Thursday, 9 May 2013

The lure of lager

There’s nothing to beat a cool, clear, fresh pint of cask beer, bursting with flavour and condition. Unfortunately a substantial minority fail to come anywhere close to that description. More than once, I’ve sat there nursing a pint of warm, flat, vaguely murky liquid and thought to myself “with the benefit of hindsight, wouldn’t I have been better off with a pint of Carling?”

In general, in my regular drinking, I tend to stick to places where I expect to get a decent pint of cask, and so such occasions are pretty rare, although they do happen. The few occurrences I can think of in recent years where I’ve drunk lager on licensed premises have been in restaurants or hotel bars.

However, a couple of years ago I had a week’s holiday touring Scotland, as described here. The main objective was sightseeing, not drinking, and very often I would find myself at lunchtime in establishments with no cask beer just looking for something to wash down my food. So I usually ended up with a pint of standard lager. In my limited experience, I’d say Carling was the least bad of the “big three” – Fosters being very sweet and Carlsberg having a rather grainy flavour. The problem is, though, that while the first few gulps may be cool and refreshing, by the time you get to the bottom of the glass you’ve lost interest. They’re all just fundamentally dull and bland. On one occasion I had nitrokeg Younger’s Tartan Special or suchlike which to my palate was considerably worse than cooking lager.

I also, oddly enough, recently ended up with a pint of Carlsberg in a local Spoons. It was in the middle of their beer festival, and on this occasion all the guest beers that could be ordered as part of the meal deal were some way over 5% which, as I was driving, would not have been a good idea. They had even replaced Ruddles with a festival beer, and Abbot isn’t included in the offer. So I had a Carlsberg in preference to a John Smith’s Extra Smooth. As before, initially refreshing, ultimately dull, with an odd kind of cereal note to it. If it was the only draught beer in the world I might drink more of it, but fortunately in general I don’t have to.

It’s not really surprising, though, that many beer drinkers steer clear of the quality lottery that cask beer can be and choose to stick to something that, while it may not excite, reliably does the job and is unlikely to disappoint. The question must also be asked whether, even though it is often derided, standard lager is actually in any sense a worse product than Coke or Pepsi.

17 comments:

  1. I reckon a pint of 'standard' lager is almost certainly better for your health than a pint of coca cola.

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  2. You need to neck it faster, whilst it is still cold. Not that cold dulls the grog, as some beards might say. Like red or white wine, the former is better at room temp, the latter chilled. A dash of lime cordial and on a hot day after a bit of effort in the garden it slip down in one and not even touches the sides. Cooking lager is a beautiful thing but suffers a lack of respect among beer geeks. It is time for cooking lager to be an established and recognised beer style like craft beer and afforded appreciation and respect.

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  3. So best drunk in halves so it doesn't go warm then?

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  4. Nah, by the pint you big softie!

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  5. I definitely agree with you that Carling is the better of three followed by Fosters. It was all I drank as an undergrad. I have friends that still get excited when they find a pub with Carling on.

    If you want a tasty refreshing pint, its not as nice as the standard "premium" offerings of wheat beer, black lager or Punk-alike though.

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  6. You're unlikely to find wheat beer, black lager or Punk-alike in a boggo pub in Auchtermuchty, though.

    Oddly, when I first started drinking in the 1970s, Carling was the lager I liked least because it seemed more ale-like and had less of the hint of "noble hop" character that was still present in brews like Heineken and - yes - Grünhalle. That's something that now seems to have disappeared from the standard lager market - even Becks Vier doesn't really seem to have it.

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  7. Considering all the discussion about craft beer, what say all of us go to the next beardy agm and propose the wholesale adoption and acceptance into the beardy campaign of cooking lager as a distinct british beer style worthy of merit, respect, love and preservation with it's own definition?

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  8. I'm up for that.

    I cracked open a can of Carling in the AGM this year. It was good.

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  9. We can sit around, Nate, with pints of Lowenbrau discussing whether to accept it as cooking lager or dismiss it as "authentic lager" and produce list of authentic cooking lager.

    Good god, if they can accept warm vinegary cider into the club, cooking lager ought to be a no brainer.

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  10. It sounds like a definite plan. At least Lowenbrau doesn't taste of armpit like those goddamn ciders. I don't get them at all.

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  11. We're on. You get the proposal through Mudge, Me and Nate will be there to speak up for it and throw empty lager cans at anyone that disagrees. If you need advice, as Tand.

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  12. AAh! At last a discussion about a proper drink!
    Agree that Carling is the best cooking lager closely followed by Fosters.
    I do miss Grunhalle, though!

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  13. Anyone remember Oranjeboom before it was remarketed as a premium brand?

    Very popular in Shropshire it was, at £1.60 a pint.

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  14. Peter and Mudgie.

    Apart from the advertising, the most memorable thing about Grunhalle was its astonishing orange/gold colour and its complete absence of head. The head never lasted beyond the beer being poured and set down on the bar,

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  15. Gruhalle, Hofmeister, Castlemaine XXXX, Miller Lite, Heineken Cold Filtered.

    We have lost too many cooking lagers to let this go on. We must stand and demand there preservation !

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  16. Fear not, Cookie, for Molson Canadian is soon to be sold on these shores (apparently)!

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  17. You forgot Kaltenberg, Cookie, complete with Freddie Starr TV advert.

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