Thursday, 4 June 2015

This Is Lager?


It isn't often that I disagree with the Beer Nut when he describes and recommends a beer, above all because I rate his beer tasting notes as second to none and therefore his recommendations as ones to be taken very seriously indeed. As I neither have his dedication nor inclination, I'm generally happy to enjoy his tastings vicariously and of course, being a lazy git I'd rather sup beer than write tasting notes. So very unusually and with a caveat, I'm going to tentatively disagree with the Beer Nut over this post about BrewDog's This. Is. Lager. (TIL).  The caveat is that the Beer Nut describes the bottled version in his post and I have been drinking the draught version.

Now given my poor views of the state of cask beer in London,  I tend to drink a heck of a lot more lager there. And a lot more gin too.  Drinking cask beer in London (an aside in this post) is far to often the triumph of hope over experience, with its attendant coming down to earth with a bump.  This brings me back to TIL. I was very pleased when BrewDog introduced it and looked forward to it when I heard it was coming to JDW. But it is so variable.  All too few times the beer is clean, hoppy, full bodied, mouthfilling and refreshing and all too many times,  metallic, ridiculously over-carbonated, brasso like and weedy.  I asked E whose palate is excellent and who likes lager nearly as much as I do, to describe it. She summed it up thus: "It's usually too harsh. I used to like it, but I don't now". How can this be?

I offer two explanations. First the old BrewDog problem of inconsistency of product is one possibility and this may or may not be the case. I just don't know. The second and possibly more likely one, is that I'm drinking it in the wrong place. I drink it in Wetherspoons. Why should that be an issue I wondered?  I turned to a friend of mine who manages a leading JDW for his thoughts.  "It doesn't turn over as quickly as it needs to to be fresh and consistent" he said.  "And most people just don't like it."  So is that the explanation?  One piece of evidence for this, in this neck of the woods, came on Saturday in the Art Picture House in Bury.  This Is Lager was being offered (or was it remaindered?) at £2 a pint. E had a half and didn't have any more. She didn't like it.  I tasted it and found it thin and unappealing. Going back to the Beer Nut, I'm not quite so tentative when I say I am somewhat taken aback when he says "Put it in a grown-up serving size and you'd have a rival for Pilsner Urquell"

I disagree. On draught at least, for me and in my opinion, This. Is.Lager doesn't have the same complexity and consistency as PU. Moreover, to me, it just hasn't got the sheer quality of PU. Maybe though I'll have to find a bottle one day to see how that stands up.

Perhaps someone that regularly drinks it in BD pub could give their views? On the plus side, and thinking on, at £1.99 a pint, it is most certainly "Craft Beer for the People"!

I note too that BN had a few eyebrow raised comments about his views and some support.  That's interesting.  Maybe he just got a very good bottle of it?

22 comments:

Ben Viveur said...

When I've tried them, the bottled version did seem to differ somewhat from the keg - a more rounded hop character, less bite and a step further away from the mainstream keg lager experience.

This may just be down to the old BD inconsistency (or indeed JDW inconsistency), but back in the day they didn't seem to have these problems with 77 lager which was a far better beer for my money.

Obviously none of it can hold a candle to cask PU.

The Beer Nut said...

I wouldn't take my recommendations seriously and I'm me. From the feedback I've got on that post, I fully expect TIL to be awful the next time I taste it. That, and the reverse, happens regularly with beers I've reviewed. But on that day, from that bottle, what I wrote is an honest opinion.

Funny that you mention "the old BrewDog problem of inconsistency". I recently bought a four-pack of Punk for a train journey on (again) a lovely sunny day. I drank and hugely enjoyed three of them -- all bright zesty flavours, yet perfectly balanced. When I got home I put the other can in the fridge and opened it later that week. It tasted dull and overly bitter. I don't for a second think that this difference was anything to do with the beer, but chalk it down to the experience, my palate and my mood.

Maybe it's just that I'm rubbish at tasting beer but I think subjectivity has a lot more to do with people's assessments of beers and breweries than is generally talked about.

If I really was dedicated, everything I write about would be based on a blind tasting in a controlled environment. But I'd rather write tasting notes than judge beer.

Adrian Tierney-Jones said...

I enjoyed it best at the brewery tap in Ellon - finally recognised its Czech ambitions - in a couple of Spoons I've had it it just didn't cut the mustard

Curmudgeon said...

I've had this a few times as part of Spoons meal deals - as Cookie would point out, you save more than if you go for a pint of cask ;-)

However, like you I've not been too impressed. It sometimes seems a bit stale and gives the impression of not having the right kind of hops - it lacks that grassy note you normally associate with good German and Czech lagers.

I can imagine in many Spoons it doesn't turn over quickly enough - why would your average lager drinker go for this when he can have Stella?

RedNev said...

Why.The.Silly.Full.Stops?

Velky Al said...

it.is.a.punk.thing.

Tandleman said...

Beer Nut: You protest too much. I doubt if you'd put the effort in if you really thought it was all a load of old toffee. Just accept the compliment. You do a splendid job.

I agree subjectivity, time and place are all variables. Only real professionals whose job it is get the blindfolds out. Oh and pervy types.

Beermunster said...

I suspect a lot of the variation in quality may be down to Wetherspoons. If the gas pressure is wrong, or if the keg is old, it won't taste the way it is supposed to. I haven't tried TIL, but before passing judgement, I will try it in one of Brewdog's own bars. If they can't serve it correctly there then they deserve all the criticism they get.

py said...

"it is most certainly Craft Beer for the People"

Is it though? In what way is a bog-standard lager "craft beer"? If you stuck a brewdog label on John Smith's, would that make it craft smooth?

Tandleman said...

Think they might say so. I'm quoting them.

py said...

Do you agree with them?

Cooking Lager said...

I think it a nice pint of cold fizz, ideal with a burger. Best pub lout for price and quality is Sams Pure Brewed. Sub £3 and top stuff.

Tandleman said...

I like Pure Brewed, but never seen it under 3 notes. Nearer 4 or more in London.

Martin, Cambridge said...

I also found TIL dull and haven't yet seen it bought in preference to the standard lagers. Trips from Stansted Airport always start with a superb pint of Punk, which ought to be rolled out across the JDW estate (not at £2 unfortunately).

Bang on about London quality-wise.

Curmudgeon said...

TIL also discounted to £1.99 a pint in my local Spoons, and the barman said it was being dropped.

As I said above, apart from non cask exclusive beer geeks on a meal deal, who's actually going to buy it?

Maybe if they had priced it at £2.30 rather than £3.10 it might have developed a following, but BrewDog don't want to be seen selling a value product.

I also wonder how much Devil's Backbone they actually sell.

Fred said...

Very little DB is sold in many branches, as it is quite rare to actually find it available. At least, that is the case in the Thames Valley branches.

TIL was £1.99 in the Cowley (Oxford) branch of 'Spoons yesterday (Saturday), putting it at the same price as the standard sub-5% guest ales.

ElectricPics said...

Pure Brewed. I drink a few pints a week in a free house (Barca, Tynemouth) at 2.90.

I've not tried TIL but how does it compare to Pure Brewed, and maybe Lakeland Lager or West St Mungo?

ABrewHaHa said...

Had my first This. Is. Lager. at JDW on Saturday. Thoroughly underwhelmed. Certainly inferior to Hawkshead.

Charlie Cohen said...

I would agree although, like you, I've only ever tried it in my local Spoons where I suspect it isn't kept very well. I'll give it a go in a bottle, but I'll eat my hat if it holds a candle to PU.

Stono said...

maybe weve got all the Devils Backbone then this side north of the M25, as thats all JDW seems to stock round here so Ive not been able to try This Is Lager yet. I have encountered the variability thing before with a 4 pack of Punk from Tescos, all drunk on the same night, only one of them was upto scratch and one of them was poured down the sink and it had nothing to do with my mood.

as for the London pub thing, thats such a tough thing to analyse, because there are just so many pubs, too many really to get a handle on to build a is it the beer thats right/wrong, is it just an off day, what the issue is. Im not saying goto London and you wont find a bad pub, its just I think the quantity means even if it matched some nationwide percentage of bad beer pubs, you would simply have more chance of stumbling across them in London

Anonymous said...

Haven't tried this Brew Dog nonsense, but you're right about the shocking state of beer in London. After years of no proper cask ale they're all now trying to out-compete each other on who has the the most real ales....7 in the Crutched Friars near Tower Hill last night...a pint of Landlord was delivered completely cloudy (despite Cask Marque signs everywhere) and when I pointed this out to the charming young barmaid she said "Well I've poured it now". I then had to explain to her that may be the rule in Poland, but not round these parts. She relented and poured a pint of what the pump claimed to be Deuchars but what still pretty shocking. Ah well, at least it was only £4.40 a pint....

Anonymous said...

If its drunk at brew dog pub and from a fresh keg it is usually very nice.think of jever pils. it's not a czech pilsner though, it's a german pils, so the comparisons with PU are not quite fair.