The usual suspects

Being the national past-time of Finland, drinking is something many people practice within the lovely and not-so-lovely confines of their own homes. Most enthusiastic people even make a sport out of it. Great many are the times I have compared the amount of empty cans on my sofa to the collection of my buddies. If there's a problem in clarity of the situation, fists are employed in gentlemanly manner. Emphasis on the "manly."

So, it should come as a no surprise that even Big Bison likes to crack open a nice, cold one while watching little people beat each other in TV. Hey, it's entertainment! All the way from USA, no less.

Today, as promised, we'll be looking at the home-game variety of Finnish beer. These suckers are the two brands that Finnish men think whenever someone mentions "beer." They're cheap (whatever that means up here in God's asshole) and they do what they promised to: Get us totally newscasted if we drink enough of them.

So, let's sit down in a pile of snow and see what we can scrounge up from within these pitifully small cans with no imagination put into them.

Name: Karhu III (Bear the Third)
Strength: 4,6%
Served: Cool from the fridge
Thought: Good old shit

Okay, so I screwed up a little. That "III" is supposed to signify the type of beer this is. But hell. Doesn't "Bear the Third" sound much more badass of a beer? I think so, at least. I wouldn't be ashamed to tell my Ma that, yes indeed, I'm drinking "Bear the Third" sixth day in a row. Somebody make that into a thing. Give the logo a crown and everything. And send me the money. I need it to buy this "Bear the Third."

So what about the beer itself? It's soft alright. Nothing too oppressive. Typical for lager, in other words. Think of sorta malt-flavored water that gives ticklish sensation in the back of your throat. This is what makes Karhu so popular as a tap beer in non-fancy-pancy places. You can water it down to your heart's content, and nobody notices any difference. You're already acting more drunk than you really are in order to fool your buddies to buy you drinks (and to have an excuse for hitting on girls other than your own), so the same end-result is guaranteed.

Still, everybody knows that beer like this ain't meant to be drank when you want to impress people. This is pure "get-shitfaced-cheap" guilty pleasure, and that's how it should be. Ain't nobody asking it to be anything more. So yeah, for what it's meant to be, it handles itself just fine. If it does one thing well, it's the aftertaste. Well, I say aftertaste, but it's really just the malt again. But hey, if something works, it works, right? I know there are those who turn their overly large noses up at shit like this, but they can go to hell for all I care.

This is a beer made for mass-consumption. And who doesn't like mass-consumption of alcohol?


Name: Koff III
Strength: 4,5%
Served: Cool from the fridge
Thought: Same old shit

You know how some guys have that younger brother who does exactly same shit as the older does, only a little worse? Yeah, that's this thing. Now I ain't sure which one came first; Koff or Karhu. Hell, they're both from the same source, and I can't be arsed to check their history. Both are integral part of Finnish drinking culture, at least. Still, the other is more mature in taste and texture, the other... yeah. The other's this thing.

Now, Koff ain't a bad beer, don't get me wrong. But it's decidedly different when you start poking up the innards of the can you're holding. Oh yeah, a quick side-note for both of these beers. You damn better get them ice cold, or you're in for a one hell of a disappointment. Think of your Impala jamming up and being left to the roadside only to be towed by some no-name company and their manslaughter-machine.

The main difference between Karhu and Koff is that the latter doesn't have the same malty goodness going for it. Instead it aims to taste and stay fresh, in a manner of Will Smith. The barley in it tastes rather sharply when you drink, and it stays on your tongue for a good while. Like a snoggin' from a particularly persistent lady. There's really no aftertaste to speak of, since it aims to cool your mouth with freshness. During summer, this works great, but now that the temperatures have dropped like my salary, it just annoys.

The kicker, though? That same freshness makes this beer ideal for smoking a cigarette. When the liquid you pour down to your gullet resets your mouth and throat, every drag tastes almost as good as the first one. So those of you out there that smoke, this might be up your alley even in the middle of Edward Stark's nightmare. For those who don't, however, save it till summer. Or when you can't afford anything better.


(Add one middle finger if you're a smoker)

And that's the two most common names in Finnish drinking culture. There are more, of course, out there. This is the promised land of over-priced lager and people with nothing better to do than pass out in the snow while searching for the heart of the Saturday night. And on following nights, I'll be going over those too. But next time, I might head out again to see what the pubs have to offer. And maybe I'll find that damn heart. Or maybe I'll just get into a fight while trying to get a cheap burger. Both sound pretty good.

This is Big Bison, heading out west again.

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