There are many unexplained mysteries in Jakarta. Like why do the cats have no tails? And why do the kids never climb trees? And why does a single glass of lager in a hotel cost more than 11 LITERS of gasoline at a petrol station?
Yep, the expat in Jakarta has much to ponder.
Preferably while enjoying a nice cold beer.
Although not a Guinness.
In fact, most definitely not a Guinness.
Now that really is the greatest mystery of all: Just how did one of the world’s finest brews transform itself so radically once it had reached the shores of this fine archipelago into what, even the most charitable beer lover, would rubbish as “cat’s p*** with a nasty, metallic aftertaste”?
Other descriptions of Indonesia’s Guinness taken from the beer lover’s bible, ratebeer.com, include the following:
Hard to finish…
Thickly sweet sour on the tongue, hideous body. Horrid.
The worst Guinness I’ve had by far. It is actually worse than most rice lagers available in China...
Is this cr** really Guinness?
Okay, I think I’ll stop it there. But just to be fair, I’ll provide one more review. The official description from the Indonesian brewers themselves:
Strong tasting with a distinctive roasted bitterness, Guinness Foreign Extra Stout is our authentic carbonated classic. It’ll transport you back to an 18th Century world of stouts when the ancestor of this beer was known as Guinness East and West India porter. In 1821, the definitive early Guinness became known as Extra Superior Porter.
Guinness Foreign Extra Stout is a beer like no other. The most full-flavoured of all. Singular and striking. Uniquely satisfying. Brewed with extra hops and roasted barley for a natural bite. Bitter and sweet. Refreshing crisp. Always rewarding.
Holy crap! Are they even talking about the SAME beer I wonder?
So what has gone wrong since a certain Patrick Lawlor brought Guinness to Jakarta in the early 1970s? And is Guinness Plc even aware of what this stuff “brewed” in Indonesia tastes like? But would they really care anyway?
Well, it’s hard to answer these questions but don’t tell me it’s because Indonesian Guinness comes in a can. That of course is obvious: the canned version isn’t going to taste nearly as good as the liquid gold you can find in the pubs of Dublin. But the canned stuff shouldn’t taste that bad - and in most cases it doesn’t: the canned Guinness on sale in the UK being eminently drinkable by comparison.
But someone must be drinking Indonesian Guinness. But who? And how much?
Multi Bintang (the people who brew this stuff) don’t unfortunately provide any sales figures, and more tellingly perhaps, they seem to be much more focused on their strongly-selling Bintang lager beer, a decent tasting brew, which according to them is a “national icon” having been around for 80 odd years. Yeah right!
Interestingly, however, there is the remarkable claim by Galvin Murray, (former?) technical advisor at Guinness Indonesia, that not only is Indonesia the largest market for Guinness in Asia Pacific but that Indonesia is the 6th largest market in the world for Guinness after the UK, Ireland, Nigeria, the US and Cameroon, even though the advertising of beer is still technically banned in Indonesia – a ruling imposed by ol’ Suharto himself.
Quite incredible, I’m sure you’re agree.
Especially since it tastes like c
NB: Guinness didn’t choose the wonderful red knobbed hornbill (indigenous to Sulawesi) as the iconic toucan in its vintage ads – although it perhaps should have given that Indonesia is (apparently) its six largest market!!!
Excluding the obvious, the next most popular expat fantasy in Jakarta is…