The lager spectrum

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All commercial lagers sit somewhere on a spectrum.

On said spectrum, Becks might act as the zero point, with its more-or-less neutral flavour. We can take it or leave it; it doesn’t actually taste unpleasant; it’s better than nothing. Maybe that’s where Peroni lives, too.

Above that point, there are many good, very good or even excellent commercial lagers. Estrella Damm, for example, might not be remotely like a craft beer, but it’s good. We enjoy drinking it, and even find it a little moreish. It has a certain something.

But, head the other way, beyond the Becks neutral zone, there is the murky world of the nasty lager.

Nasty lagers aren’t just bland or boring: they actually offend the tastebuds. We’d rather drink water than San Miguel, even on a hot day in Spain. What is that flavour? Onions burned in butter? Stella Artois is in the same boat, with a taste that suggests someone has bunged a bit of lighter fluid in to pep it up.

What are your candidates for the nasty end of the spectrum?

15 thoughts on “The lager spectrum”

  1. I laughed hard when I read San Miguel. It’s probably the worst industrial beer from Spain, how can they brew it so bad?

    Also I remember Imperial and Sagres from Portugal and Cristal from Peru, that skunky taste is terrible.

  2. Castlemaine 4X – was stunned to see the sub 4% (is it 3.5%?) draft version of this still on sale as recently as last year. Vile.

    Carling I’d put just below the Becks zero point – it’s not really offensive, just utterly bland. Offensively bland? Brahma too – no taste at all.

  3. Tennent’s lager. When I was at Heriot-Watt they sometimes had free Tennent’s with the refreshments for the evening guest lectures. Even when it was free it still tasted foul.

  4. Any other suggestions for *good* commercial lagers? We enjoyed Wernesgruener a couple of years back, and love Urquell. (As we might have mentioned.)

  5. Moritz is my Spanish lager of choice. I quite enjoyed Toohey’s Extra Dry in Oz, certainly a cut above Toohey’s New.

    In Cyprus, Leon shines above Keo and I’m definitely in the Mythos camp in Greece as against the inferior Alfa.

  6. What about brazilian commercial lagers? I did feel like killing the bartender in a London bar when he tried to push me a bottle of Brahma (hey mate, I do know my country’s crap lager).

    Now they are trying some publicity stunts like “Antartica – twice filtered under 0 celcius” or “360 degrees Skol, the anti bloating beer”. Oh dead.

    Here in Brazil I’ll keep with Kaiser Gold or Heineken, lightstruck or not. I’d drink Urquell forever if it didnt cost as much as 10 pounds down here.

  7. Hmmm…My comment didn’t take. Let’s see if I can remember what I said…

    What’s really interesting is how different many German and Polishlagers taste in the States as compared to in Europe. We receive their beers in green bottles and they’re always skunked. However, to drink them fresh and/or from the tap in their homelands is a different experience.

    Sort of surprised not to see Bud, Miller, or Coors mentioned. What about the myriad of hipster/nostalgic brands owned by Pabst?

  8. Pedro — here’s what’s going on with the Brazilian beer in London:

    https://boakandbailey.com/2010/10/23/marketing-beer-a-process/

    It doesn’t matter what the beer tastes like as long as people are willing to buy into an idea of “Brazilianness”. They’re buying a memory of a travelling experience, or a feeling that they’re global sophisticates. Not meaning to be patronising here — that can be fun! And branding can actually make things taste better! (https://boakandbailey.com/2008/10/23/nice-branding-can-make-things-taste-better/)

    Zac — Michelob is the beer I usually hear people mention as a US commercial lager which doesn’t completely suck. Bud is pretty much neutral, I think. It doesn’t actually taste *nasty*.

    Beer Nut — Moritz was pretty good, now you mention it.

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