Words and pictures: Roger Clapham
Almost twenty years ago, the British public did something they do less frequently these days, and took something resolutely outside the mainstream to their hearts. That something was Underworld’s Born Slippy single (or Born Slippy .NUXX to be precise) which reached a staggering number 2 in the top 40 in July 1996, fresh from its inclusion in Danny Boyle’s adaptation of Trainspotting. Frankly, I doubt very much it was the pounding techno and euphoric synths that wormed their way into the public’s consciousness – more likely it was the central refrain of “shouting lager lager lager…” that appealed to a nation of drinkers. It certainly did to me, and despite Underworld’s Karl Hyde later admitting to his own problems with alcohol, there’s still much to admire about the single and the fact that a nation awash with alcopops and terrible “Britpop” bands at the time championed it.
Subtle signposting done then, this column will be about lager (run away now CAMRA nerds – no wait! do stay, it’s ok). Lager gets a very bad name in certain circles, but despite its consumption being down considerably since Underworld’s mega-hit and the increasingly popular heavily hopped craft beer bandwagon rolling ever onward, you can now get fantastically well brewed, properly lagered – the ageing process that gives the drink its flavour – Bohemian nectar with ease these days. Generally it is the same smaller scale craft producers that are responsible for this as for the general improvements in beer in recent years, but now, on those few days this summer when the right drink could only have been a properly chilled lager, the choice was thankfully much wider than simply Fosters or Carling.
First up then on this loutish round-up is the Four Pure pils – a 4.7% German style pilsner, the classic Teutonic lager. Four Pure are another Bermondsey brewery, a stone’s throw from the ever-reliable Kernel brewery, and produce some interesting beers including this excellent example of a pilsner. It has a slight tart sharpness about it, and a mellow bitterness – this is a long way from one of those overly hopped IPAs. Dry and refreshing, almost a perfect lager, you can really tell some love has gone into brewing this, and I would thoroughly recommend it.
Next up is the wonderfully named Nico (yes, that one) – a Koln style lager from Orbit beers, a further recent addition to the South London brewing mafia. This comes in at 4.8%, and has a noticeably lighter, more delicate taste than the pils, along with the authentic aroma of a proper German/Czech lager – from the lagering process as well as the ingredients – and tastes much like that too with an unfiltered mature flavour. Having never been, I cannot tell you how close it is to a traditional Cologne / Koln beer but who cares, it’s very tasty and worth looking out for.
From further afield, the final trusty can of lager is from Paso Robles, California – almost within sight of the Pacific coast – the Pivo hoppy pilsner from Firestone Walker. This one really is great, with a refreshing, light citrus flavour, and whilst it’s slightly stronger at 5.3% it has a clean taste with some bite. Plus, there’s a picture of a bear and a lion squaring up for a scrap on the can, so extra points for that too.
An honorary mention should also be made for the Camden Town brewery, whose India Hells Lager and Camden Pils are both excellent – the IHL in particular is tremendous – but I didn’t have any in the house when I wrote this (sorry guys if you’re reading this).
Finally, there’s more lager love (from poet Will Burns no less) in the beer themed Antidote to Indifference Issue 11, which if you don’t already have and you’ve managed to read this all the way to here, you should clearly get hold of. Cheers.