Tuesday, 17 January 2012

A whole world out there

While craft keg may be struggling to get out of the starting blocks, a phenomenon that has made a significant impact on the British pub scene is the growth of “world lagers”. Because this is nothing to do with real ale, it has tended to go largely unremarked. But, when a bog-standard Robinson’s local has a tap for Budweiser Budvar, and a Hydes pub one for Moretti, it is clear that a major change has taken place from the days when Carling and Stella ruled the roost.

The drinker who wishes to appear discerning but won’t touch that warm flat stuff that comes out of handpumps will now very often choose a fashionable imported lager, which is likely to be the most expensive draught on the bar.

Given that lager has twice the market share of ale, and all of it is keg to start with, perhaps ambitious British craft brewers might do better to concentrate on distinctive lagers rather than keg ales. The “reassuringly expensive” Pointing Dog in Cheadle Hulme already has a tap for Derbyshire-brewed Moravka, of course.


  1. of course Carling and Stella were once 'world lagers' themselves!

    but it is an interesting development - Peroni (which I think is awful) can be as much as GBP 4.50 a pint in a pub in London (compared with say 3.30 for ale, 3.50 for other lagers in the same place)

  2. I was going to mention Peroni. Has a serious reputation for being 'a cut above' and clean (as opposed to the pervasive idea that Stella is 'dirty') but just tastes watery to me.

    Agree, more proper British lagers (as opposed to real ales with Saaz in) would be very welcome. We've seen Moravka in a few places; but we've also seen people look disgusted when told it is from Derbyshire! ("Eugh, no thanks, I'll stick to Becks." And he's *from* Derbyshire.)

  3. Despite the fact that Beck's Vier (although not AFAIK the 5% stuff) is brewed in the UK.

  4. Still not sure how, e.g., the Goose in Walthamstow, used to get away with "world lager festivals" where all the beers were UK brewed.

  5. Martin, Cambridge17 January 2012 at 17:58

    Those stacks of fonts serving Budvar/Peroni/Framboize or similar variants are standard issue in many gastro pubs in North London, and to be fair do look more appealing than the old fashioned Carling/Smooth/Guiness rack.

    Hard to gauge how popular they are against Doom Bar or wine, but I guess being keg they have a longer life ?

  6. Oh yes, but the point is that this trend has now made its way into bog-standard local pubs in Stockport.

  7. is it not just that distributors are pushing these new lagers through pouring rights deals and pub ties, some of the beers you mention are part owned by some big breweries, simply to get something new and different on the bar that stands out.

    kind of like the Stella reassuringly expensive campaign of the 90's its different, slightly mysterious and from the continent and not cheap so it must be alright :)

    it just doesnt feel like a concious decision to expand the world lager selection in pubs or restaurants to me, simply a push to make a brand stand out in a competative market. I mean beers like Castlemaine XXXX, Holsten maybe even Hoffmeister :) have all been through that kind of thing try something new and different phase, but eventually the brand wears out, sales drop and they disappear out of pubs to be replaced by something new.

    which maybe something all beer producers need to be mindful of, what once was new and unique does become old and familiar and if the only concentration was on the new and uniqueness part, its quickly going to be a problem shifting it

  8. Beer writing in the UK is dominated by ale enthusiasts that largely ignore lager. This is despite lager being the largest part of the UK beer market.

    One of the most interesting recent developments is the increasing availability of Czech lager in UK pubs as the premium lager, and the decline in Stella as a brand.

    One can note Budvar even when discounted in supermarkets sells at a premium above Stella. It appears pubs have noticed this and decided if their business model involves charging a premium they need the brands to match.

  9. Yes, you're quite right there, Cookie, and that's exactly the point I'm making.

    Personally I just don't like Czech lager, though - a lot of it has a buttery, diacetyl note and Budvar to me is unpleasantly fruity and appley.

    Welcome back to commenting, btw - are we going to see a blog revival too? After all, we can now get "craft keg" in local Robbies' pubs in Stockport ;-)

  10. In order to invent a new wind up, I need to put some space between it. Then the new blog can begin with no reference to the old and have a bit of a run before before people realise its a joke. I'm thinking of a Dickie type character.

  11. Now that he's taken his bat home from the CAMRA forums, I miss my regular doses from Dickie of "chemical fizz" and "the Pride's drinking well tonight" ;-)


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