23 August 2010

The beer from nowhere

I had it in my head that all food and drink sold in the EU had to have a statement of origin on it somewhere, even if it's nothing more useful than "Produce of the EU". As far as I can tell on looking, however, it only applies "where failure to give such particulars might mislead the consumer to a material degree as to the true origin or provenance of the foodstuff" (Directive 2000/13/EC). So I guess we can assume from the name that Nobelaner is from Germany. Yet of the undoubtedly fine Teutonic city of Nobelan I can find no trace at all. Perhaps it only appears once every century and dumps a truckful of lager before vanishing again.

I picked this up dirt-cheap in Lidl to give it a residency as my curry lager. Absolutely no markings on bottle or sleeve say anything about where it's from, only that it's made for Lidl UK & Ireland.

It could be from anywhere really, as the beer tastes of almost nothing. Concentrate hard when you sniff and there's a ghost of hops, but nothing past it. It tastes like fizzy water, even before the vindaloo gets near it. Back to the Flensburger Weizen for me, I think. That comes from Flensburg. It's in Germany, though only just.


  1. Aren't Strangford Lough the same, simply labelling their beers as being "brewed in the EU for The Strngford Lough Brewing Co"?

  2. Not sure about that -- I've never seen a bottle up close -- but Árainn Mhór certainly did.

    It seems to be a case of very poorly drafted law. On the one hand you have to give a statement of origin if all is not what it seems, but you're also allowed put "Produced in the EU" as said statement.

    So you can make pasta sauce in Dublin, run ads with all manner of Italian stereotypes in it, and bung "Made in the EU" in the small print as though that helps the consumer make an informed choice. Grr.

  3. I'm kinda surpised that you thought there was such a law. There was talk (over here, anyway) over labelling beer etc but it came to nothing. It's not just the likes of contract brewed Nobelaner that is a little shy, either. My local micro also doesn't give anything away on its bottles.

    Starngford Lough actually put "Product of St Patrick's Country" which at least gives you a clue.

  4. A clue that it's from either north Wales or Northumbria, eh?

  5. True but with the faux Irish lettering and shamrock, they'd be leaving themselves wide open to accusations of false advertising.

  6. Well, this is where it gets a bit Jesuitical. As they explain it, they are brewing a wort concentrate in Co. Down and sending it off, with late hops and yeast, to be turned into beer at a contract brewery -- an industrial-sized homebrew kit, basically. For them, this process allows them to call it Irish.

    The way I read it, I've no problem with them saying it's brewed in Ireland, but it's not Irish beer.

    Legally I don't know where they stand. I doubt very many of the initial ingredients grew in Ireland, and of course it doesn't become beer until it leaves the country. But I couldn't say how much weight of provenance is carried by that bit of the convoluted process which happens on the shores of Strangford Lough.

  7. Ah, is that how they work it (Strangford Lough crowd, I mean). I was introduced to a guy at the Lughnasa beer festival and he was introduced as "the brewer" of the SL beers.

  8. A quick bit of legal research throws up the principle that, for things produced outside the EU "Goods whose production involved more than one country shall be deemed to originate in the country where they underwent their last, substantial, economically justified processing or working in an undertaking equipped for that purpose and resulting in the manufacture of a new product or representing an important stage of manufacture". Turning wort into beer is, in my view, "an important stage of manufacture".

    If this principle is applied to the labelling of intra-EU goods, then they certainly would not be permitted to imply that it's Irish on the packaging.

  9. I like Flensburg. A German town where they speak Danish.

  10. Anonymous11:54 pm

    im fond of the ol Nobelaner, regardless of where it comes from.
    i notice you have used a bottle opener on the twisty caps.
    I remember scoffing at a news report on the radio that told us you can get drunk these days in Ireland for €6....sheer decadence!
    10 off these bad boys will set you back €4.49 or a mere €2.99 if they are on special.
    I wont hear a bad word said about them.