Tuesday, 18 September 2007
Wanted: a decent British lager
In Britain, the bastard term "lager" has become synonymous with fizzy yellow stuff you'd hesitate to swill your drains with. Yet if you go to places like Bavaria or Bohemia, you'll discover that some of the best beers in the world are bottom fermented.
In the latter half of the twentieth century, lager began to outsell ale in Britain for the first time. However, British brewers were emulating our Germanic cousins long before then. Take a look at this article and the old advert to the left, both from Ron Pattinson's blog. It wasn't just Barclays Perkins, either: many of the old, regional brewers used to produce lagers under their own brand. Young's only stopped doing so when they merged with Wells last year. Lost in the mists of time is "Fullers K2", the Chiswick brewer's effort.
Today, the majority of the lager consumed in Britain is brewed here, but marketed as being foreign. The end result is invariably pale, tasteless, and fizzy. So are there any decent British lagers? The answer is yes, but not many.
Sam Smith's Pure Brewed Lager, available on draught in their pubs, isn't bad. It's normally served in appropriately tall glassware with a voluminous head, enhancing the experience immeasurably. Meantime of Greenwich put a lot of effort into lager brewing, and in the past I've enjoyed a few pints of Union - an amber, Vienna style. The Franconian Dark Lager they brew for Sainsbury's isn't bad either. Up in Scotland, there's Brew Dog Hop Rocker (pictured right), a strange and wonderful beast bursting with spice and pine flavours from New Zealand hops. Such a bold brew will surely have its hardcore fans. In Bristol, London and Reading, the ZeroDegrees brewpubs produce a passable Pilsner and a tasty Black Lager. I think they're best enjoyed in a half-and-half mix, a popular practice among Czechs.
I'm a massive fan of quality, bottom fermented beers, particularly after my recent trip to Franconia. It's a crying shame that such a well-regarded family has such poor relations in this country. But am I missing out on any real gems? I want to hear about any good, British-brewed lagers you've encountered.