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5 O'Clock Somewhere: 'As a Beer Though, It Sucks'

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 8/10/2015 Roads & Kingdoms

This post is from Roads & Kingdoms' Five O'Clock Somewhere series: daily dispatches at cocktail hour from around the world. Find more food and travel storytelling at Roads & Kingdoms.
By Joe Freeman
Hunter in Dhaka
Hunter, Bangladesh's local beer, does not come highly recommended. A friend of mine and otherwise proud citizen of the country says Hunter tastes like it was brewed from goat's piss. On an Internet forum, one user starts off describing the beverage as "terrible, a metallic pilsnerish beer on par with the lowest U.S. domestics. But it's all we can get, so it's lovely." The review ends on a more candid note: "As a beer though, it sucks."
Bangladesh is a predominantly Muslim country with strict laws regulating the sale of alcohol. But the reality on the ground is more complicated. A handful of hotels, bars and invite-only clubs are in operation. Based on some pre-trip online research, I had assumed that only foreigners could get into these places. That's not the case.
The story of Hunter is similarly confusing. It came on the market with another drink called Crown in the early 2000s (Crown Beverages is the company behind the beer). The brilliant beverage makers exploited a loophole in the country's laws describing alcoholic beverages as having an alcohol content of at least 5 percent. Hunter and Crown were made at 4.8 percent and sold as malt "energy" drinks.
They were, of course, an instant success. The government, prodded by conservative factions, banned the drinks and confiscated them from stores, according to reports by the BBC in 2004. The owners mounted a pathetic defense. Shameem Islam, the managing director of Crown Beverages at the time, told the network: "We make it in a similar way to beer, but it is definitely not beer because it contains less than 5 percent alcohol."
That wasn't the only problem. Hunter and Crown were near carbon copies of Foster's beer, from Australia, and Carlsberg, from Denmark. What happened in the intervening years in unclear, but Crown Beverages seems to have made a comeback by selling just the Hunter brand as an actual beer through government-licensed operations. If anyone cares, it still looks exactly like Foster's.
hunter beer © Provided by The Huffington Post hunter beer
My date with destiny occurred at the Bluemoon Recreation Club in Banani, the hoity-toity part of Dhaka. Bluemoon is a bar but you wouldn't know it from the name or from the setting: a six-floor office building that gives new meaning to the term mixed-use development. Bluemoon is three flights up, one floor above "Ortho Dental Care" and one below "Hammer Strength Fitness Club." This may be one of the few buildings in the world where you can get fit, get drunk, and get a root canal in one setting.
A security guard greets patrons coming off the elevator. The glass entrance is tinted. The guard looked at me. He looked at my girlfriend, who was along for the experiment. He didn't ask for a passport. The doors parted. True to its name, most of it was a neon blue, from the faux-leather upholstery in the booths to the blue mood lighting. There were about six drinking customers and 15 lingering staff members. We went to the bar and asked for a drinks menu.
"Actually," the bartender said. "We have no drink menu. But we do have drinks."
I ordered a Hunter and my girlfriend chose a gin-and-tonic. We sat in one of the booths by the window, which looked out over the street. It was strange to see rickshaws glide by on the road in Dhaka while listening to "Party In The USA" by Miley Cyrus and waiting for a beer. The waiter, dressed in something resembling a butler's outfit, placed a glass down, opened the blue and gold can, and poured the beer into it gingerly.
I took a sip and then another sip and then another. I was hoping to discern in its flavor something positive, something to write about or at least write home about. I finished the first beer and ordered another. I finished that one and signaled for a third. I thought of a television ad for a German-style beer marketed in Cambodia a few years ago. "The more you drink it, the better it tastes," one of the actors in the commercial said. With Hunter, the more you drink it, the worse it tastes. My friend was exaggerating. It doesn't taste like it was brewed from goat's piss. As a beer, though, it sucks.
You can explore more dispatches from the Five O'Clock Somewhere series here and see Roads & Kingdom's Breakfast series here.


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