Pidä minun olutta ja katsella tätä …
(Translation: “Hold my beer and watch this” in Finnish)
Typically when a submission arrives on my desk, it is by either a brewery or their PR teams sending such to me for review. This week however I was treated to something special when along with a packet of crisps, some Finnish beef jerky and a webcam for use in production of my YouTube Channel, four authentic Finnish beers were delivered to my door, all the way from a fan in Helsinki. Unfamiliar with Finnish beer, I was eager to try one out, but opted to let the first I sipped be that which I reviewed.
Here then, we have Sandels, an American style lager straight from…well, I can’t read any of the label, so we’ll just say Finland! Light and golden in color, it boasts the pearly white head of soft small bubble foam, which diminishes almost immediately, similar to that of many of our own domestic lagers and it comes with a meager 4.7% abv. Low as it is, it would be considered to the American drinker, a sessionable beer made to drink one after another. At the same time, to a European…well, I’d imagine quite the same.
In terms of taste, it comes across very much like many a Vienna style lager I’ve had in the past, with the same bubbly notes one might expect from say, a Chezchvar or to draw a weaker comparison, Stella, but with something richer in the malt profile, giving it an overall weightier feel and flavor. In this sense, the beers almost drinks more like a straight ahead pilsner, despite the styles of lager and pilsner sharing little daylight between them.
Now in respect to what this beer is, I would be remiss if I didn’t have a look around to see what more local opinions of it are. Upon some very light reading, it becomes apparent that this is indeed the Finnish equivalent of Heineken or Stella, being described as “hypermarket” brew, popular among students. However one criticism which I’m compelled to agree with in this same right is that even as such, it remains very drinkable.
By no means overwhelming or remarkable, it remains the kind of cold easy sipper that most any beer drinker can enjoy. With a slight comparative hint of diacetyl (the chemical byproduct which often gives cheap beer its “skunked” flavor) it exists still quite a few notches above the average American’s suitcase style swill bought up at the grocers for under twenty dollars for thirty. This aspect proves a bit of a challenge however, as I am unsure if such is endemic of the beer in general, or something that simply developed on the beers travels half way around the globe. Serving to my mind and palate as yet another reminder that the U.S. has quite a lot of catching up to do in terms of beer and beer culture, such is also enough to inspire a rabid curiosity as to what more authentic Euro style craft brews may really be like.
Easy as it is and bearing neither triumphant hall marks of superior crafting, nor any particular or serious failings, I can say that in one’s travels throughout Europe, should they be seeking something easy going, smooth and affordable, Sandels may be just is needed.
So Olvi, to my good Finnish Friend from YouTube with the most sincere appreciation and of course to you, I say as always…
Nicholas Goroff is an actor, writer and craft beer reviewer at EveryJoe.com. Certified as a Cicerone beer server, he is working towards obtaining certification as a beer judge while employed at Bert’s Better Beers in Hooksett, NH. When not reviewing beer, wine and spirits, he is typically writing political essays, screenplays and short fiction. Follow him on Twitter @wizardofcause.
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