Chicagoist's "Beer of the Week": Carlsberg Lager
By Chuck Sudo in Food on May 30, 2007 4:00PM
Sixteen years ago this Chicagoist contributor was sailing around Indonesia's Flores Sea on an oceanographic research vessel re-mapping shipping lanes that hadn't been charted since the original Portuguese and Dutch colonists claimed Indonesia for their respective monarchies 400 years prior. We originally met up with our ship in Darwin, Australia, where a carved-from-granite tattooed bartender/"Thunderdome" extra shoved a Victoria Bitter in our right hand and a XXXX bitter in our left, after we ordered a Foster's in our most lame Yahoo Serious-inspired accent. "Foster's is piss water, mate. Like Budweiser in the States," he said. Unknown to us then, that bartender set us on a path from which we haven't strayed.
Our ship would occasionally dock for some R&R, purchasing contraband black coral jewelry, and - for some - blowing all their money at a house of ill repute called the Blue Ocean Pool Hall and Lounge in the port city of Ujung Pandang. We tried to stay in the hotel bars (many of which also doubled as brothels) as much as possible. Where beer was concerned, Bintang was the Indonesian version of Heineken; we heard horror stories about how it was brewed with formaldehyde as a preservative, and how a bad bottle could make a man curl up and pray for death as it worked through his system. For us, that left Denmark's Carlsberg Lager as our only other option. We bought a bottle for around 40,000 rupiah (roughly $2.50 USD at the time) and never looked back.
Carlsberg's longtime advertising slogan has been that it's "probably the best lager in the world." That may have been true in 1991, when we were a few months shy of our 21st birthday and impressionable. In 2007, there are scores of better lagers and pilsners a man can get his hands on; we've even awarded a few with "BotW" status. But Carlsberg has a soft spot in our hearts, and occasionally in our stomach. These days, we prefer it on draft, to remove any chance that we're getting a skunky beer. Chilled just right, we get that bitter hop flavor that we love in a lager. It leaves nice lacing on the glass to let us know that there's some character behind the beer. It also makes for a perfect barbecue beer, which is how we paired it last weekend. We don't always feel nostalgic for a beer, but this was one of those occasions. Carlsberg is readily available at most grocery and liquor stores. We can get it on draft at First Base in Bridgeport. Some of your more discerning "Irish" bars around town will also have it on draft. So go to one and ask for a Carlsberg Lager, Chicagoist's "Beer of the Week."
A reminder: Next week, we kick off "'Reader's Choice' Beer of the Week" here at Chicagoist. There are four Wednesdays in June, and we've received loads of suggestions, read them all, and even responded to a few of you. It still isn't too late to submit more recommendations, but please do so via e-mail.