Karmi Classic is a non-alcoholic beer that has been brewed at the Okocim brewery in Poland since 1994. Okocim have a history dating back to 1845, and was founded by German-Polish brewer Johann Evangelist Goetz along with Joseph Neumann and Julian Kodrębski. Their original beer was a lager brewed in the Bavarian style, which was still a rarity in Poland in those days. Goetz’ business partners did not last long, and he soon found himself as owner of the entire company. This gave him much freedom in the company’s brewing, and he was able to continue to work on his vision of modern beers.
After the end of the Second World War, like many Polish companies, the Okocim brewery was nationalised by the communist party. It was one of only two brewers who were allowed to sell outside the country during this period, the other being Żywiec. As communism fell in 1990 the brewery once again found it’s feet as it was auctioned off and re-privatised. In the late 90s the Carlsberg Group bought a stake in the company, initially giving them license to produce local versions of Carlsberg beers, and later on becoming a major shareholder.
The 1990s also saw the introduction of Karmi Classic into the brewer’s lineup. It was originally ‘the beer designed for women’, being apparently ‘a light product in every sense of the word’. Despite sounding like a product pitch from Alan Partridge, and having a brief period of having images of Penelope Cruz emblazoned across their bottles, the Karmi range endured and proved popular with an array of demographics. Along Karmi Classic, which uses numerous types of malt (Pilsner, Munich, caramel and roasted malts), Okocim also produce Karmi Żurawina (containing Cranberry) and Karmi Mrożona Kawa (containing Coffee). Let’s get the top off of this huge 400ml bottle and see what the fuss is about.
The beer pours a very dark brown colour, almost black, and is pretty much opaque when put up against the light. A big frothy caramel coloured head is produced as the glass fills up, and this sticks around as we drink. On the nose we get bags of roasted malt aromas, turning very much to fragrant coffee with sweet dark fruit notes. Nice stout-like aromas on show, but I’m expecting things to get decidedly saccharine next.
Yep, on tasting the first thing that hits you is the sweetness. It’s there in abundance. But behind it there are a load of dark, rich, bitter flavours trying to break through – black coffee, roasted malts, charred bitterness, fruity date. The sweetness does seem to mellow after a few mouthfuls, or maybe we just get used to it, which allows you to experience and enjoy some of these flavours. The rich dark malt offers up so much flavour that the sweetness turns in to toffee and caramel notes. The body of the beer is smooth, with a silky mouthfeel. We get a predictably sweet finish to the drink.
Karmi Classic is a very sweet alcohol-free beer, and probably crosses the line into malt soda territory. But there’s so much flavour hidden behind the syrupy sweetness that it’s a moreish drink with layers of aroma to work through. If they’d halve the sugar content of this beer it would probably become a regular tipple in this household, but as it stands I can only really justify this as an occasional treat.
Buy Karmi Classic
Unless you have a local Polish shop or cash and carry that import Karmi products, you might find Karmi Classic hard to source in the UK. You can try the following sites instead:
|Nutritional Information (per 100ml, taken from the side of the bottle)
|Water, Barley Malt, Sugar, Hops
|Country of Production
|Carlsberg Polska – https://www.carlsbergpolska.pl/
Karmi Classic Alcohol-Free Beer Review
So much sweetness (with the highest sugar content of any AF beer reviewed here) drowns out what would otherwise be some enjoyable rich dark flavours. But it’s quite addictive!