Ever noticed that for virtually every country, you can name a beer they brew? Whether by virtue of a flood of advertising (Foster’s is Australian, Corona is Mexican) or “I went on vacation to this country and now I want to find this beer at home” (India has Kingfisher; from personal experience, Ecuador has Pilsener). I like to think this was summed up well by Frank Zappa, and not just because I’ve always wanted to include a Zappa quote in something I’ve written: You can’t be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline. It helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer.
One common theme running through all these “national beers” is the style: a light lager, typically well-carbonated, typically not overwhelmingly flavorful, alcoholic, or complex. It’s not particularly challenging because it’s brewed to appeal to the largest segment of the population — popularity equals success. That once in a while one of these national beers is a bit more interesting than the norm is a rarity, certainly, but by definition some have to exist, right?
So when I came across Singapore’s entry into the beer sweepstakes, I welcomed the opportunity to give it a try. Tiger beer has existed for nearly eighty years, popular at home and, if their current PR firm is any indication, making a dent abroad. Similar to a lot of the imports in our market, Asia Pacific Breweries brews Tiger with an eye toward a long shelf life — up to a year, which leads me to think pasteurization and filtration — and ships immediately after brewing to arrive in America, according to their spokesperson, within six weeks. That it’s packaged in brown glass adds a layer of believablility to the assertions; at least the brewer understands that although uninformed Americans might equate green glass with oooh, shiny import!, brown glass will protect the beer from harmful ultraviolet rays far more effectively, prolonging the beer’s life. Keeping the beer at a cool temperature on the trip over doesn’t hurt that lifespan, either.
With all that attention to detail, I felt confident I was receiving Tiger in about the best shape anyone in New York could receive it. And I was suitably pleased with the large-format (640ml, about 22-ounce) bottles — less waste, right?
I pour the Tiger into a larger lager-type glass, letting the pure-white head pile up atop the brilliantly-clear pale gold beer. The head refuses to dissipate quickly, dominating the glass and allowing for some rather deep inhalations as I enjoy the aroma. The familiar notes of hay and crackery malt dominate the nose, as with any classic pilsner, coupled to a slight honeyish sweetness. The hops, which I’m sure are in there somewhere, really don’t make much of an appearance — ever so faint noble-hop aromatics, kind of an herbal pepperiness — crop up a bit, but that’s all.
Tasting the Tiger is like tasting a classic German helles at time: it’s perfectly clean and dominated by malt, but it isn’t very sweet; what sweetness is there is honeyish and not caramelly. It’s not as sharp around the edges as many pilsners, but instead feels a bit “rounded off” by the malt, so it’s a softer beer, if that makes any sense. Barely a whisper of hop bitterness permeates, but that would be more of a problem had Tiger not been brewed so competently. It’s a straightforward lager with no real issues but a little more complexity that the standard American-style pilsner.
In another step up from the classic national beer, Tiger manages a bit more in the way of bitterness, and more focus on balance, showcasing how well malt and hops can play together when you let them in a pilsner. On such a warm evening, I appreciated the refreshing nature of such a beer — I suspect Singapore has a lot more days of this weather than Manhattan does — and wouldn’t mind this as a go-to “lawnmower beer”, either.
There are several beers that are similar to Tiger already in our market, but most are not brown-glass bottles and thus susceptible to light damage once they’re out for sale. I certainly place Tiger way, way above Corona and its clear-glass atrocity. It’s on-par with Heineken (consistently underrated by beer geeks for the style), even Beck’s, in that nebulous “super premium” lager category, or as the Beer Judge Certification Program would likely pigeonhole it, a “Classic American Pilsner” — there’s a good amount of flavor present, and it won’t overwhelm you with bitterness. Just a sessionable, 5-ish percent alcohol beer, good cold but not needing numb tastebuds to fully appreciate. It’s definitely worth a try if you can find it. I was sent a couple of bottles, but I would make the educated guess that your local good beer store would keep either the large bottles or six-packs available. Worth your time and dollars? I say yes.
Please note that these products were courtesy of Asia Pacific Brewing and their PR. I received no monetary compensation for this review, nor was I obliged in any way to post about this experience, positively or otherwise. This is my own opinion of Tiger beer and I feel it was unbiased; you are free to take from this what you will.