Food Critic: Know your beers: 3 of 5 brands picked in taste test

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May 17, 2012, 11:22 p.m. | Food & Nightclubs — by Brian Bonner

Know your beers: 3 of 5 brands picked in taste test

Brian Bonner

Brian Bonner has served as the chief editor of the Kyiv Post since 2008. He also held the job in 1999, three years after first arriving in Ukraine to teach journalism. Bonner is a veteran American journalist who spent most of his professional life with the St. Paul Pioneer Press in Minnesota, where he covered international, national and local news during a nearly 24-year career in which he was a staff writer and an assigning editor. For American newspapers, he has reported from abroad in Russia, Ukraine, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Laos. Bonner left the St. Paul newspaper in 2007 to become the associate director of international communications at the Campaign For Tobacco-Free Kids in Washington, D.C. He also worked as a member of the core teams with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe during six election observation missions in Ukraine, Belarus, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. To contact: email, Facebook at, Twitter @BSBonner, Skype at brian.bonner1959.

I’ve certainly made my contribution to Ukraine’s increasing beer consumption. And, when given a choice of domestic or imported beers, I always favor the Ukrainian brand. When in Kyiv, do as the Kyivans…

I see no point in buying the usually more expensive foreign-branded makes – even though franchises such as the Belgian Stella Artois and Czech beers such as Kozel and Staropromen are gaining favor with good quality at a decent price.

But does it matter which Ukrainian beer I drink? Would I be able to distinguish one from the other if I didn’t see the label? Don’t they all taste the same – cold and refreshing?

To answer these questions, my colleagues had me test five brands of Ukrainian beer: Rogan, Chernihivske, Obolon, Slavutych and Lvivske. Colleague Mark Rachkevych poured out five samples in small clear-plastic cups, each marked on the bottom with a number between 1 and 5. James Marson kept score.

I got Rogan right off the bat, because it’s a Kharkiv brew that I don’t drink often and never particularly liked for what strikes me as an acidic aftertaste.
Chernihivske and Obolon were also relatively easy picks because, shall we say, I’m very familiar with their taste.

Then I ran into trouble. I tasted the remaining two samples again and again, then cleaned my palate with water, then tried once more. But in the end, I mixed up Slavutych and Lvivske. Had I got them right, I would have been a Ukrainian beer connoisseur extraordinaire – with a flawless 100 percent score. Instead, I ended with 60 percent – barely a passing grade, that is, if “D” is a passing grade.

Truth be told, they were all light beers and there wasn’t a big difference in their tastes.

Of the five, I have to say that Chernihivske struck me as the cleanest and most appealing. So, bartender, please set me and my friends up with Chernihivske.

But if you don’t have that, most any other Ukrainian beer (except Rogan) will do as long as it’s served cold. I need more practice!

Kyiv Post Chief editor Brian Bonner can be reached at
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