Bali Hai Vs. Bintang

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.

91bckxclxolBy 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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11 thoughts on “Bali Hai Vs. Bintang

  1. “toned down, rounder Stella Artois”??? Are you on crack you fool? These are two of the worst beers that I’ve consumed on the planet -perhaps there’s no formaldehyde, but there’s something wrong with it creating some undeniable short term health concerns… aka “The Bintang Trots”

    1. Funny, Matt, but I never quite said they were good. While they were refreshing, they seemed derivative. As for the gastronomical frights you experienced from drinking beer, you might want to see a doctor about that!

  2. i am not a big beer drinker, but i did enjoy both bali hai and bintang a lot. they’re perfect for the hot weather. hope you did skip the local red wine (hatten), though. ugh.

      1. Arak is…, there are no words.
        I can outdrink anyone on LaoLao and down-home USA moonshine but Arak knocked me down in *literally* one shot.

  3. I’d be about as likely to buy Bintang or Bali Hai at home as I would Bud or Coors, meaning not bloody likely at all; but in Bali in the heat and sunshine, and given there is no proper beer to speak of on 99.9% of the island, it does nicely.

    I’m pretty sure over consumption of any crappy, nearly clear and mostly tasteless Pilsener (you know, like every single beer in all of Asia seems to be) will lead to the trots referenced above. I don’t think it is Bintang Specific.

    1. The heat definitely makes most of those beers taste infinitely better. Also, “trots” is such a great word! Thanks for reading.

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