Experiences of an American woman who was married to a Serb.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Thanks for the Jelen Pivo - Now You've Ruined American Beers for Me

Jelen Pivo is the Budweiser of Serbia. It's cheap, available in every corner store, and the beer of choice for the 'Joe Six Pack' crowd, such as your plumber.

The first thing I do when visiting a new country is a beer tasting to pick which one I'll be ordering from then on. It's sort of like a wine tasting only hopefully with less spitting. I spend an evening ordering every single brew available at a couple of different bars and take a considered sip of each. When you order a whole bunch of different beers to taste in Serbia, it's tough on the waiters because they also have to schlep out a different branded glass in which to pour each separate beer. Apparently it's not done to drink from a generic glass, a glass with the wrong logo, or heaven forbid, the bottle.

For me, Jelen Pivo was the big winner. Everyone thought this was really funny. "She likes Jelen Pivo!" my husband would gleefully announce as we entered someone's home. People would stare, try not to crack up too obviously, and then dispatch a kid to get a bottle from the corner store because no one with any sophistication would normally keep that brand on hand for guests.

I've now achieved a degree of oddball fame. Which means that when Serbish acquaintances visit America, they always tuck a can or two of Jelen Pivo into their suitcases for me. This is handed over with both laughter and pride. Then I take a sip and make a bit of a production out of smiling and enjoying it. Hvala. Puno Hvala!

Secretly though, I wish they hadn't done it. Because after a Jelen Pivo or two, American beer tastes like pisswater. Which is why I plunked an entire case of Rolling Rock from our pantry into my step-daughter's car trunk the other night just before she drove back to college. We've had too many Serb visitors recently, my palate's compromised. "I'm not drinking that stuff!" she exclaimed. "Give it to your American housemates," I replied. "They won't know any better."

1 comment:

Doubting Foo said...

My favorite is Nikšićko...it's Montenegrin. But I agree that Jelen is way better than Bud!

You can try Yuengling which is fairly cheap but has a good taste. Not sure if it is available in all states.

If you like Nikšićko then something like Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is a good substitute, though Nikšićko isn't as strong tasting.