Most people entering the craft beer market do so as former macro-lager drinkers. Fed up of drinking bland, industrial tasting beer produced on a mass scale, they seek out and fall in love with the world of hoppy west-coast IPAs, English porters and Belgian saisons.
I didn’t get into craft beer like most people. In my adolescent years my old man would take me down the road once a week, on a Friday night, to his local. He had an arrangement in place with the manager of the pub, which I shall not name, that I could drink in the pub, but only accompanied by him, and only if I was drinking cask ale.
Hence it became a tradition for he and I to spend a few hours every week drinking pints of Timothy Taylor’s Landlord, eating packets of dry roasted peanuts and chatting with strangers. Industrial lager was not much of a feature of my beer journey, and save for an occasional can at a house party, I rarely drank the stuff.
However, this summer, that has all changed.
A combination of the boiling hot weather, plus the availability of the excellent Pilsner Urquell in my dad’s pub, has led to a new-found appreciation of the light refreshing nectar that still makes up over six out of every ten pints drunk in UK pubs. There’s something inherently satisfying in that first sip of crisp, ice cold substance that’s got me hooked in a way I’ve never been, even in much sunnier climes.
Of course, I’m not talking about knocking back pints of Fosters here. There has been a resurgence in craft and premium lager in a big way in the UK, and even those breweries that were previously devout worshipers at the temple of Humulus lupulus are now discovering and experimenting with it.
When you ask a brewer what the first thing they drink upon arrival at another brewery is, they will say without fail that it is the breweries lager or pils; for they know that the style is the easiest way to measure the skill of a brewer. There’s nowhere to hide with lager, and that’s what makes it so difficult to get right.
A technically well-made, clean lager is a truly joyous thing, as special and deserving of our affections as any IPA or saison. Try one sometime, you may even surprise yourself.
Three to try
Cloudwater Light Lager – Effortlessly drinkable and wonderfully delicate, this 3.9% light lager is made with flaked rice in the grist to lighten the body. A perfect one to smash while firing up the BBQ.
Augustiner Helles – In I named this as one of my three desert island beers, and with good reason. Made according to German Purity laws and all Bavarian hops and malt, it is as close as you’ll get to a perfect lager beer.
The Five Points Pils – It may still currently be being brewed in Belgium while the brewery continues its expansion project, but that doesn’t make it any less delicious. Beautifully balanced, incredibly drinkable, with a delicate grassy hop character.