The craft brewing craze has arrived in Indonesia. Seriously. I was strolling around one of Jakarta's swanky malls this weekend, pricing bespoke suits (everything's out of my price range), and happened across a fancy grocery store. I always have fun looking at grocery stores in other countries, and so I took a stroll through it. And while there, I noticed a display selling five kinds of specialty beers brewed by a firm called Storm Beer, based out of Bali. So of course I had to get a couple to sample.
Having lived for some time in the Napa Valley of beer, I have pretty high expectations of craft breweries. (I also have a limited tolerance for annoying craft brewing techiques, like brewers that attempt to outdo one another making the "hoppiest" or "strongest" or "darkest" beer in search not of good taste but rather of superlatives. But I digress.) So here are my reviews of three of Storm Beer's selections. I decided to skip two of them (Bronze Ale and Pale Ale) because I tend not to like those styles very much, especially pale ales. The remaining three are the ones that looked most appealing.
Before we get started, let me admit that I have no idea about how to taste and or rate beer. None. So this is just me aping the way that I've seen other beers rated.
Storm Beer Golden Ale
Pours a large head, but is highly carbonated so it evaporates quickly. Cloudy with a golden color. The nose hints of wheat and hops. The initial taste is wheat and yeast, followed by unidentifiable sweetness (not like a honey or sugar sweet, but I can't describe it properly). Dry bitter finish and aftertaste. Overall: for a summer beer there is probably too much flavor here, but it is pretty good and I prefer this to the standard local swill.
Storm Beer Iron Sout
Pours a nice head, also fairly carbonated. Brown/black in color. The nose smells roasty. Taste is surprisingly bitter and thin, less big and chocolatey or malty or roasty as I would prefer in a stout. Bitterness continues though the finish and aftertaste. Again, the word that comes to my mind is "thin." Overall: this is unremarkable as far as stouts go, but it's not a bad beer in general.
Storm Beer Tropical Ale
Another big foamy head, highly carbonated but less than the Golden Ale. Lemony yellow in color, not cloudy but still opaque. A distinctly skunky nose, reminiscent of the lower rungs of the Milwaukee ladder/my sock drawer, but combine that with a whiff of lemon. Confusing taste: starts with lemon, then moves to grassy and herbal flavors. Also a bready/yeasty note which does not combine well with the others. Finishes with more lemon and some light hops. Citrus taste lingers for a bit, and is not unpleasant, but the last bit of the aftertaste is of Icehouse. Whoops. Overall: sock drawer + Icehouse: this is a disappointment. Maybe a slice of real lemon might help. Would not drink again.
Josh May 19, 2009
Are any good beers made in tropical climates? The skunkiness is a quality I’ve found in every tropical beer I’ve ever had.
TP May 20, 2009
Oh, I think there are plenty of reasonable non-skunky beers, at least there are from tropical Asia. The best for sure are Tiger from Singapore and Singha from Thailand. I’d probably rather drink a Tiger than any American mass-produced beer. San Miguel from the Philippines also holds up nicely. Also, depending on whether you count Indian beers as tropical, I think you have to add in Taj Mahal and Kingfisher.
Even Indonesia’s Bintang isn’t too skunky so long as it’s on draft. It’s basically just a Heineken/Carlsberg. Bintang in the form that I buy it (62 cL bottles) is skunky, though.
I think the issue is that tropical beers tend to be light in color and heavy on the adjuncts, which doesn’t bode well for complex and delicious flavors. But I still think that within that family of tropical beers there’s huge variation.
Maybe the most interesting observation is this (and this is not an original thought by me): Tropical beers taste a million times better in the country where they are produced than they do anywhere else.
rini October 11, 2009
which supermarket / which mall did you find storm beer? been looking for them. thanks.
Doug D October 14, 2009
I tried all the different Storm beers while I was in Bali recently. Loved the Stout, Bronze and Golden. I found the Pale ale to be a good daytime drink as it is neither heavy nor too strong. Some bars keep it too cold (I suppose they are used to serving Bintang like that so that drinkers don’t risk tasting the stuff) but just leave it in the bottle for 5 minutes before pouring and it is fine. The Tropical didn’t suit my taste but young lager drinkers will find it has much more flavour than the competition.
Nik March 18, 2010
I had the chance to try the Golden Ale Storm Beer while in Bali recently. I actually enjoyed them very much! Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find them anywhere else outside of Bali, so I can’t attest to their similarities or differences.. Am heading back to Bali soon, and looking forward to a bottle of that on the sandy beaches of Nusa Dua! Wheee~!
kamagra April 27, 2010
The Golden Ale Storm Beer is one of the best I’ve ever try.
David Horovitz August 28, 2010
If the suits in Jakarta are out of your price range then you might also only like really cheap beer. Storm Beer is an acquired taste like all beers. You just don’t know that because you also think that the wines of the Napa Valley are good. Well I have news for you! I am partial to Australian wines because a) I am used to them b) they beat the shit out of the Napa wines at every exposition and c) after watching sideways I would be reluctant to drink anything from there…..but yet again I suppose that I could try and then be positive about the result…..from a person who spent 40 years in the five star international hotel industry in F&B for a goodly part of that.