We’re fascinated by British lager and try as many as we can get our hands on, hoping to find one which can compete with its German or Czech cousins. This week, we tasted two which were new to us, if not to anyone else.
On trial were Windsor & Eton Republika (4.8%) and Freedom Pilsner (5%), both purchased online from Noble Green Wines (despite their website’s efforts to prevent us) at, respectively, £2.29 and £1.69 per 330ml bottle.
Drop Dead Gorgeous
Republika takes a well-worn route in its presentation and packaging, making references to Mitteleuropa, or, rather, highlighting the underlying German-ness of parts of English culture. Silver foil and heraldry set our tastebuds up for something special — a ‘premium lager’ experience, if you like — because we’re suckers like that.
Gold rather than really pale, it didn’t fizz on pouring, but did produce a mountainous head, from under which came a brief and appetising whiff of sulphur. At first, it tasted sweet (sherbet?) but with successive gulps, bitterness built up in the back of our throats, providing an overall balance.
We struggled to identify any specific flavours, but what it reminded us of most strongly was drinking Budvar in Prague. Not profound, but fresh and satisfying, and certainly more so than weary old bottles of Budvar from the supermarket in the UK.
Those who argue that it’s time to buy British beer instead of imports might have a poster boy in Republika, and we’d gladly buy it by the case.
See, I’ve already waited too long/ And all my hops have gone
To what extent this Freedom, now based in Staffordshire, is the same brewery as the one founded by Alastair Hook and Ewan Eastham in West London in 1995 is debatable. Nonetheless, there’s a certain thrill in drinking a beer with its roots in the days before ‘craft beer’ was really ‘a thing’ in the UK.
But here’s a problem: our bottles might as well have been from 1995 for all the zing they had left in them. We don’t know how old they were because the best before date on the label was blank, but they gave the impression of having sat on a warm shelf for a good few months.
In lieu of hop aroma there was a strange but not unpleasant smell we couldn’t quite agree on, though Bailey insisted it was apple wood smoke. The overwhelming flavour was honey-sweet malt, with perhaps a touch of saltiness. Not bad, but not exactly a delight for the senses.
There is a third way…
We couldn’t resist trying our own home brewed lager in the same session and found it the best of the three — and we’re usually pretty hard on our own efforts. Rough around the edges as it is, it seemed the freshest of all (bottle-conditioning?) and was certainly more bitter.
Which British lagers should we add to our next online beer order?