demand has outstripped supply and beer “shortages” have resulted in Bali.

 

There are many locally brewed and imported beers to choose from in Bali. Most of the Aussie brands such as Fosters, Swan, VB and Fourex are available, so to is the U.S. Budweiser and Miller brands, also on offer is Corona and several German imports, but they all come at a price with extremely heavy duties imposed on imported alcoholic drinks. For this reason several smart offshore brewers have set up shop in Indonesia.

 

 

BIR BINTANG

Heineken is one such offshore brewer.  Bir Bintang or “Star Beer” is the best selling brand of beer in Indonesia and one that is fast becoming synonymous with Bali. Produced in Surabaya by Multi Bintang, the Indonesian subsidiary of Netherland beer giant Heineken, Bintang is a (5% alc/vol) German style Pilsner. Its taste is often compared to its parent Heineken although it isn't as hoppy, why even the green Bintang bottle with it's “Red Heineken Star” label is almost identical to that of older brother’s which is rather appropriate as in Bahasa (Indonesian language) "Bintang" means "star".

THE TASTE TEST: Bir Bintang is a light tasting beer, with a light hop flavour and a crisp bitter after taste with a hint of lemon. Slightly watery, it has low carbonation making it the ideal beverage for "session" drinkers as it tends not to bloat. Bir Bintang pours haze-free, with a pale honey colour and produces a nice white frothy head which sits well in a chilled glass, however in Bali it is mostly drunk straight from the bottle so it doesn't lose chill. It's only downside for me is that it smelled pretty awkward on opening and has a “weedy” odour about it, a bit like stale bar runners (but that may well have been the seedy bar in Sanur where I was drinking it). This bir must be served “icy” cold to hold its crispness as it tends to "flatten" out when it warms up. I thoroughly recommend an icy cold Bintang to anyone who comes to Indonesia. The Bali experience just isn't complete 'till you've tried an icy cold "Binny".

 

 

SAN MIGUEL BEER

San Miguel is another offshore brewer setting up shop in Indonesia.. Of Philippine origin it now brews and bottles beer in Indonesia thru its subsidiary offshoot PT Delta Djakarta. Delta has a large slice of the local beer market brewing both local branded birs "Anker" and "Bali Hai" as well as the Indonesian version of the "San Miguel" and "Carlsberg" beers.

THE TASTE TEST:  As with the Bintang/Heineken synergy the locally brewed San Miguel has many similarities to the Philippine original recipe. San Miguel is another pilsner style beer that has a slight hint of bitterness about it with a corny, hoppy, malty taste. Very similar to say the U.S. Miller brand, but more substantial and less watery than it's American counterpart. It sits well on the stomach and leaves room for food without feeling bloated. A very easy-going beer that lends itself to seafood and/or delicately flavoured pasta dishes.

 

 

ANKER BIR

Anker is another beer from the Delta Djakarta stable in Bekasi. It is a (5% alc/vol) “Czech Style” pilsner and as mentioned is made in the same factory as Bali Hai and San Miguel.

THE TASTE TEST: The colour is a typical pale yellow with plenty of carbonation which keeps a white head alive but on the downside quickly bloats the stomach. The label quotes this beer as being a "quality pilsner" but the colour, taste and nose, suggest otherwise that it is just a stock standard ale. It has a mild hoppy floral flavour typical of the Czech style and may tend to suit the ladies better with its high "bubbly" effervescents.

 

 

BALI HAI BIR

Bali Hai (5% alc/vol) is a slightly dry tasting “American Style” lager. It’s sales have fallen dramatically over the years, much in Bintang’s favour.

THE TASTE TEST: The beer is a mildly sweet premium lager that produces a fluffy and long-lasting head. The smell is big and malty, and the taste is well balanced of malts and hops. Not too sweet with a slight bitter aftertaste, it is remarkably clean and very drinkable with a crisp, sharp finish. Appearance is hazy amber and a moderate to high carbonation which may tend to bloat the stomach a little. On the whole not a bad drop considering all malt beers aren't really a favourite of mine, however this bir would sit nicely with spicy asian food dishes. Bali Hai far exceeded the low expectations I had for it, and I would certainly reach for it again. Would definitely suit the “Budweiser” drinkers.

 

BIR – A TAXING PROBLEM            

Here are some interesting facts to ponder when next partaking in a cold cleansing ale by the pool.  Did you know that various taxes imposed on beer in Indonesia accounts for around 53 percent of the beer's retail price. Alcoholic drinks in Indonesia are subject to excise, value-added tax, luxury sales tax, income tax, and import duty (for imported ones). The luxury sales tax is 40 percent of the retail price for drinks with an alcohol content below 26 percent and 75 percent for those with an alcohol content over 26 percent. The excise rates range from Rp 1,300 (14 U.S. cents) for drinks with an alcohol content below 1 percent to Rp 50,000 for imported drinks with an alcohol content of more than 20 percent. All that and yet it’s still much cheaper than at home….which makes me wonder what our Government back home is reaping off beer drinkers.

 

WHERE DO YOU GET IT ????

 

The Beer Man

Will deliver a slab of beer to your hotel or villa.

Depending on which area you are in a crate (24) Small Bintang will cost 240,000-280,000Rp (as at April 2010)

Phone: 081 337 270 047 (Jason)

 

Rame's Wine Shop (Jimbaran & Sanur)

Go to: http://www.rameswine.com

 

Bali Liquor Store (Seminyak)

Go to: http://bbcwines.com/

 

Lamak Cellars (Ubud)

Go to: http://www.lamakbali.com

 

Hallo Liquor Express (Anywhere Home Delivery)

Go to: http://www.hallorestaurants.com/bali_liquor_store.html

 

 

For the low down on Bali’s Wines & Other Booze go here:

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