Reviewed by Tom Becham for Professorgoodales.net
If you believe that Nicolae Ceaucescu and Dracula are the only great evils to emerge from Romania, you’ve obviously never tried Super Brew 15.
Is it really that bad, or am I exaggerating? Well, that’s the thing. It’s tough to separate the reality from hyperbole with this beer.
First, some background. One of my beer quirks is that I like to try beers from as many different countries as I can. Largely, this experience has been one of mediocre pale lagers. Occasionally, I’ll find a gem, like Sri Lanka’s Lion Stout, or Kenya’s Tusker Lager. And just as often, I’ll find some that are vaguely unpleasant. But never before have I encountered a beer as hideous as Super Brew 15.
A couple months ago, my wife and I were in Torrance, California at the Alpine Village market. I spotted this brew on the shelf in back with the beers. I had never had a Romanian beer, so I picked this up, along with some excellent German brews.
Once home, I started to read some of the on-line comments about Super Brew. They were all comically negative. Part of me didn’t believe that any beer could be as bad as the descriptions of this one. Part of me was frightened, and part of me took the prospect of drinking this as a dare. I let it sit in the ‘fridge for awhile while I thought about it.
The label on the bottle, in itself, is fairly tragicomic. It comes from S.C. Martens Brewing (damn their eyes). It states an alcohol content of 14.9%. It also claims the beer is an English-style Barleywine (From ROMANIA?). It recounts an apocryphal tale of a brewing contest in which this beer defeated 14 others. (Which begs the question: there are actually 14 beers WORSE than this one?!?).
All in all, not encouraging.
But last night, my home brewing group met to bottle some mead a member had made. I thought this was the perfect opportunity to break out the Super Brew 15. After all, I’d get the opinions of our brewmaster, I wouldn’t have to drink the entire thing myself, and it could be a bonding experience, in the sense that people who share a near-fatal experience tend to grow a lot closer.
So, on to the beer.
It pours a bright orange-gold, with an active fizzy head that dissipates as quickly as an exploding firecracker. Sure doesn’t resemble any Barleywine I’ve ever seen. The aroma…
At first, you pick up a hugely alcoholic scent that is reminiscent of Peruvian pisco grape brandy. But then the solvents kick in. My wife describes the aromas most accurately by saying, “My dad used to soak greasy motorcycle chains in open pans of gasoline in his garage. This beer has that same metallic, greasy, gasoline smell of Dad’s garage.” I might add that with the brandy and garage aromas, there are also traces of cheap perfume and insecticide.
But okay, I’ve had foul-smelling beers before that actually tasted halfway decent. “Let’s give Super Brew a chance,” I thought.
The initial impression on the palate is of huge maltiness, with a touch of green apple sourness. Not necessarily great for a beer, but not all that bad. But then everything goes to Hell in a handbasket. The malt is replaced by an all-out blitzkrieg of alcohol. The 14.9% alcohol content of this comes across more like 40% or 60%. Indeed, I’ve had cheap rotgut whiskeys and tequilas that were far more smooth than this “beer.”
But the worst is yet to come.
The aftertaste and mouthfeel stem from the same source, and are … not good. Our brewmaster best describes it by saying, “Have you ever used a rubber hose to siphon gasoline from a car, and didn’t stop in time? The finish is like that same rubber/gasoline taste. And it totally coats the mouth.”
By now, you’re probably thinking, “Was it REALLY that bad, Tom?” Put it this way: there were 4 of us tasting the 500 ml (16.9 ounce) bottle, and we still poured almost half the bottle down the drain.
On the bright side, if I had any intestinal parasites before last night, no doubt they are no longer an issue. The Romanians seem to have developed an effective – if oddly delivered – form of chemotherapy.
In fact, I would go so far as to say if genocide could be fermented and bottled, it would be just like Super Brew 15. I’m convinced it is brewed using the bitter tears of orphaned children (orphaned children in tertiary-stage alcohol poisoning, that is).
All in all, the experience of drinking this beer was akin to being rolled for my cash by a disease-ridden hag of a Romanian prostitute with terminal halitosis, who stole not only my cash, but my passport and my clothes, as well. Actually, that experience would be LESS unpleasant and humiliating than drinking this beer.
Don’t believe me? Try Super Brew 15. I dare you.
Tom Becham lives in California, he’s a homebrewer and reviews beer, brewpubs, breweries and beer events for professorgoodales.net.