There have been times, thankfully mainly in the past, when I’ve tasted a ‘Pilsner’ (or ‘Pils’) and listened for the gentle sound of Joseph Grolle spinning in his grave.
Joseph Grolle was, you might recall, the German brewmaster who was commissioned by the burghers of Pilsen to rationalise their brewing. He is credited, in 1842 with brewing the crisp pale lager beer – Pilsner Urquell (or ‘Original Pilsner’) – that spawned beers in the ‘Pilsen Style’ or ‘Pilsner’.
When I think back to the travesties that were marketed in the sixties and seventies and given specious or tenuous European names, I feel ashamed to have drunk them. But hey, I was young and didn’t know any better.
These days I’m older and, hopefully, wiser; I’ve enjoyed beers in Pilsen, Prague, Bangkok, Colombo, Burton on Trent, Boston, San Francisco and Brussels. I’ve certainly tasted enough good and bad brews – including a couple of hundred here at The Brewclub – and learned to respect the brewer’s art.
So, when Brewdog announced ‘a lager for the 21st century‘, I was curious.
James Watt, one of Brewdog’s founders, said “Lager is often demonised or derided as the choice of drink of chavs and louts, which is the result of laddish marketing that diverts attention away from taste and enjoyment and undermines the potential of lager as a creative and artisanal beer. If we can redefine lager in the UK, we will redefine our relationship with alcohol.”
Well those are ambitious aims, it’s going to take a special lager to accomplish that, the question is… is ‘This’ the lager to do it?
The first thing you might notice is the bottle’s label, it’s the first Brewdog brew I’ve tasted that bears the new Brewdog corporate style. A bit less ‘in your face’, a bit more mainstream, as befits a brewery that’s doubling its output each year.
Well, it pours a pale barley colour, the colour of summer sunshine, with a foaming white head that laces down the glass. The nose is complex, there’s a hit of authentic Saaz hops – that grow in the hop fields around the town of Pilsen – but there are other, dare I say ‘richer’ hops in there too… Columbus, Hallertau and Hersbrucker.
Flavour-wise, it’s hops to the fore, a dry, crisp, bite. Not a ‘strip the enamel off your teeth’ IPA, but a real lager bite. Brewdog claim that they’ve used ten times the hops of most commercial lagers, not only that, but they’re top drawer ‘noble’ hops providing hints of pepper and citrus.
The malt provides a solid foundation for those hops, pale and subtle, slightly bready, slightly biscuity.
The final brew is then cool lagered for five weeks, presumably in stainless steel lagering tanks. Prior to 1992 Pilsner Urquell was lagered for up to three months in pitch-lined oak vessels. These days it’s just five weeks, also in stainless steel, so pretty much the same as Brewdog.
Again, like Brewdog’s ‘Pumpkinhead’ it’s brewed to a sensible strength, below 5% ABV maybe this is further indication that Brewdog are maturing and, while I understand their aim to move away from pure strength, I found myself wishing for maybe another half a percent.
Is this the brew to “redefine lager in the UK” and ” redefine our relationship with alcohol.“? Well, I guess by the fact that I was looking for a bit more kick, then possibly not, but it is a fine brew, a fine lager and a brew I will keep an eye out for… Possibly the default lager in my beer fridge.
I think that merits four Brewclub stars.