When you think of beer from the big supermarkets, you probably think of 18 packs of Carling and Carlsberg stacked high in the aisles, often associated with a sporting event or a sunny bank holiday weekend. There’s no doubt that mainstream lagers are massive sellers so it’s no surprise to see craft lagers now appearing on the shelves, vying for a place in our fridge – but what do these lagers offer that the more established brands don’t?
We tasted three that were easily available from our local Tesco store to find out…
Vocation – Dirty Pilsner
"I've not had any Vocation Brewery in for a while but this Dirty Pilsner is superb" – @Browtons
— ᴠᴏᴄᴀᴛɪᴏɴ ʙʀᴇᴡᴇʀʏ (@vocationbrewery) March 2, 2017
The can describes this as pilsner meets IPA and the aroma on pouring backs that up, with a citrus dry-hop like character, carried by a nice light carbonation. The taste is slightly dank on top of the bready, lager quality with a bitter zing on the palate, again reminiscent of an IPA.
This doesn’t linger, though, and you’re left with a clean, crisp pilsner finish. This beer is a great little all-rounder which marries the two styles well and should appeal to anyone looking for a crisp, smashable beer but be warned – at 6.5% it may not be one for a long session!
Camden Town – Hols
Craft ale research #315: Camden Town Brewery Hols IPL, 5.2%. Sour citrus notes yield to some mild hops, with more familiar lager tones in the background. 7/10 pic.twitter.com/hCegl4D7td
— Kevin Coghlan (@leccykev) November 2, 2018
A play on the well-known Camden Helles, a staple lager in the craft scene for years, this is branded as a 5.2% tropical lager. On pouring it gives off a tinned peach aroma with a floral element, too. Camden include the malt and hops on the labelling which is good to see but five different hops seems somewhat overkill here and it certainly doesn’t carry enough hop character to justify these additions, beyond a mouth drying bitterness.
The tropical flavour is somewhat artificial and faded as the beer warmed beyond fridge temperature, being replaced by an astringency, but drank cold this is a refreshing beer and a unique take on the traditional style.
Camden Town – Show Off
Ready to show off your knowledge of 🍻 ? Then Camden Town Brewery has the thing for you! Head over to our website, to read all about their new beer: Show Off! https://t.co/cIPgdefces pic.twitter.com/kLSI5nWREA
— Camden Town London (@CamdenTownLDN) September 18, 2018
Show Off is a rebranding for Camden’s India Hells Lager, coming in at 5.8%. With a dry hopping addition of Chinook, Simcoe and Mosaic, we were excited to pour this and see how it would match up with Vocation’s Dirty Pilsner. The aroma was slightly underwhelming – more like an entry level pale ale – very malt driven.
The taste brought no surprises with the same elements to the fore, ending with a crisp lager bite. This beer really felt like it was struggling to know what it wanted to be and suffered from a lack of identity. We can only assume the hop additions were small because they didn’t translate in the expected flavours.
All of these beers are much better than your typical macro lager. Vocation’s Dirty Pilsner was our favourite of the three – it smells great, has a refreshing and bitter taste backed up with some good hopping and that distinctive, clean lager finish.
The two Camden beers are both very drinkable but not quite on the same level for us. One of the joys of beer is how subjective the flavours are and that’s why it can only be a positive to see an increasing range of craft in our supermarkets.