Probably the best of the many stag-dos I have been on over the years has been a trip to Bratislava, for two reasons. Firstly the brutality we exerted our stag to (although I can’t go into specifics – what goes on tour stays on tour and all that), but more importantly the local Slovakian beer, Zlaty Bazant, which unexpectedly became the fourth best beer in the world.
Every bar and nightclub that we went to over our two days in town served Zlaty Bazant – a 5% lager-type beer with a golden colour and a delicious creamy aftertaste. It came in its trademark bottles and glasses emblazoned with a picture of a grouse.
I’d never seen the beer sold in the UK, so made sure I stocked up with bottles to smuggle home with me on our last day. As this was in the days before charges for hold-luggage on budget flights, I had to risk putting a dozen 500ml glass bottles, wrapped up in towels and shirts, in my hold-all (I couldn’t find the stuff sold in cans for the life of me).
Predictably, when I picked up my bag from the carousel back at East Midlands airport, it was sodden with Slovakian booze and full of smashed glass, although four bottles of Zlat survived the journey. I rationed these out at one a week for the next month – a huge test of my willpower.
I searched long and hard, but sadly never saw Zlaty Bazant anywhere again. However, a year later I was browsing the shelves of my favourite independent off-licence one day and did a double take when I saw a bottle of beer with a picture of a grouse and a familiar curly font, called Golden Pheasant.
And then it clicked – the grouse is in fact a pheasant, and the word Zlaty must mean gold in many Central European languages. The 9th best beer in the world, Zlatorog, means Gold-horned Goat. (Incidentally, what a cracking name my favourite footballer, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, has).
I walked out with a crate of Golden Pheasant – this is Zlaty Bazant’s name in the export market. I was pleased to see that it tasted just as good as in Bratislava – so often, a drink that you have enjoyed while on holiday can taste awful once back home.
That was also the last time I ever saw Golden Pheasant, as the off-licence closed down shortly afterwards and no-one else seems to stock it. If you ever see it sold, I’d recommend you grab some and then call me.