Wednesday, 7 March 2012

The Lager Trilogy - Part II

Previously I revealed the 10 Premium Lagers which I've rated highest on Ratebeer.  I also looked at the fact that the most famous lager brands always taste better in their home country.  All very obvious stuff really.

This post is a lot less wordy, but will contain a greater density of lists, so look away now, if that grinds your gears.

First off, I should previously have attempted to explain the differences between Pale Lager and Premium Lager according to Ratebeer.  But better (and quicker) still, just click the aforelinked phrases and they can do it themselves.

Just out of interest, my 10 highest rated Pale Lagers are:

1. Dent Rambrau
2. Radegast Premium
3. Borsodi Sor
4. Cains Finest Lager
5. Obolon Lager
6. Hancock Høker Bajer
7. Bali Hai
8. Vratislav Premium
9. Fischer Tradition
10. Kronenbourg Kanterbrau

Now, more importantly, onto the meat of the matter.  In the grand scheme of things my top 10 Pale Lagers are beers I enjoyed in spite of myself.  But German Pilseners... well now you're talking my language (English).

First sampled in Berlin in 2001 and then eagerly sought out in the UK, this is a Ratebeer style that does get me purring.  Lager as artform, cultural lubricant and liquid evidence of German precision.  These are beers that taste marvellous in the bars of Munich and Hamburg, and thankfully, they also travel well.

1. Jever Pilsener
2. Furstenberg Premium Pilsener
3. Veltins Pilsener
4. Keesman Bamberger Herren Pils
5. Augustiner Pils
6. Wernesgruner Pils
7. Bitburger Premium Pils
8. Warsteiner Premium Pils
9. Rothaus Pils Tannen Zapfle
10. Eichbaum Pilsener 

German beer hit me like Thor's hammer, when I first stuck my nose in the trough a decade back.  Each of the ten above are masterful examples of grassy, golden fluted clarity.  For me, Jever is clearly the toppermost of the poppermost, but the thought of both Augustiner and Warsteiner, sampled in a Munich biergarten or a Kreuzberg hipster joint leaves me equally inflated with joy.

I didn't imagine any lager could pip the Germans, even though I regularly enjoyed several pints of Staropramen at the Hogshead each and every Friday evening, throughout 2003.  However, it was when sampling Czech goods in Prague a year later, that I had my most sustained and pleasurable lager epiphany.

Czech beer.  Boy of boy.  Yet another example of beer tasting better in it's home territory. And then some.  The beers in the following list induced tremors of ecstacy and squirrels of disbelief as I eagerly scoffed them by the vase in Strahov, Josefov and Vinohrady.  Ratebeer (pleasingly) separates Bohemian Pilsener as another lager off-shoot, here are my premiere dix:

1. Pilsner Urquell
2. Bernard Světlý Ležák 12° (Premium)
3. Gambrinus Premium Svetlý Ležák 12°
4. Starobrno Premium Lager
5. Budweiser Budvar (Czechvar) 12°
6. Krušovice Světlé 10°
7. Kratochwill Svetlo
8. Kozel Premium Lager 12°
9. Hostan Praga
10. ’t IJ Plzen

Strangely enough, a Slovenian beer sneaks in at 7, and a Dutch one at 10, but still.  Here are some blatant examples of lager that transcends: nectary, light, bubbly, ethereal, firm, yet insistent.  Light years from Carlsberg (Export or otherwise) on tap in the hotspots of Brum.

The final list today is my top 10 Dortmunder/Helles beers.  I'll be honest: my brain has addled and I can't really remember what separates a Dortmunder/Helles from a German Pilsener or indeed a Pale or Premium Lager, but that's beside the point.  Here:

1. Augustiner Lagerbier Hell
2. Kaltenberg Vilagos
3. Weltenburger Urtyp Hell
4. Airbrau FliegerQuell
5. Recken Export
6. Andechser Spezial Hell
7. Thurn und Taxis Hell
8. Spaten Münchner Hell / München / Premium
9. Hofbrau Munchen Original
10. Andechser Hell

Well that final top 10 certainly raised the dribble quotient somewhat.  I'd forgotten just what lovely beers reside in the Dortmunder/Helles category.  In retrospect, German lager is undoubtedly so good, that they deserve two style categories to themselves.  Sorted.

My visits to Germany and Czech Republic occurred at the height of my beer travails.  In fact, somewhat serendipitously, they also coincided with the period of my greatest European frontier pushing generally: my beer world got bigger as my physical boundaries became looser. Quite poetic really.

But after Germany and Czech Republic, where is there to go for good lager?  The peaks have been scaled, the best have been discovered.  What is left?  Excess.

In my final lager post, I try to extrapolate my top lagers (irrespective of style) and I puzzle over what lager challenges remain (if any).


1 comment:

  1. Comprehensive set of lager lists Dan, very informative. I don't usually opt for lagers when ales are available but was lucky enough to try a t'IJ Plzen at the t'IJ brouwerij (attached to a beautiful old windmill!) in Amsterdam back in Jan and it was a stunner. Had Saaz written all over it.