Ersatzsteiner Pils

Detail from our own Epingwalder Pilsner label.

While big­ger brew­eries have tend­ed to license Euro­pean or glob­al lager brands, region­al and micro brew­ers have often turned out their own prod­uct under what they imag­ine to be a Ger­man­ic-sound­ing name. Here are some we’ve come across in our ram­bles.

Dav­en­port’s Con­ti­nen­tal Lager. Let’s start with eas­i­ly the lazi­est attempt to imply a Euro­pean her­itage we’ve come across. Could they not at least have called it Con­ti­nen­tal­brau? (c.1973.)

Elgo­od’s Ice­berg. Clever this one – a suit­ably Ger­man­ic word, but also an ear­ly use of cold­ness as a mar­ket­ing angle. (Frank Bail­lie said it had ‘a pleas­ant flavour’.) (c.1973.)

Firkin­stein. This seems to have orig­i­nat­ed in 1986 at the Fleece and Firkin in Bris­tol, which David Bruce sold off to Allied in 1988.

Litch­bor­ough Litch­brau. It was­n’t long into the micro­brew­ery boom of the 1970s before an ersatz lager came along, from Bill Urquhart’s Litch­bor­ough Brew­ery, found­ed in 1974. Bil­l’s daugh­ter recalls it sell­ing quite well.

Greenall Whit­ley Grun­halle. One of our favourite names. It was strong, appar­ent­ly. Is it the same Grun­halle con­ceived by Ran­dal­l’s of Jer­sey and licensed to oth­er brew­ers? Or did great minds think alike? (c.1973.)

Hall and Wood­house Brock Lager. Sounds a bit like ‘bock’, nice Ger­man­ic ring, but also anoth­er word for bad­ger, from the Old Eng­lish. Nice­ly done. (c.1973.)

Hilden Hilden­brau. ‘A dis­tinc­tive brew which under­goes sev­er­al weeks con­di­tion­ing’, said Bri­an Glover in 1987.

Rud­dle’s Lang­dorf Lager. Brewed at Lang­ham. Ged­dit?

Samuel Smith’s Alpine Lager. AKA ‘man in a box’. Bore the Ayinger name under license for a while, but now back under it’s orig­i­nal, retro, 1970s name.

Tadding­ton Morav­ka. We remem­ber this being launched in, we think, 2008. Not ersatz Ger­man­ic, in this case, but faux Slavon­ic, and very coy about its Der­byshire ori­gins.

Vaux Norse­man. Appar­ent­ly ‘passed through a cool­ing unit’, accord­ing to Frank Bail­lie, so could have been called Norse­man Extra Cold, if they’d thought of it. (c.1973.)

Young’s Sax­on. Young & Co. pro­duced var­i­ous lagers over their life­time. Sax­on was on sale in the ear­ly 1970s, but we remem­ber see­ing the plain­ly-named Young’s Pil­sner on sale c.2004. Not fond­ly remem­bered.

Have we missed any cork­ers? And does any­one remem­ber drink­ing the obso­lete beers list­ed above?

Of course, con­ti­nen­tal brew­ers have also been known to apply Ersatz Eng­lish names to their attempts to brew ales...


46 thoughts on “Ersatzsteiner Pils”

  1. I’m sure St Austell had one, but you’d have to ask Roger for its name, on the oth­er hand going slight­ly off piste, Whit­bread launched GB lager in 1999 or 2000, which I seem to remem­ber was dis­pensed through bath taps…and then there was Iceni’s LAD lager in the late 1990s…

  2. You being South­ern Jessies have missed out some of the best. But first­ly your Grun­halle ques­tion. It was the oth­er way round. Greenalls licensed Ran­dalls to make it.


    Lees – Edel­brau, Tulip
    Hydes – Kalten
    Hig­sons – Hig­son’s Pil­sner , lat­er Kaltenbrau
    Holts – Regal, Holtenbrau,
    Robin­sons – Ein­horn
    Thwait­es – Stein
    Matthew Brown – Slalom
    Mans­field – Marks­man
    Usher/Vaux – Norse­man (men­tioned above)
    Harp – Satzen­brau

    These are off the top of my head. You are mis­in­formed about Grun­halle too. It was a mere 3.8% though there was for a while an Export at 4.5%

    Don’t for­get Skol.

  3. I should add that in the­o­ry it was more com­pli­cat­ed than that. Greenalls set up a sep­a­rate com­pa­ny for Grun­halle and licensed it to both. Pick the bones out of that.

    Also brewed by Devenish. A Greenall was chair­man of Ran­dalls. Did they own Ran­dalls? I don’t know, but pos­si­bly.

    1. Yeah, that might count, though it would be bet­ter it it was Eton­brau… or some­thing to do with Saxe-Coburg Gotha?

  4. Moravka’s actu­al­ly real­ly nice. I do wish they would­n’t hide the fact its a good qual­i­ty Eng­lish lager though, I sup­pose they think it would hit sales by asso­ci­a­tion with more promi­nent Eng­lish lagers like Car­ling etc.

    1. We thought it was quite clever at the time, but the more keen we’ve become on trans­paren­cy, the less we like it. (The beer is still very pleas­ant, or at least it was last time we had it.)

        1. Point of sale just says “Morav­ka” (or at least used to). Most peo­ple we were with who did­n’t know assumed (under­stand­ably) that it was Czech.

  5. Greenalls, Devenish and Ran­dalls were all linked, hence they all closed down at the same time when Greenalls pulled out of brew­ing.

    Oth­er won­der­ful erstaz lagers were:
    Arkel­l’s Kel­lar
    Tol­ly Cob­bold Husky (tru­ly vile)
    Fuller’s K2 (nev­er real­ly got off the ground…)
    Ever­ard’s Sabre
    I’m sur­prised no-one has men­tioned the tru­ly awful Courage Hofmeis­ter (I always want­ed to stran­gle that bear)

    A bit off top­ic, but still lager-relat­ed, an old boss of mine (dead a few years now) went on a brew­ery tour at Guin­ness Park Roy­al with the staff social club at work, and on try­ing the lager offered him, said “this is much bet­ter than than Harp piss they sell in my local”!!!!

    1. Arkel­l’s Kel­lar def­i­nite­ly counts, and as for Hofmeis­ter – how could we for­get!?

    2. Greenalls, Devenish and Ran­dalls were all linked, hence they all closed down at the same time when Greenalls pulled out of brew­ing.

      Is that right? Accord­ing to the new-mod­el Ran­dal­l’s Web site,

      Mem­bers of the Ran­dalls fam­i­ly owned and ran R.W. Ran­dall Ltd right up until 2006, when they decid­ed to sell the com­pa­ny to a group of pri­vate investors. Under new lead­er­ship and with new invest­ment Ran­dalls has been re-invig­o­rat­ed. This has seen a move to a pur­pose built ware­house, the instal­la­tion of a bespoke 60hl brew­ery, the pur­chase a chain of off-licences and air­port shops and the refur­bish­ment of many of its ten­ant­ed pubs.

      I vis­it­ed Guernsey in 1998; I found a cou­ple of places sell­ing draught beer from the Guernsey Brew­ing Com­pa­ny (which var­ied from decent to foul, in the lat­ter case almost cer­tain­ly because the staff did­n’t know what they were doing). No draught in Ran­dal­l’s pubs, although they did have a real­ly wide range of their own bot­tled beers, some of which were very good indeed. (Not BC, of course.)

      By the looks of it all that’s gone by the board under the new regime, although they are now brew­ing one draught bit­ter as well as Bre­da and (drum­roll please)… Oran­je­boom. Which does­n’t count for this thread, being Dutch, but still – blast from the past or what?

  6. Ran­dalls of Guernsey was owned, or part-owned, by the Greenall fam­i­ly, I believe. Tandie will cor­rect me if I’m wrong. I’m sur­prised he’s for­got­ten Amboss from Hydes, Amboss being the Ger­man for anvil – ged­dit? (And, of course, Ein­horn is Ger­man for Uni­corn, hence the name of Robin­son’s offer­ing). In a sim­i­lar vein, Nim­mo’s of Cas­tle Eden has some­thing called Schloss lager, which begged for the adver­tis­ing slo­gan “Get sloshed on Schloss!” Hall and Wood­house had “Brock lager”, after its bad­ger tm (should have been Dachs lager, of course), Tol­ly in Ipswich had Kro­ner lager, and Phipps of Northamp­ton sold Stein lager.

  7. I remem­ber Ein­horn was a real­ly pleas­ant beer, Grün­halle was pret­ty foul, unfor­tu­nate­ly, in the 70’s, in Cheshire, G&W pret­ty much had a monop­oly.

    1. Agreed – there were a lot of Green­hall pubs in Shrop­shire, where my then girl­friend came from, and Gru­en­halle was hor­rid.

  8. Hydes’ Amboss lager (Ger­man for “Anvil”, the brew­ery logo).

    Many of these prod­ucts were also top-fer­ment­ed “bas­tard lagers” – in fact a very light­ly hopped ale brewed with pale malts and chilled down.

    Robin­son’s Uni­corn sur­vived in a few out­lets until sur­pris­ing­ly recent­ly. Appar­ent­ly it still had a fol­low­ing amongst some first-gen­er­a­tion lager drinkers. It was also pret­ty unpleas­ant.

  9. Ah – that will teach me to check for lat­er replies before I post. K2, actu­al­ly, was named as part of a spon­sor­ship deal by Fullers with the K2 expe­di­tion of 1986, but after the dis­as­ters which struck that expe­di­tions and oth­ers the same sum­mer, result­ing in 13 moun­taineers los­ing their lives, Fullers qui­et­ly with­drew the brand. How­ev­er, of course, they now had a set of con­i­cal fer­menters on site, installed to brew K2, which quick­ly proved emi­nent­ly suit­able to brew­ing their ales …

    1. K2 was still around in 1990 at least. I remem­ber John Keel­ing say­ing that K2 was dropped because due to economies of scale they could buy in inter­na­tion­al lagers cheap­er than they could make their own.

  10. My mem­o­ry of drink­ing lager in the mid to late 70s was that Grun­halle actu­al­ly was­n’t too bad, and even at 3.8% it was still stronger than many of the nation­al brew­ers’ lagers – ISTR Heineken was 3.4% and Carls­berg a mere 3.0%.

    I also seem to remem­ber that some of the lagers that actu­al­ly were bot­tom-fer­ment­ed had a slight hint of what I would now call “noble hop” about them, which the mass-marked cook­ing lagers cer­tain­ly don’t now. At the time, Car­ling was a notable excep­tion to this.

    I had real­ly been large­ly weaned on to ale by my 18th birth­day, though.

  11. Slalom Lager spon­sored rug­by league for a few years. ‘After A Try, You’ll Be Con­vert­ed’ was the slo­gan, which as a kid I thought was a work of genius (shiv­er­ing in the sleet at Lawkholme Lane as Widnes pul­verised Keigh­ley for the 700th time).

    Samuel Smith also did Prinz lager (a bit weak­er than Ayinger if I recall).

    1. I think Prinz was actu­al­ly a five-per­center and thus stronger than Ayinger. Alpine Lager has now been refor­mu­lat­ed as Sam’s 2.8% cheap­ie, and Tad­dy Lager has become the stan­dard lager in their pubs.

  12. I remem­ber being proud­ly told by Palmers that they’d nev­er done a lager dur­ing the heady ersatz days of the 1970s

  13. Ron Crab­tree of the Sair Inn near Hud­der­s­field has now been brew­ing his splen­did Lin­fit beers for three decades. The pub is at the top of an aching­ly steep hill called Hoyle Ing. In the ear­ly days Ron brewed a lager, and it was of course called Hoyleinger­brau.

    1. Ha! That’s bril­liant. If he’d squeezed an umlaut in some­where, we might have a win­ner.

  14. I rather like the name used by Tony Allen of Phoenix Brew­ery in Hey­wood – Pil­sner Irwell (although I guess that being south­ern jessies you won’t get that one).

  15. Con­is­ton make a top fer­ment­ed ‘lager’ called Thurstein. I was­n’t impressed but I don’t think I’ve had a cask lager that I’ve liked.

  16. i came across Greene King-Noble Eng­lish Craft Lager last men­tion on the pump­clip it was GK but defen­ite­ly Eng­lish and craft accord­ing to them.

    1. Thanks, John. Had­n’t come across this before. It’s an inter­est­ing angle, at least, but they’re being very coy about it. Assume it’s at the ‘con­sumer test­ing’ stage or some­thing.

  17. A bit relat­ed – the dis­count lager brew­eries in Italy seem to fan­cy Omlaut in the names of both brew­eries and beers, hav­ing a Ger­man (or Austrian,/South Tyrolean) sound­ing name prob­a­bly means qual­i­ty.

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