Review of Saigon Export

Ask most beer enthusiasts what kind of beer they prefer and you’ll probably hear about some kind of ale. Whether it be stout, amber ale, or the currently popular double IPA, beer lovers seem to prefer the full body and robust flavors of ale over lager. Ask why and you’ll more than likely be told how lager is bland and boring with north America’s mainstream lagers being cited as examples. This really is a pity when you think about it, because lagers really aren’t more bland than ales. Rather, they’re simply more delicate.

Those delicate flavors shouldn’t be confused with a beer being bland and boring, any more than one would do with a nice chardonnay or pinot grigio. The lager’s flavor profile comes predominantly from the colder temperatures at which yeast ferment those lagers. Colder temperatures mean slower fermentation, and fuller attenuation. This leads to a beer without ale’s fruit esters and a crisp, clean, sometimes dry finish. Lagers will sometimes allow the delicate flavor and aroma of hops to provide character.

If you’ve tried some of Europe’s better lagers and pilsners it’s easy to see why these beer styles are so popular. They’re easy to drink, tasty, and wonderfully refreshing on a hot summer day. Which might be why every country on earth makes lager over any other style of beer. From Europe to north America and all the way to Asia, you can find lagers wherever you go.

Produced by Vietnam’s Saigon Beer Company, Saigon Export is one of a growing number of lagers available in Asia. Asia’s lagers are known for their light body and delicate nature, revered in the heat of many Asian countries. Saigon Export is a pale, straw colored lager. The carbonation is decent and the head is fluffy and white. Retention is fair, but not great.

The aroma starts off grainy to the point of being astringent. This is coupled with an off sort of sweetness that smells mostly of rice, if that’s possible. The aroma provides a tartness that, at first blush, is reminiscent of skunkiness, but closer examination shows this isn’t so. The hop character is lacking and the finish is just kind of sweet.

The mouthfeel is light and somewhat grainy, almost to the point of being astringent. The center offers flavors of rice husk, giving just a hint of roundness in the center. Unfortunately, it is not enough to counter the beer’s graininess. The finish is short and just a little bit sweet.

This is one of the better dry Asian lager, but given previous examples, that doesn’t say much. The beer gets a 5.6 out of 10 for being more than anything, inoffensive. It’s pretty dry, but manages to keep from being overpoweringly dry and does offer a little bit of roundness to make a beer that borders on having at least some refreshing qualities to it. Still, as far as lagers go you can do better.

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