Tyskie: Polish beer disguised as American?
I’ve now tasted the three beers widely acclaimed, at least by Poles, to be the best Poland has to offer. There isn’t much difference between them. Like Americans, I suspect Poles mostly pick their favorite beer by the commercial they like best. It’s also apparent that their taste in beers is remarkably similar to their American cousins. Okocim, Zywiec and Tyskie are all soft-tasting, pale lagers that are best ice cold.
Tyskie is arguably the most popular in the old country. It is the largest brewer and, according to Ernst and Young, the most valuable consumer brand in Poland. All that, of course, means nothing. Those standards would make Budweiser America’s best beer, and we all know how ridiculous that claim would be.
There’s not a thing wrong with Tyskie. If you like American style lagers with just a tad more taste, you’ll be more than happy with it -- if you can find it. Miller owns the brand now and they have been promising to increase production for the import market, mostly for areas with large Polish communities, but that remains to be seen. For now, I rarely run across it.
But I’d drink it if I could find it. At least once in a while. It’s the typical pale lager, clear and golden with a decent white head. The aroma is better than you’ll get from American macros, but it isn’t really anything out of the ordinary from a decent European beer. If you get a fresh one, it smells like a grassy field. You get the idea that Poles aren’t interested in studying their beers; they just want to drink the damn things. Nothing wrong with that.
Tyskie is drinkable. The grainy hops trump the malt, but the overall taste is soft, almost watery. The flavors are neither overpowering nor complex. It tastes like lager, nothing fancy, nothing loud. There’s a nice dry bite at the finish, just like there should be. This is a beer to come home to after a workday. It might not enhance any dining experience, but it won’t detract from one either. It’s on the light-bodied side, and the 5.6 percent alcohol content makes it a good option for when you’re having several. It’s just one of those “eat, drink and be merry” sorts of beers, that aren’t intended for too much thought. .
Like the other top Polish beers, Tyskie is basically an American macro with a little additional flavor. The more apt comparison is probably to something like Stella Artois. Perfect on a hot day. It’s a good solid beer, but nothing special. Similar enough to the typical macro brew for the unadventurous, but maybe a notch better. I heard somewhere that it was named the best beer in the world in 2002. It’s not the best beer in the world. Surely, not even the best in Poland. It doesn’t even try to be. It’s an everyday beer, and a good enough one of those. Given the choice, I’d probably grab a Zywiec over a Tyskie, but the truth is I probably couldn’t tell the difference.