Andy Murray was still half an hour away from winning Wimbledon and I was sitting at the bar of the Prince of Wales pub in East Molsey with one eye on the game and another on my watch. We had a flight to catch and two train journeys to make before that, so it was debatable how much drinking and tennis time there was left. One half wouldn't hurt though, and I'd spotted a particularly intriguing keg font on the bar: Noble English Craft Lager -- not merely a beer, but a sign of profound change in English drinking culture. Or something. I ordered a glass. It was terrible; a mess of slick buttery yuck, lacking even enough fizz to lend it even a semblance of refreshment. This lot, whoever they are, won't be in business long turning out travesties like that, I thought, and was highly surprised to learn subsequently that it's an undercover Greene King product. Is the Bury St Edmunds ale behemoth ashamed of making a lager? Or just this particular one? The cause of British craft lager, if such a thing exists, is being done no favours here.
this post last year) and I had set fairly high expectations for Leodis, a pale lager from the Leeds Brewery, an operation whose ales I normally enjoy. Alas Leodis doesn't get it right either. When I asked the barman what it was like he said "malty", but that didn't cover half of what was going on. It's a medium gold and again offers a soft effervescence in place of full-on fizz. The malt manifests in a sweet aroma but transforms into a bizarre smokiness on tasting: a bit of kipper and perhaps some melted plastic. It's not exactly unpleasant, but at the same time too strange to be really enjoyable, especially on a warm afternoon by the seaside.
I had to come home to find an English lager that really hit the spot. The late lamented WJ Kavanagh of Dorset Street had St Austell's Korev on tap for a spell last summer, a beer which proves that large regional English breweries can do lager well. As with the other two, the hopping takes a back seat in favour of smooth malt sweetness on a mildly carbonated base, but this time it's all light fluffy candyfloss and exotic brown sugar. Not at all a million miles from the golden syrup flavour one finds in good Czech světlý ležák, in fact.
Of course, one does not go to England for the lager, but if there's going to be more of it about from a greater variety of producers it's well worth knowing which are the good ones and which to avoid.
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