Boozelog XI – Luxor Weizen

This is the only example I’ve yet come across of an Arab or African brewery attempting a reasonably serious traditional European style of beer. Apparently it’s only been around for a few years.

Tasting notes from the neck:

‘A South German style of beer made from barley and wheat malt. A yeast that produces some spiciness and unique flavours of banana and cloves. The ‘Hefe’ prefix means “with yeast”, hence the beer’s unfiltered and cloudy appearance. Twist the bottle before serving and serve with a lemon wedge, which gives a flavorful snap.’

I skipped the lemon. 12g, 5% ABV.

I like wheat beer, I drink it whenever it’s available, in hot-ish weather especially, but still that’s not very often. My exposure to main brands, other than one-offs at home and in central Europe, has hitherto been limited to Erdinger, Franziskaner, Hoegaarden, Tucher and Weihenstephaner, all of which I think are great, especially Franziskaner.

Quite unlike other wheatbeers, Luxor pours easily even into a dry glass. The head disappears almost as quickly as with a lager and hardly leaves any lacing. It doesn’t look that much like other wheatbeer either, there’s obviously the opaqueness but it’s quite a deep browny colour for the style and has an orangey tinge to it. And it’s completely opaque: you can’t even see movement or shadows through it. The smell is very wheaty and citrusy. A bit of banana and maybe clove, per the tasting notes. Not very much spice though. Does it smell like apricot? Personally I think it smells like apricot.

It tastes great. Well-balanced sweetness and bitterness, yeast, citrus, and understandably wheat. Orange. A bit of banana. If it doesn’t smell like apricot, I definitely think it tastes like it. I reckon the yeast also balances perfectly with the fruity flavours. It’s a kind of middle ground between the (relative) mellowness of Erdinger and the hard-hitting Weihenstephaner. Only slighty fizzy, and a bit dry. The aftertaste basically gives you more of the same, with a definite clovey flavour. Overall, quality.

Luxor Weizen is the best beer yet. Try it. 9/10.

Boozelog X – Omar Khayyam

Omar Khayyam is possibly the most famous (or should that be ‘least infamous’?) Egyptian wine. This is the red I’m looking at, lately white and rose Omar Khayyams have also been brought out.

2009, though I can’t imagine the contents change too much year-by-year, there not being exactly inundations of rain in this part of the world. The bottle is quite cool: it has that handsome old-fashioned Arabic script on the front and a stanza of the big O-man’s famously oenophilic verse, translated into Arabic, and the same in French and English on the back. Bobal. Gianaclis is now a subsidiary of – yes, you guessed it – al-Ahram. 56g, 12.5% ABV.

Deep red colour. But the nose isn’t particularly robust. Standard soft red fruit and berry aroma you usually get from a Valencian wine, the area to which this grape is native, and not much else.

The taste is fine. Again, red fruit. Little bit of tannin. That’s about it. The only major negative is that an older bottle can be very acidic, so you don’t want to hold onto it for too long before drinking it.

Alright, but clearly overpriced. Wouldn’t seek it out again from choice, but wouldn’t turn it down if it was offered either. 5/10.

Boozelog VIII – Sakara King

Al-Ahram’s resident comedian never fails:

‘If you’re seeking a more daring experience, make sure you try out the Sakara King 10% (long live the King).’

I remember it being pretty tasty and 12% alcohol until even the start of this year, but now al-Ahram has somehow contrived to reduce it to 10% ABV and simultaneously make it taste much worse.

It pours. The head seems to be made of plastic at first sight. Looks like Charles Kennedy pished into a pint glass on a Saturday morning and kept it in his fridge for a few weeks. Smells like sweetcorn smothered in syrup.

It doesn’t taste that bad though, actually, considering the strength. Sweet, obviously, but drinkable, albeit slowly. Basically a clone of Super T/Carlsberg Special Brew.

Personally I think this is alright considering the strength. If you’re not big on Super T, though, avoid. 5/10.

Boozelog VII – Meister Max

Ahh, here we are at last. Almost as iconic as Stella, though for altogether less wholesome reasons. Al-Ahram produces a hilarious description of it, in Eengleesh as well:

‘With its 8% alcohol, Meister Max is a beer for a new and daring men generation.
Meister Max was the first high alcohol beer to be launched in the Egyptian market and still it’s the market leader because that beer offers you power, taste and style at the same time.
Meister Max is a sophisticated and premium beer with an international dimension for the stylish and strong men only. It enforces your masculinity and expresses who you truly are; a virile man… It’s part of the way you look and the way you act. It’s got the looks and power just like you.
Meister Max gets you in the mood quickly with its powerful buzz and very acceptable taste [hahahaha]: that beer is here to challenge you, to make your life to the max with style and control!’

Comes out of black half-litre and 330ml cans. They serve it in 330ml bottles in pubs increasingly because too much in a short time has been known to cause public order issues, or ‘Arab Springs’ as we seem to be saying in English. 8% ABV.

Fleeting head, a decent lace though. The colour actually looks quite good, it’s a pleasant-ish golden-yellow rather than the horrific orangey-chemical of most special brew in the UK. It smells like sweet malt. And actually, I think it smells cheesy.

You bring it to your lips and sort of wince in the process, but take a sip, raise your eyebrows and think wow, that’s not bad. And it’s really not. You don’t taste the 8%. It’s quite hoppy, again, sweet, a lot of corn. Orangey. I think it tastes a bit like hard cheese. Surprisingly drinkable.

Definitely full of character. ‘Meister Max': the very mention is enough to make laconic bar waiters from here to Homs and beyond shudder at the memory of all the fights they’ve had to break up because of this soup. I think it’s perfectly fine in moderation. 6/10.

Boozelog VI – Sakara Gold

Egypt’s Other Lager. Also brewed by al-Ahram, though this is a much more recent innovation than Stella. 4% ABV.

It pours easily; the head tends to stick around for an even shorter time than Stella; the colour is pretty unremarkably yellowy. Tiny whiff of hops but no other discernible smell.

Tastes pretty watery and dull. Little bit of hops. More fizzy than Stella.

Alright, though not really noteworthy. Better than being thirsty. 5/10.

Boozelog V – Luxor Classic

This Luxor series of beer isn’t brewed by al-Ahram, rather the Egyptian International Beverages Company in al-Guna: the only other major brewery in Egypt, as far as I know. Comes out of half-litre bottles or cans. 4% ABV.

It probably looks better than Stella or Sakara, the colour is paler and clearer. The head is nearly nonexistent. Practically no lacing. Smells citrusy and slightly hoppy.

Tastes light, refreshing, citrusy. Carbonation about right. Pretty good.

Not complicated. I drink it regularly, preferring it to Stella because of the slightly lower strength. 8/10.

Boozelog IV – Luxor XXX

Special brew. 10% ABV.

It pours like a beast. Looks a bit like someone seriously dehydrated has urinated in a pint of Deuchar’s. The head explodes and then collapses almost immediately. Smells like corn and syrup.

Tastes really sweet. It’s basically just like Super T.

I imagine two or more cans would be a bad idea, but one is bearable. 5/10.

Boozelog III – Bolanachi ‘Vat 20′

14g, 30% ABV.

It doesn’t smell terrible – a bit sweet.

The taste is pretty unremarkable. It’s a bit watery because it’s quite weak for a brandy I suppose. Altogether not entirely unpleasant.

Not too bad. It’s a fairly standard kind of flavour, goes down quite easily, definitely several steps up from T value brandy, but I wouldn’t say there’s anything notably good about it except the price. 5/10.

Boozelog II – Stella

The Egyptian classic. Asking for ‘a beer’ here will get you Stella. Anywhere that sells alcohol in Egypt will sell Stella. Some pubs only sell Stella. Brewed by al-Ahram as are most other things. ABV 4.5%.

It usually pours well. The colour is a fairly standard yellowy-orange. Quite like Tennent’s. The head has a bad habit of collapsing after a few minutes. Smells just like beer, malt and hops and a bit of sweetness.

Tastes reasonably full-bodied, a wee bit sweet. Nothing to write home about really, but it’s pretty good.

It’s basically the local equivalent of Tennent’s – I think Stella’s pretty decent. 7/10.