Magical Mystery Pour #20: Five Points Pils

Still life: Five Points Pils in the can, with Queen Victoria and a pocket watch.

The second of a series of beers chosen for us by Rebecca Pate (@rpate) of Brewing East is Five Points Pils, a lager from East London that comes in a can.

Rebecca says:

This was my beer of summer 2016. Last year, I was entirely dedicated to sours and saisons, turning my nose up at pilsners in particular. My boyfriend favours the pilsner style, but I was perpetually underwhelmed. This year, my palate has changed, making me more receptive to pales and pilsners. And it just so happened that one of my favourite local breweries released this little number, which has become a staple in our household. I still enjoy sour beer in moderation, naturally, but I don’t miss the acidity burning my throat after a lengthy session… Instead, this clean and bright Pils is the perfect Sunday afternoon beer that pairs easily with food or can be savoured by itself.

We’ve encountered a few bottled Five Points beers over the last year or two and always found them fine but middling rather than mind-blowing, with the occasional venture into accidental complexity. We gather the way to really enjoy them is on draught, and some people we think of as fairly aggressively discerning (that is, grumpy and fussy) seem to rate them too, so we’ve put our past shrugginess down to a combination of personal taste and problems arising from packaging/storage/distribution.

What we hadn’t got round to trying was their lager, partly because we weren’t sure how a brewery whose beers tend to the hand-carved would cope with this most technically demanding of styles.

We bought our cans from Honest Brew at £2.49 per 330ml. It has an ABV of 4.8%.

Five Points Pils in the glass.

It looked beautiful in the glass — perfectly clear, golden, with a soft, steady, organically architectural foam. So far, so good: no misplaced haze, the right amount of carbonation, but not fizz.

We couldn’t get enough of the aroma, either — we just kept huffing away making happy noises and thinking of a sunny day in Bavaria. Unusually for a lager it is dry-hopped and that absolutely works, surrounding the glass with a perfume mist wholesome, green, leaping-with-life summer leafiness. This is the kind of small, non-showy technique we’d like to see more German breweries play with rather than jumping straight to double IPA.

(There might have been a discordant note of something pulpy and vegetal but we didn’t agree on that and, anyway, it was hardly distracting.)

People sometimes talk about wine or beer having ‘structure’ and it sounds daft until you taste one that does. Drinking Five Points Pils we could somehow sense the flavour’s three-dimensional shape and texture: a sandpaper-grit sharp leading edge; a round, fruity centre; and then a fantail of of chewy grain sweetness. It was light but never watery, mellow without being dull. It didn’t taste of dandelions or spicy salad leaves but that’s what it made us think of in some less direct way. A real market garden of a beer.

We spent a bit of time trying to think which other specific lager it reminded us of and then it came to us: St Austell Korev. Like Korev, it isn’t some leftfield ‘take’, but a sincere attempt to mimic the Real Thing — to simply give lager drinkers an excellent lager to drink rather than obnoxiously challenging them. We think, on balance, that Five Points might be better than Korev — less reined in, only by a whisker, but enough to give it the edge.

If you like German lager, you’ll probably like this. If you don’t like lager, it might even go some way to changing your mind, nodding as it does, very subtly, in the direction of pale’n’hoppy.

Four thumbs up.

About to wrap up our review there, a paranoid thought began to nag at us: given that it is so convincing and clean, how we can be sure Five Points aren’t Pulling a Camden (as it is known) and actually having some or all of it brewed in Belgium or Germany? Well, it turns out they are, under exactly the same arrangement, described in much the same words. After exchanging some messages, however, we know for certain that any Five Points Pils in cans is being brewed and packaged in London. The stuff you find in kegs in pubs, which we haven’t tried, is likely to be Belgian-brewed, but we are assured that is also unpasteurised and unfiltered.

10 thoughts on “Magical Mystery Pour #20: Five Points Pils”

  1. Five Points Pils is terrific and I really couldn’t give much of a hoot where it is brewed – and they’ve been admirably upfront about it (it’s all on the website). They have their expansion plans and fair play to them.

    The Pils has a spritzy, zesty refreshingness alongside the green, summery, freshly-mown-meadow stuff. It’s a real achievement – and excellent on keg.

    When they launched in 2013, the beer was extraordinarily variable and I gave them a reluctant wide berth. Some 18M later, people kept telling me “wow – Five Points”, so I went back and they’d nailed it.

    Five Points is one of those I’d bracket with Cloudwater, Buxton as a brewery I fear will eventually abandon cask. Though a keen drinker of their keg output, I’d love to be wrong.

    Their 4.4% Pale is absolutely at its best on cask – the keg seems to hide much of its rich potential (and I’m an ecumenical drinker) – and the latest release – Brick Field Brown (5.4%) – absolutely sings from the cellar when drawn from the handpump.

          1. I was also aware you linked it (is where I got the link from myself!), I was just highlighting the details for Steve’s sake as he (and others here) seems to have not read the Five Points article. 😉 “Contract brewed” does not sound like the right phrase to use here was my point, not even “outsourced” as Matt uses further down. IMO.

  2. The contract brewed thing annoys me, though one of my favourite breweries does it and does a cracking beer (they do label origin on pump clips) so I forgive them, 5point have never wowed me so find forgiveness harder in this case.

    1. Read the Five Points link here: http://fivepointsbrewing.co.uk/blog/goodbye-2016-hello-2017-k-growing-pains/ – right down the bottom of the post…

      “our top up brews […] are still being brewed by our own brewers, to our own existing recipe, using our own ingredients.”

      So the Pils is brewed elsewhere, but *by* Five Points’ own brewer. (The whole thing was news to me… but as I see it they’re not “doing a Camden”, albeit I slightly wish this wasn’t a surprise coming to me via a casual skim through a blog…. hey ho. More a matter of me being too busy to keep up with what’s going on I suspect.)

      They’re buying time on kit, a bit different to “contract brewing”. More like gypsy or cuckoo brewing.

      (Contract brewing I am quite OK with so long as it is done in an open and honest way…)

  3. Gorgeous tasting notes. Why is it outsourced though? If the other brewery sticks meticulously to Five Points’ recipe than Five Points own it. Do you know whether it’s a capacity thing? Their pale ale on cask or keg (but particularly on cask) is a fantastic beer.

    1. From what I understand it is being outsourced because the beer, which was originally meant to be a summer special, is a tearaway success. The brewery is at capacity producing enough quantities of its other core beers but it looks likely and unsurprisingly that the volumes of pilsner they shift will eventually surpass its other beers.

      B&B, I am very happy you like this. This beer is my go to at the moment. I love and often eulogise about Augustiner at the moment but drinking a bottle at home will never quite be the same of drinking it as drinking it on draught in Munich. However, with the Five Points being so local and the beer being fresh, it *does* replicate that experience. So I keep replicating it as often as I can.

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