UBUD, Indonesia — The red star of Bintang beer appears everywhere in Bali, from restaurant windows to tourists’ tee shirts, but I preferred the underdog local brew.
Bali Hai, which is also a song from the Rogers and Hammerstein musical “South Pacific,” is a smooth pilsner with a light amber color and an easy, balanced taste. Its flavor resembled a toned-down, rounder Stella Artois and was great for taking the edge off a hot Bali day.
By contrast, Bintang (also a pilsner) had a bolder flavor with a slight bitterness that lingered in its aftertaste. It tasted immediately familiar, though I don’t recall having bought a bottle in any of the beer emporiums of New York’s more well-stocked delicatessens.
It took a bit of field research — always served ice cold — to realize Bintang (which means “star”) tasted quite like Heineken. Sure enough, brewer Multi Bintang Indonesia is operated by Heineken. (The brewery was built during the Dutch occupation and Indonesia was known as Batavia.)
Even the labels of Bintang and Heineken bear a passing resemblance to each other with a red star in their respective logos.
I’d heard that Bintang contained formaldehyde, after an antiquated method of keeping milk from spoiling in the tropics. This, however, seems to be an urban legend.
Given the choice, I ordered a Bali Hai every time for its smoother, livelier and lighter character — perfect in Indonesia’s balmy weather. Never mind that “Bali Hai” recalled the LOLcats meme.
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