beer reviews bottled beer

Supermarket ‘Craft Lagers’

Lager written on a pub window.

At least in terms of the number of brands available, we are currently spoiled for choice when it comes to ‘craft lager’ in supermarkets.

London brewery Fuller’s have been trying to launch a successful lager for decades. An early effort, K2, back in the 1980s, was a flop, but Frontier (4.5% ABV) seems to be achieving considerable success, at least if the sheer amount we saw being consumed on a recent trip to London is anything to go by. It might be benefiting from the fact that its stylish packaging rather implies that a trendy new brewery called Frontier is behind it, the Fuller’s name being all but hidden in tiny lettering.

Fuller's Frontier Craft Lager.Thought we’ve found the draught version perfectly fine if uninspiring, the bottles we tried hovered between just-about-drinkable and downright unpleasant. We would have liked some fruitiness, some sulphur, some Continental hop character, or some bread dough in the aroma, but got only a vague whiff of cream crackers. It seemed stale and ‘cardboardy’, with a throat-lozenge honey character where we wanted crispness. A victim, perhaps, of harsh treatment in the supermarket distribution network?

Marston's Revisionist Craft Lager.Marston’s Revisionist lager didn’t fare much better. We both suspected that, had we tasted it blind, we would have easily identified its brewery of origin. In fact, packaging aside, there wasn’t much to distinguish this from any number of standard ‘golden ales’. At first, we enjoyed its delicate elderflower and peach notes, but it finished badly, with staleness and stickiness building until the last mouthfuls were an effort. Though very cheap in Tesco (not much more than £1 a bottle), we can’t say it was good value.

We’re happy to see British brewers producing more lager, but, in general, they need to clean it up, jazz it up, or ideally both.

If you really want to pick up a UK-brewed ‘craft lager’ with your weekly shop, we haven’t found one more enjoyable than the now pretty solid St Austell Korev. If you don’t insist on a British product, Pilsner Urquell is still the best of the readily-available big brands in terms of taste, while Czech-brewed ‘own-brands’ continue to represent a bit of a bargain.

19 replies on “Supermarket ‘Craft Lagers’”

never mind eh?

I find it’s a safe bet to pick up a bottle of own brand lime cordial when picking up a few bottles of supermarket lout. Usually less than 50p and you can neck owt with a dash of it.

I really enjoyed Revisionist Lager the first time I tried it – but the last couple of times, not so much. Can’t be a QC issue can it?

And while we’re here, Tesco Revisionist Dark IPA was a bit ‘meh’.

Camden USA Hells and Indian Summer have been two lagers that I keep going back to as well as the excellent Republika from Windsor and Eton which I feel really captures that Czech bready/herbal quality. Yum!

Lager is generally quite bland and tasteless, you could argue that that is one of its key selling points.

It would be nice for so-called “craft lagers” to tread a different path, maybe pack it with Saaz to make a homegrown version of Pilsner Urquell.

As much as I like to support independent Uk breweries, if I’m going to be paying £1 more for it than the Carling on the adjacent pump I want to at least be able to tell the difference.

I wouldn’t say bland and tasteless, but, yes, the best lagers in Germany and the Czech Republic are subtle beasts: it’s all about freshness, ‘zing’, and how those minute amounts of flavour and aroma compounds come together.

Well put.

Urquell is hardly tasteless, or HB, or Ayinger, or Budvar, or Pelforth Blonde. (Paulaner maybe). Everything seems tasteless now as compared to Oregon hops. Crazy.

To be fair, the “tasteless lager” meme has been around since well before everyone went mad for US IPAs and the like. Cf Hobgoblin T-shirts passim.

My local Tesco has, amongst others, several imported German lagers such as Krombacher, Bitburger and Veltins, Vedett, Baltika 7, and Polish lagers such as Lech and Tyskie, all of which are far tastier than Carling (or, for that matter, Revisionist Craft Lager).

I also recently had the Revisionist Dark IPA and thought it was more like a rather bitter stout, really. Not my kind of thing, to be honest.

Shouldn’t admit this, really, but even for the sake of science, we couldn’t be bothered to try it.

The first revivalist (craft) lager in U.K., Freedom, is still available and is excellent.


Y’know the cynic in me sees this as evidence that a lot of “craft going mainstream” is about people having heard good things about this “craft beer” stuff and wanting something in smart packaging with “craft” on the front, rather than the sudden nationwide awakening of a taste for new and strongly flavoured beer styles.

its a bit of both, to be sure. Most people will have heard of craft beer by now, and a lot of people just want to know what all the fuss is about.

For supermarket lager from the UK, Waitrose are top banana with Glasgow’s WEST St Mungo. An astonishingly good Germanic lager “brewed to style”, as the raters would say.

Our nearest Waitrose is almost in Devon so we don’t really consider them when we think about supermarkets. By the time we’ve spent two hours getting there, we might as well push on to Glasgow.

Jazzed up lager? Williams Bros Caesar Augustus lager/IPA hybrid, for example? Pretty widely available in supermarkets up here (here, in this case, being quite near the brewery, admittedly.)

(They also have a “better than normal” standard lager. Williams Draught. Only on draught though. In kegs. Like WEST 4.)

I meant to comment on this when it first appeared – apologies on being late to the party!
I’m a bit of a UK lager nerd; when a new one pops up I’m normally first in line to bag it above all other styles. the reason (apart from being so tasty) is that it’s hard to find good ones! Actually, scrap that – hard to find good, widely available ones. I find some of the more popular ones – such as the Frontier or one produced for M&S (Harviestoun, I think?) simply too sweet. As mentioned before, the best lagers are a subtle blend of malt, mouthfeel and crisp snap.
In terms of the UK, I would certainly agree that W&E’s Republika and Camden’s Helles are up there on the top table – for the reasons stated above. Hawkshead’s lager is good too, but I can’t imagine that pops up in southern climes too much. As you say, when your local (as mine does) stocks Pilsner Urquell (still my #1), Warsteiner, and Budvar – and normally on promotional prices to boot – then you simply look no further….
ps; try the Innis & Gunn Lager – surprisingly good, I thought.

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