Summer’s nearly here and the need for a cool and cold brew is as instinctive as donning a pair of floral-patterned shorts and making a right berk of oneself (but I reckon drinking’s much more fun). Have a Stella? No ta. What about a Carling or a Fosters? Ta very much but no thanks. There’s a new wave of craft lagers being made in these isles these days, that have more in common with the noble beers of Bavaria and Bohemia than any of those Brit-pop ersatz lagers that are to good beer what cheese strings are to Montgomery Cheddar or Cropwell Bishop Stilton. That’s enough cheese: here are 10 new wave Brit lagers guaranteed to make your summer go with a bit more style.
Cotswold Brewing Company, Premium Lager, 5%
What does Cotswold mean to you: horse country, chintzy, gin and tonic and Liz Hurley. Confound your prejudices with a pint or two of Cotswold Brewing’s Premium Lager, a refreshing, clean tasting lager of the sort I often enjoy in Bohemia. The nose has a light, snappy, herbal note reminiscent of bitter lemon soda; in the mouth it is refreshing, crisp and retains more of that bitter lemon note without being tart; the finish is dry and bittersweet with some cracker-like graininess lingering. You really want a plate of dumplings to go with this, but settle for some chips.
Leeds Brewery, Leodis, 4.6%
Dark lager (yes lager can be dark!) that is brewed onsite at the Leeds Brewery Tap (though it might only be for the winter months). It’s as dark as treacle with crimson highlights and topped with a crown of bone-white foam. The nose has a resiny hop character with wisps of smoke, while there are smoky, bitter and dry notes on the palate with some toffee/treacle whispers joining in with the fun. It’s appetising and refreshing. The Tap is very much a space based on the American brewpub model, light and airy, modern; upstairs the brew-kit stands behind glass, a theatre of beer. Neat neat neat.
Meantime, Helles, 4.4%
Meantime is London’s second largest brewery after Fuller’s, though unlike the makers of London Pride their road map to beer success takes them via Bavaria. They make a Pilsner, a Helles, a Bock (a smoked one even), a Vienna and other variations on a theme (there are rumours of a Mojito Pilsner), and they make them very well, which has enabled them to feature in some previously beer-unfriendly high class London restaurants (Beck’s doesn’t count). The Helles has a honeyed lemon nose and a crisp, full-bodied mouth feel with delicate lemony notes, with a dry grainy finish.
West, St Mungo, 5%
West is a brewpub with attached restaurant based in a former 19th century factory in Glasgow. The company began brewing in 2006 under the direction of Franconia-born founder and owner Petra Wetzel and is fairly unique amongst the UK craft lager producers in sticking to the Reinheitsgebot (the Germany Purity Law which says that beer should only consist of malt, hops, yeast and water — not maize or rice, the latter I believe should be confined to curries and risottos). Eight beers are produced including a Dunkel (dark), Helles and their best seller, St Mungo, which has a soft floral nose with undercurrent of caramel. A good body with a dry bitter finish.
Think Special Brew you can show the girlfriend without her immediately coming to the conclusion that a life on a park bench is your ultimate aim in life.
Zero Degrees, Pilsner, 4.8%; Dark Lager, 4.6%
Part of a chain of brewpubs with outposts in Cardiff, London and Reading; the Bristol is my nearest and favourite with a big open high-ceilinged bar and large windows looking out over the Colston area. The brewing kit is on display, a naked animal of stainless steel pipes and tanks, the latter of which slink high above the bar. The Dark Lager looks to Bohemia for its brewing influence and is a creamy, coffee-like confection that drapes itself across my palate like some model doing a luxurious photo shoot (Scarlett Johansen in a glass anyone?), while the Pilsner has an uplifting waft of a flower shop in full bloom on the nose, a calm gentle carbonation on the palate with the softness of newly baked bread, not long out of the oven, and a crisp bittersweet finish.
St Austell, Korev, 4.8%
Apparently Korev is the Cornish for beer, which totally makes sense given that St Austell are the oldest brewers in the peninsula (or country if you want). This is their first lager. They’re also proud that they didn’t follow the rest of the British brewing industry’s lemming like leap in the 1970s to rubbish lagers with fake German names (Hofmeister anyone?), so there’s a bit of care and attention taken with it — and it shows. On the nose lemony boiled sweets, sugar-free if there’s such a thing, so you don’t get a massive sugary hit. The lemony delicacy continues on the palate, a German-style Pils character reference — think Warsteiner — it’s crisp and light in the mouth, tickles with a gentle carbonation and then finishes with a lingering bitter finish.
Thornbridge, Italia, 4.7%
Thornbridge are a Derbyshire brewery whose trophy cabinets are brimming to overflow with awards for their ales, especially its fine Jaipur, a wunderkind of an IPA that features the sort of tropical fruit aromas that make you want to climb up a lychee tree and throw the buggers at passing monkeys. This is their first lager, brewed in conjunction with Birrifico Italiano, who brew Tipopils, one of the best Pilsners in Europe. Spritzy and cheeky in the mouth (like one of those passing monkeys), it’s got a delicate lemoniness, almost reminiscent of lemon sherbert, an Epsom salts freshness, a gentle giant of a carbonation and a lingering, long loving kiss of bitterness at the end.
Freedom, Pilsner, 5%
Freedom can be found close to Burton-upon-Trent, which made its name with the ale, but is now home to massive space age tanks filled with enough Carling to cause a minor tsunami if they ever burst. The brewery started off in London in the 1990s and was an early exponent of lagers that were matured on the continental model. This is one of their bestsellers, a beer that leans more towards Bavaria than the neighbouring Bohemia. It has a fine bitter lemon and grainy toasted white bread nose; soft mellow citrus on the palate with a lingering bitter finish.
Taddington Brewery, Moravka Premium, 5%
Despite the Slavic sounding name this Czech-style lager is brewed in the Peak District in the village of Taddington. It’s a small brewery whose excellence has been spread by word of mouth as well as by beer bloggers. It’s creamy, firm and bittersweet and makes you want to get on the next plan to Pilsen — which is good enough for me.
BrewDog, ABD, 7.5%
Imperial Pilsners? Think Special Brew you can show the girlfriend without her immediately coming to the conclusion that a life on a park bench is your ultimate aim in life. This one-off by BrewDog is labelled an imperious Pilsner and brewed in collaboration with several beer-writing colleagues of mine. It’s a hefty brew, spicy, big in body though light on the tongue (Scarlett Johansen again?), with plenty of grapefruit and a subtle bitter finish that leads you gasping for more.
For more from Adrian Tierney-Jones visit his blog at maltworms.blogspot.com
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