What We’re Drinking: England vs. Germany
Yes, the 2010 World Cup is infecting Japan Eats, too. While we have a little Japan-centered FIFA-related tippling on the way, tonight England, home to a good chunk of our friends out there, take on Germany, also a quite Japan Eats-friendly country.
So, what’s on tap tonight is not only what’s on tap, but what’s in bottles: the least scientific head-to-head imaginable. Battle of the beers!
For favored Deutschland:
- Paulaner Weißbier (draft)
- John Smith’s
- Wychwood Brewery’s “Goliath”
Well, Paulaner and John Smith’s are both on tap at the wonderful Lighthouse in Kokubunji – one of Tokyo’s few Dutch pubs (although anyone who likes a nice-looking bar or great beer will feel right at home there) – and Warsteiner and Goliath were both on sale at Euroseed in Musashi-Koganei, which stocks not only at least 80 different beers, but also a wide selection of sake, shochu, and imported wines in addition to imported packaged foods, cheeses, etc.
Paulaner is the standard for good Weißbier and belongs on any list. That, and I could swear I saw posters showing Paulaner as a sponsor of the German national soccer team.
John Smith’s is just a fine ale with a very English name and fair bit of popularity.
The bottles were chosen for their bragadoccio: Warsteiner “Eine Königin Unter Den Bieren” and a crown on the label, a beer who used the slogan “Life is too short to drink cheap beer” in the US.
Goliath speaks for itself, but Wychwood (brewers of the famous Hobgoblin) takes no chances on that score, claiming “A Colossal Taste” on the label.
So how do they fare?
Paulaner: A classic and a taste sensation while being a new tradition at the same time. Paulaner is, hands down, one of the world’s greatest macrobrews. It’s thick head, and cloudy orange hue advertise that quintessential wheat beer flavor, with it’s hint of sweetness and hearty wheatiness exploding across the palate. Both it and Warsteiner are among Germany’s top-ten best-selling beers.
John Smith’s: This one’s like an old friend. It’s subtle in the way that English ales can often be. No big carbonation, a head that’s present and persistent, but not really a feature in and of itself. The flavor is well-balanced with hints of both bitterness and sweetness. John Smith’s selling point is its smoothness – there’s even a version sold as “John Smith’s Extra Smooth.” It’s drinkable in a good way, not in a euphemism-for-being-flavorless way.
Warsteiner: If you just want a good, reliable pilsener, this one’s for you. It’s light, well-balanced, and could stake a claim to being the measuring stick for macrobrew pilseners. What it is not, though, is a star player. There’s just not much to distinguish Warsteiner from any number of light-tasting beers of its kind. Better than what you’ll get at an American baseball stadium? Sure. Better than Kirin Ichiban-Shibori? Maybe, but it’s not a clear winner. Good, but not one to go out of one’s way for.
Goliath: By the standards of Wychwood, this one was over-ambitiously named. It comes of a bit like a lighter version of Hobgoblin Dark Ale, but that’s good in a hot humid Tokyo June. It’s still definitely a full-flavor beer, pretty malty in flavor and leaning a bit more in that direction than towards hoppiness, no really noticeable extraneous flavors, which often get into Wychwood beers, which is good as they, like most craft brewers, are at their best when they’re not trying to get too fancy. (You hear me, Nest?)
England edges out Germany with a somewhat lucky goal in injury time to win 2-1. No PKs necessary. Germany is stronger across the board, but England’s stars are more reliable.
Challenge me, I dare you. I won’t dive.