Wednesday, January 28, 2009

CRITICAL INQUIRY: Timişoreana : in Which I Write Too Many Words About a Not-Terribly-Interesting Beer


Type: Lager
ABV: 5.0%
Manufacturer: Ursus / SABMiller
Price: 1/24/09: 1.7 RON = $0.53 @ neighborhood alimentară (500 ml bottle) 

Hailing logically enough from the city of Timişoara (which admittedly is in the Banat and not Transylvania), this beer is advertised as the first beer brewed comercially in Romania.

(It is my duty to intervene here and insist on a more thorough historcization. In 1718, when Timişoreana was first brewed, the Banat was a part of the Kingdom of Hungary and in turn part of the Habsburg Empire. The nation-state of Romania did not yet exist – and arguably neither did the modern nation-state as such. Perhaps it is most accurate to call this beer “the first beer to have been brewed commercially in the area of what is now Romania.” But that would be bad marketing, and sound too sudsy, even for a lager. I digress.)

At any rate, it’s the kind of beer whose “heritage” gets played up so as to aggrandize its otherwise unremarkable character. Don’t mistake me: there’s nothing wrong with Timişoreana, but beyond the historical trivia it’s nothing special, either. In the same way that we are supposed to be impressed with how PBR won some award at the 1893 Columbian Exposition (though apparently this is in dispute), Timi seems to rest on its laurels – including some won when the town bore the (Hungarian) name Temesvár, reinforcing my earlier pedantry. It also seems to rely on its cheerful packaging – replete with “old-timey” typeface, ghostly images of Habsburg Timişoara (when it was called “Little Vienna”), and a color scheme that evokes the blue-yellow-red of the Romanian flag – to jazz up the utterly ambivalent drink held within. The official Timişoreana website contributes further paeans to the apparent significance of the beer’s sheer oldness. The site is only in Romanian, but there’s a little video that goes through 300 years of history or whatever to some Beatlesy music.

Timişoreana lays assault neither to the nose nor to the tongue. Its aroma is so faint that in trying to get a good whiff I just ended up getting a wet beak – quite in contrast to the SABMiller site’s claim that it is “aromatic.” The scent is vaguely yeasty, although the SAB site also insists that it is “hoppy.” Maybe it is, and maybe I am still too much of a novice to know the difference; but there isn’t much of it, whatever it is. Timi’s taste is accordingly quite smooth, but with very little body to keep the wateriness in check. There’s a slight edge of sourness that sweetens out over time. SABMiller alleges that the “higher alcohol content” (5.0%, cf. Ursus’ 5.25% and Stejar’s 5.5%) lends Timişoreana a “full taste.” Allow me to disagree. Instead, I would submit that this beer has a texture and flavor very much like High Life, Bud, or PBR, though maybe not quite as carbonated.

After a pasting like this, you might be led to believe that I think Timi is a bad beer. Not so! Boring it may be, but this has its place. It’s what one might call a high-volume beer: a moderate ABV (despite what the official website says), an easy texture, and comparative blandness means that this is a beer suitable (though perhaps not advisable) for gulping, chugging, and generally downing with abandon. It would make a good, cheap keg beer, if they had such things around here. Certainly, had the college parties of my not-so-distant youth – I am reminded for some reason of Loose gatherings, for those in the know – been graced by Timişoreana’s “three centuries of tradition,” life would have been that much classier.

1 comment:

Hernando said...

I like your post about beer. It really touches an essential point about Britney Spears, Paris Hilton and Barack Obama and how we cope with them in the modern era of the Drudge Report. If. with the upcoming Super Bowl and stimulus bill, there is a future for Jessica Simpson, Jessica Alba and Hayden Panettiere, there is still a place for cheap Romanian beer and that place be it New York, London or Paris, will still be a firm part of America.