Tuesday, 26 July 2016

More Craft Lager


On last week's trip to the Black Country I was more than surprised - taken aback might have been a better word - to find that most conservative of brewers, Holdens, selling their own Black Country Lager. In one of our first stops, the Black Bull in Sedgley, the very chatty Landlady heard us discussing it and offered me a taste. Very nice it was too, although that may have been different when scaled up. Oddly the brewery's own website makes no mention of it at all.

On the last day of our jaunt we stopped at Eccleshall and popped into the Royal Oak, a Joules House, and again there was an in-house lager on sale. This time the beer, Green Monkey, was clearly described on the website and interesting it was too.  "We are very proud to say Green Monkey will never be pasteurised or artificial carbonated, we like our lagers "Brewery Fresh", and this comes from being lagered for up to four weeks. This careful method develops a naturally carbonated drink, producing the most delicate of bubbles, creating a smooth finish on the palate. I didn't have time to try this, but it did set me wondering how many such examples are being brewed out there. Two rather small breweries doing so is interesting.  Now of course I know of the likes of Fullers, Lees, Shepherd Neame and probably more, but how common is this and are they readily available on draught?

Can anyone advise? Are there other such lagers out there? 

Of course the question I should have asked of Joules, is how this naturally carbonated lager is pushed to the bar.  

I also acquired a Joules T Shirt in the pub when the Landlord allowed us to add our drinks together to qualify for a promotion. Nice one. 

41 comments:

Cooking Lager said...

Eye, but does this "craft" lout pose the same existential threat to cooking lager that "craft" ale poses to cask beer?

Matt said...

Does this qualify?

Tandleman said...

Sensible question. The answer is probably "Yes". There are two kinds. One that undercuts the price of cooking and one that overcuts it. Both appeal to different lout drinking segments.

Tandleman said...

Matt: Yes. Funnily I have yet to try either of their "Award Winning Lagers".

AleingPaul said...

Another one that springs to mind is Hawkshead's Lakeland Lager

Cooking Lager said...

Nowt more craft that this lout

http://www.samuelsmithsbrewery.co.uk/site/product-category/draught/

AleingPaul said...

I guess it's a similar thing to more brewers now producing their own nitro-keg stout these days. Perhaps they're using the increased interest in beer generally to claim a piece of the national & international brands' pie.

jamesbwxm said...

The Green Monkey just uses their standard ale yeast but it's then lagered.

Still, it's very nice and available in my local which is a Joules pub.

Bailey said...

Otter down in Devon have one, Tarka, in the 'North German style', i.e. inspired by Jever. It's actually pretty good. Skinner's in Cornwall did one for years but that was rough as every time we tried it; haven't seen it around for a while.

AleingPaul said...

jamesbwxm, two people with Wxm connections commenting on a post about lager, very appropriate! :-)

John Clarke said...

Bring back Einhorn!

AleingPaul said...

And both Sharp's & St Austell produce one.

Beermunster said...

I suspect all these breweries are doing this to maximise revenue by getting a share of the lager market. I've been into a few of the Joules pubs, and it's not hard to see that lager is still the most popular drink they sell. I don't know what proportion of beer sales it accounts for, but if it's not 50% I would be surprised. It makes sense that they would want to brew their own rather than buy in Carling or something similar.

I doubt these "craft" lagers are ever going to seriously threaten the big brands, but if they can grab a small percentage of lager sales and bring a bit of variety to the market, then it can only be a good thing.

Cooking Lager said...

Einhorn was proper craft, Clarkster. I agree. Bring it back!

Curmudgeon said...

Copper Dragon Radka lager is another, although the example I tried a while back had a nasty off flavour, maybe due to poor turnover.

Also Battlefield Shropshire Lager, which I recently saw in Shrewsbury Wetherspoons.

However I understand a lot of these "craft lagers" are actually top-fermented lager-style ales, like a modern version of Einhorn. Green Monkey and Lakeland Lager certainly are. Nothing inherently wrong with that, but to my palate they don't really quite taste like "proper" lagers.

Now Sam Smith's Double Four - that is, and knocks Carling et. al into a cocked hat :-)

Chris Spinks said...

Spin Doctor by Bootleg. Hallé by Beer Nouveau. Single Hopped Lagers from Chorlton.

Chris Spinks said...

Sorry - not seen Chorlton on draught.

Martin Taylor said...

I only had the Joules one after several pints of their Pale, but did think the Green Monkey very good, however it got to my glass. Staff in the Market Drayton flagship were gently pushing it with tasters.

Curmudgeon said...

If you're a pub-owning brewery like Holdens or Joules, then it makes sense to get at least some of the lager volume in your pubs going through your own mash tuns, even if you have to substantially undercut the big brands.

Of course, in the past many family brewers produced their own lagers - remember Stein, Slalom, Faust or Kaltenberg? However, eventually they dropped or sidelined them because they realised that not having a big-name lager was putting people off visiting their pubs in just the same way that an absence of real ale does.

This blogpost by Stuart Vallantine may bring back some memories: Lancs Lagers Lost

PY said...

"not having a big-name lager was putting people off visiting their pubs"

I doubt this is much of a concern nowadays. As long as there is some kind of blandish lager, very few people really care what brand it is anymore.

Curmudgeon said...

"As long as there is some kind of blandish lager, very few people really care what brand it is anymore."

Oh, I reckon a lot of punters wouldn't be happy if a pub didn't have any big-name lagers. Back in the day, Robbies reckoned they were losing a lot of trade from people who said "nah, not going there, all they've got is that Einhorn shit". As with real ale, it only needs one person to put their foot down for the whole group to go elsewhere. Hence Robbies introduced Carling and Tennent's Extra to their pubs, and Hydes ditched Amboss for Harp.

Sam Smith's have their own loyal clientele, but the total absence of big-name ale and lager brands puts some casual drinkers off. I've seen them come into Sam's pubs and look utterly baffled.

py said...

Nah. The stuff you are talking about is from years ago. No-one cares any more, just like its no longer fashionable to wear visibly branded clothes. There's been a definite backlash against corporate brands over the past 10 years. Even lager drinkers like to drink small and local nowadays.

Hence the reason Freedom have been so successful, despite tasting no better than standard lager IMO. People are willing to pay a premium for it specifically because its NOT a recognised big brand. It might struggle now that other breweries are getting in on the act.

Cooking Lager said...

A noticable feature of the current lager market is how brands are as significant as they ever were. Spoons do well by having a wide choice of brands as much as there reputation for value.

They are not the same brands as 20 years ago. Peroni is top dog. Budvar & Staropramen big ones. German brands have dipped. Carling remains the defacto pint for most Britons.

Most UK craft lagers have not made the impact the noise about them would suggest. Freedom is nice lout but does not have any market penetration.

In the case of Holts, Sams, they are just the house lagers, drank on the acceptance they are cheaper than a brand.

What killed Stella wasn't so much the discounting prompted by early 90s cross channel shopping but its association with young working class alcohol related violence. It's great to sell ever more pints but when people notice the folk drinking the posh lager are the type of shaven headed tattooed men you would cross the street to avoid, the lager becomes less posh.

Beer geeks appear to have a different set of brands to regular people, which applies as much to ale as lager. A different set of names and symbols they associate with either quality or a social marker. Marble is a brand.

Jever may be a lovely bottle of lout and I know a pub where a bottle is as cheap as the Stella in Spoons but many a punter is just after cold, wet and fizzy on a summer afternoon but want a brand that does not say "football hooligan" but says "advertised a lot in German tube stations which shows I'm a travelled chap and not a thug"

Reidy said...

In addition to Shropshire Lager, Battlefield also offer Cheshire Lager and Imperial. As far as I'm aware, all three are the same beer, but marketed in different territories - one for Shropshire, one for Cheshire and the other for anywhere else that fancies some (I'll let you work out which is which)

John said...

I've never tried this lager, I must try if you recommend it :)

py said...

Literally no-one in the entire country gives a shit about lager brands. No-one has ever said "lets go to a different pub, they've only got Carling here and I'm a Fosters man". I used to go to a pub where the Carling was 10p cheaper than the Fosters. Everyone drank the Carling. Occasionally, the Fosters would be on offer and would be 10p cheaper than the Carling. On those days, everyone drank the Fosters. If they introduced some other lager that was 10p cheaper again, everyone would have drank that. No-one gave a fuck about the brand, and we knew it all tasted the same anyway so we just drank whatever was cheapest.

You've spent too much time amongst the beer geeks Cookie, you want to get out into the real world. People just want something cold and cheap. This isn't 1979 anymore, no-one thinks drinking lager with a foreign sounding name is going to make them look sophisticated. That's what craft beer is for.

Cooking Lager said...

I know plenty of folk that express a lager brand choice, and regularly see it in pubs.

Plenty of people that ask for Carling and turn there nose up at Fosters. It's why Spoons brought Carling back after ditching it. Not much loyalty for Carlsberg or Fosters.

Peroni is the most asked for in terms of "have you got any....?" and general disappointment and not having it, in my experience.

The Czech & German CAMRA pub type brands appear interchangeable so long as its "authentic pilsner"

py said...

You obviously drink with beer snobs. Its not like that outside of the Manchester beer bubble.

Some people drink Carling because they mistakenly think it is an English beer and they want to drink local.

Malcolm Nicholls said...

When I ran a bar in Walsall ( until two years ago) we ran a blind tasting of Carling vs Fosters, organised by the latter who were convinced that their product would come out on top.
This in a bar where Carling outsold all other draught products in total by 5 to 1.
They were right, about two thirds of the participants preferred Fosters when tasting blind.
When the Fosters team left, a number of these went straight back to drinking ( and paying for ) Carling once they had finished their free Fosters.
"Go figure" as out transatlantic cousins put it.

Curmudgeon said...

Thank you for these despatches from Planet Py. Always fascinating to read them - what a contrast to our own world.

Cooking Lager said...

I'm surrounded by snobs, Py, tell me about it.

Though snobbery isn't so much expressing a preference then buying what you like, it's turning your nose up at people who you consider vulgar and beneath you. In beer snobbery, the snobbery isn't drinking a saison, it's thinking those on the Corona are vulgar oiks.

py said...

You should step outside the beer bubble once in a while Mudgie, it might surprise you how the non beer blogging portion of the country people live.

You probably won't believe me when I tell you this, but there are people out there, who when you are buying a round and ask what they want to drink, just say "ah whatever, some kind of lager". They're probably CAMRA members too.

Ian said...

I'd be amazed if lager branding didn't matter any more. Look at Scotland, there's still Tennent's everywhere despite the multinational brands trying to break that dominance for decades.

I'd imagine people are more willing to try a premium alternative, that's where the opportunity is for smaller brewers.

PY said...

The proliferation of different brands is explained by the relationships between pubs, breweries and wholesalers, it has virtually nothing to do with consumer preference at all. There is a huge degree of inertia in these markets. Most pubs' business strategy is to sell the same products next year as they sold 10 years ago, hence the reason half of them are going bust, whereas the chains that ARE responding to customer demand, like brewdog, are the only ones that are growing.

Anonymous said...

London is well served by brewers making lager.No need to drink national blands if you care to search.London Beer Factory, Twickenham,Portobello,40ft Brewery,Howling Hops,Crate,Lateknights,Signal Lager Brewery,London Beer Lab,Brixton Brewery,Mondo,Tap East,Wild Card and of course Zero DegreesI often see Redwell,Freedom and Windsor and Eton around.Maybe its a London thing

The Maltese Penguin said...

The idea that most lager drinkers don't have a brand preference is a very odd one. And up here it is mostly Tennent's. So much so that Aldi; and from this week Lidl, sell their own fake Tennent's.

Outside of that, sophisticates ask for a Peroni, or sometimes an Estrella (Damm or Galicia). And pay up to another £2 a pint for it.

In local brewer's, Innis and Gunn lager is available widely in 'spoons; Williams Brothers do Draught (yes, it's just called that)and through Drygate, Bearface; and West have St Mungo's and West4 (and an in-house lager for King Tut's).

PS Kaltenberg's not dead, my local has had it for the last few months. Makes a change from Tennent's. I have never seen it anywhere else, though.

Curmudgeon said...

If people really weren't bothered about lager brands, then Spoons could get away with just serving Carlsberg and Tuborg and lose no customers. But it doesn't quite work like that...

Tandleman said...

I agree Mudgie. It diesn't work like that. I've been at the bar many times and when asked what lager people want, they have no trouble in specifying.

And what I should have said in my piece additionally is "And are these lagers any good?"

Curmudgeon said...

I also spotted Charlie Wells Dry Hopped Lager in a pub the other day.

But, as I'm generally in pubs that serve good cask, I never get to try these lagers.

pp said...

On Holdens not advertising lager on their website, it could be like a certain microbrewery I know who have their "own brand" lager in their brewery tap which is brewed for them by a regional family brewer, but it's not for external sale. As has been said, even a hard-core ale pub will have at least a third of draught sales in lager, so it makes sense to capture some of that spend rather than outsourcing to Carling/Fosters etc.

Yes, some punters will turn away when they don't see a big name on the bar - but they're usually the punters that you don't want anyway.

Any reference to Fosters vs Carling preferences has to take account of a)ties and b)regional preferences - Fosters is much stronger down south, Carling up north. I know an area where if they're on side by side at the same price, Carling will account for 90% of sales, you need to discount Fosters by at least 30p/pint to get 50:50 sales. I'm sure there's places down south where the reverse is true.

pp said...

Two other specific examples up your way - Red Willow started brewing two lagers for their own bar but you occasionally see them elsewhere now. Godless and Homeless IIRC - the pilsner is much better than the helles, despite being lower ABV.

Cheshire Brewhouse seem to be doing quite well with their Dane'ish, certainly in bottle and occasionally on keg.