Sunday, January 17, 2010

Harar Beer

Let's go back in time to January 2008. The economy was still somewhat good but about to burst, George W. Bush was still president, Michael Phelps was dreaming of eight Gold Medals in Beijing, and in Reno, a new Ethiopian restaurant, called Zagol, opened up. Me, my wife, and my parents-in-law decided to try it out. The food was interesting, the honey wine was fantastic, and the beer was Hakim Stout, what I called a "surprisingly good beer". Some of the commentors agreed, some didn't, but hey, we all have different tastes, and that's why I never bad-mouth a beer.

Now, we come back to the present. Barack Obama is president, Michael Jackson is dead, Alabama won the BCS National Championship game, and the family returned to Zagol for my father-in-law's birthday. Last time, I came with a 1.3 megapixel cameraphone, but this time, I came prepared with a 10 megapixel digital camera. I even knew that I wanted the light beer this time. Problem is, I had no idea what it was called, and neither did our waitress last time. I soon found out it was Harar Beer, a lager from the same brewery as Hakim Stout (thus the brewery info is the same). This beer is brewed in the pilsner style and runs at 4.25% ABV, less than the stout. Like the stout, the name of the beer is printed on the label in English as well as in Ethiopian, with the transliteration of the text being "Harar Bīrā," or (surprise!) Harar Beer.

Unfortunately, also like the stout, there's not a lot of information about the beer itself, so I've decided to include a little more brewery information. Of Ethiopia's four breweries, the Harar Brewery Share Co. is the only one who exports. It gets its brewery equipment from the Czech Republic, so it's no wonder that what is probably their flagship beer is in fact a pilsner. Their hops come from Germany, and the malt comes from the Assela Malt Factory in Assela (it used to be imported before the factory opened up). From what I've read, the brewery seems to be in good working condition, and it draws its water from the Genela Spring located on-property, as well as the Finkile deep well and the Alemaya Pump Station. (The Beverages Sector: The Private Sector)

Here come the stats:

Harar Beer
BREWERY: Harar Brewery Share Co., Harar, Ethiopia
US IMPORTER: NTS Enterprises, Oakland, CA
STYLE: Pilsner
ABV: 4.25%
FOODS TO PAIR WITH: Ethiopian food

I got this extremely limited information from the bottle. I really need to e-mail the brewery with my questions. Who knows, maybe they'll answer.

This beer poured a golden color with a very nondescript white head that faded away almost instantaneously. The beer had a very malty aroma to it, but I thought it was pleasant. The taste was a little sweeter than I was used to for pilsners and was a nice surprise. I tasted malts, slight hops, carbonation, and a citrus taste reminiscent of a hefeweizen. The aftertaste was a combination of hops and slight metal, but faded pretty quickly. Matching the beer with Ethiopian food like Gored Gored and Ya Doro Wat made the aftertaste non-existant.

I liked this beer better than the Hakim Stout and better than most other pilsners I've had. Some complain that it's too sweet, but I think it's nice to not have a lager that tastes like I'm sucking a penny. Like Hakim Stout, you can find it at your favorite African restaurant or importer.

T'chen chen!

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