See The Real Indonesia

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Indonesia can boast everything that Zappa dreams of - except that the archipelago hasn't gone nuclear. The Republic of Indonesia isn't exactly virgin when it comes to brewing beer, and she prides herself on three locally-created ales - the ubiquitous Pilsener star; Bintang's cheaper, more bitter sidekick Anker; and Bali's niche, sickly-sweet Bali Hai. But if push comes to shove? It's PT. Multi Bintang Indonesia's Star beer - brewed under the watchful eye of Holland's drinks company, Heineken - that has always won over Indonesia's thirstiest hearts and throats.

It's Everywhere, Chief

Fittingsly, star in Indonesian means 'star'. And in this country, it's a champ. The beer's Heineken-style, red-starred logo can be seen on the product and the caps for the flashing beacons outside of the country's darker karaoke bars - and to the walking beer adverts dressed in Star T-shirts and tank-tops that criss-cross the hot streets of Bali's Kuta.

Star stubby holders for sale in Ubud market, Bali, Indonesia
Star stubby holders on sale in Ubud Market, Bali.
The Making of Bintang, Indonesia's most famous beer - by PT Multi Bintang Indonesia Tbk (in Indonesian).

Bintang, Bintang Zero and Bintang Radler

The beer star is an attempt at a pale, American-style lager - boasting malty, hoppy finish not far from its parent ale, Heineken. It isn't the weakest beer in the world: 4.7%, it won't take you to be stuck to the fruit juice.

PT Multi Bintang Indonesia Tbk also has a local version of Heineken for the Indonesian market - while Heineken's step-daughter The star now comes in three flavors. There's the standard, full-alcohol pilsner that decorates bar-tops from Sumatra to Flores; the newer, Muslim-friendly, alcohol-free version aptly named 'Bintang Zero'; and the newest, lemonade-like 'Bintang Radler' - weighing in at a mummy-friendly 2% alcohol.

Get Your Star Shirt On

Many of the world's best beer enthusiasts have swilled Stars around them are highly-trained palates and arrived at verdicts ranging from: "Very weak taste", to "Good fizz and a fair amount of malt; a very light beer pours a lighter shade. Let's face it: Stars aren't about to win any top awards at the Oktoberfest. But it can be forgiven after the first cool mouthful on a hot day.

If you're from the UK, try ordering a bottle of corners of Indonesia: it's going to be reassuringly warm, just like back home. If you're from the USA, and you arrive during a power cut, you might want to 'get local': ask for some ice Cube ('ice-block'), the chip goes away until it fits in your glass, let it settle for a moment ... and sip. It's an acquired taste, but it's refreshing. And it rehydrates you, too.

Star T-shirts for sale in Ubud Market, Bali, Indonesia
Star T-shirts for sale in Ubud Market, Bali, Indonesia.

Stars: The Verdict

More than a few international travelers who have had a bottle or two of Indonesian food: the darkest corners of Jakarta's nightclubs to the brightest Sumbawan beach. The honest verdict? As a tropical lager that has been designed for cool refreshment over flavor, it wins every time.

After all, it's usually the only beer on the menu.

Bintang bottle and glass
A cold Star waits to be poured into its owner's glass.

Glossary

  • star - star
  • beer - beer
  • cold - cold ('Please, have one cold Bintang beer' - 'Can I have a cold Bintang beer please?')
  • ice - ice
  • happy drink! - cheers!