There's nothing like the fizz of a cold lager bristling in a hot beer garden, those refreshing bubbles heading north towards the sun-god in the sky. A cold lager, the perfect herald to the first rays of summer.
And at home, after a long day in a stuffy office, the reviving powers of a lager served chilled from the fridge, sweating condensation whilst the search for a beer bottle opener begins, is pure school night solace.
But let's face it, the ubiquitous lagers of supermarket shelves don't fit every situation. Surely there's only so much enjoyment one can squeeze out of a tinny lager before we have to question "Isn't there something with a bit more... taste?"
What's the alternative then?
Here are five beers that offer everything a cold lager can, and a whole lot more.
First up, lager is pilsner. Taking their name from the town of Pilsen in Bohemia, pilsners were the first golden beers and they soon took over Europe. The canned excuses for lager that dominate supermarket shelves today are largely piss poor imitations of beer's most influential manifestation. Without pilsner, even Duff Beer doesn't exist.
The best starting point to uncover the truth behind lager is Pilsner Urquell, the golden beer that has been copied copiously over the last century and a half. Urquell (meaning 'original source') is still brewed and lagered under the cobbles of Pilsner, cooled in caves carved near the bank of the Radbuza River. With a frothy head, subtle herbaceous aroma and kick ass refreshment, it's hard to even compare most lagers to this. It's a beer hard not to gulp down.
See also: Jever, Warsteiner Premium, Cotswold Premium Lager
Brooklyn Lager, Brooklyn Brewery
Garrett Oliver, the charismatic head brewer of Brooklyn Brewery, was inspired by his post-university travels in Europe, and Brooklyn Lager is just one of his beers with whopping nods and winks to styles originating in continental Europe.
If you don't like to smell your beer, take care, as Brooklyn packs a fresh vibrant aroma, before dishing up a thirst quenching package of bready malt rounded with citrus fruit bitterness. Perfect with pizza and well under £2 a bottle in the supermarket, this beer is incredibly satisfying on taste buds and bank balance.
See also: Samuel Adams Boston Lager, Meantime Union, Harviestoun Schiehallion
Caesar Augustus, Williams Bros Brewery
India Pale Ale has the best back story of any beer style. The myth that it was brewed to survive the long journey from London to Calcutta has some truth about it, but really the IPA style was a happy accident of shipping beer across long and treacherous sea journeys.
Now known for their malt backbone but bitter finish and often pine or citrus packed bouquets, IPAs are often stronger than your typical British pint. Which is why I like Caesar Augustus, a lager-IPA hybrid as the brothers William describe it. Forget the taxonomy, Caesar Augustus isn't complex or overpowering, but if you fancy the ride get it out of the bottle and into a nice rounded glass. Here it's honey gold complexities and hints of marmalade reference stoic IPA tradition as well as the zesty vibrancy of Czech pilsners. It's a cracker and at 4.1% you might as well have another.
See also: Orkney Blast, Thornbridge Kipling, Sharp's Monsieur Rock
Leeds Pale, Leeds Brewery
Brewed, not in the gargantuan corpse of the Tetley Brewery that lies near the south bank of the Leeds-Liverpool canal, but in a small industrial unit tucked away behind the grotty arches of a Leeds' hidden red light district. Leeds Pale is as dependable as a beer could be. A real ale that doesn't taste of muck, that is refreshing, and is not served at room temperature.
At the Midnight Bell, Leeds Brewery's flagship boozer, people of many walks of life sit in the sun-drenched yard and sip away on this, the flagship beer. It's light, relatively low in strength (3.8%) and tasty to boot, with gentle floral and cereal influence, with enough get up and go to make you want another.
See also: Bath Golden Hare, Adnams Lighthouse, Dark Star Hop Head
No, not a dubious double act from a continental TV comedy, but the common names for dark lagers of Bavarian and Bohemian influence. Whilst golden pilsner wowed the world traditional deeper coloured styles of lager persisted in Germany and central Europe. These beers are fuller and sweeter, rich in flavours as diverse as honey, coffee, herbs, fruit cake and liquorice.
For a well rounded introduction, try Budvar Dark. With dashing traces of chocolate and spice it's a well balanced dark lager, refreshing but with more body than it's the sweeter, more complicated sister of another classic Pilsner, Budweiser Budvar.
See also: Freedom Organic Dark Lager, Peroni Gran Riserva
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