Well, it’s been an unusually hot April in Blighty – and, by all accounts, it’s set to continue into the merry month of May too. The net effect on yours truly (apart from playing even more tennis than usual, that is!) is that I’ve started early on the lager! Being a creature of habit, I tend to drink bitter in the winter and lager in the summer – but as summer’s arrived early…I’ve started on the amber stuff already.
So, with beer on the brain (as opposed to water – ho ho!) I decided I’d use this blog (and perhaps even the next!) to share some of my all-time fave beers with you. Thus, without further ado, I hereby present my personal list of ‘Top 5 Lagers’ for your delectation:
Samson (Czech Republic)
The Czechs invented lager (Pilsner derives from a town – Plzen – in Western Bohemia) and Czech lager is still the world’s best. When I lived there/visited I felt duty bound to sample as much of it as possible! Hence, I feel well qualified in picking out the very best pivo (beer) – Samson. Samson is a traditional Czech lager from Bohemia with a perfect golden-caramel colour and a strong yet balanced flavour. Unfortunately Samson is unavailable in the UK. (Ask most Czechs, however, and they will almost always cite Gambrinus – also unavailable in the UK – as their own favourite).
Rothaus is an exceptionally fine lager from the Black Forest of Germany. It has superb flavour – and is a definite challenger to Samson for my No 1 spot. The Rothaus brewery was founded in 1791 and is still owned by the state in Baden-Württemburg. It’s something of a cult beer in its native land – especially with students and clubbers. It can very occasionally be found in the UK – usually in specialist beer outlets. Once upon a time it even used to be available on draught at the White Horse pub (aka the ‘Sloaney Pony’) in Parsons Green. Not sure if that’s still the case though. (Any Sloaney Pony regulars out there who can give me an update? Please post!). Rothaus is generally a bit more pricey than other draught lagers – but it’s worth every one of those extra pennies.
Calanda Brau (Switzerland)
I first had Calanda Brau many moons ago on a family holiday to the Swiss town of Flims in the Graubunden canton. (The Calanda Brau brewery is located in the nearby city of Chur). Admittedly, my inclusion of Calanda Brau is based on a rather distant memory – but the fact that it sticks out in my mind as a superb beer after several decades must, I think, speak volumes for its genuine quality. Nowadays though, Calanda Brau is owned by Heineken – with the risk that has since become just another gassy commercial brew like any other offered during ‘Happy Hour’ in a chain outlet. Sadly, Calanda Brau is simply not available in the UK – so I can’t put that theory to the test.
Staropramen (Czech Republic)
‘Staro’ is arguably Prague’s most famous beer – equally famously brewed with spring water. Staropramen has now established itself as a firm favourite throughout the UK, so it probably needs no further introduction here.
Laverstoke Park Ale (UK)
On the whole my fellow Brits are usually much better at brewing bitter than lager – although I feel I must mention this fine organic beer that is brand new to the market and very a recent discovery of mine. Laverstoke Park is a bio-diverse organic farm founded in Hampshire by ex-racing driver Jody Scheckter and committed to organic principles across an entire range of food and drink products. The soil on the farm is carefully monitored and tended, no chemicals or phosphates are used and all produce follows its natural seasonal cycle. The farm has just released its first organic ale – and the flavour is superb…clearly benefiting from the organic production methods. Happily this one is easily found in Blighty – in most branches of Waitrose!
Nazdravi / Sante / Prost / Chin Chin amigos!