Craft Lager and Whatever IPA

Whatever IPA.

We’ve been observing the way people, including some of our own friends and colleagues, order their drinks in pubs these days.

Here’s a fair­ly typ­i­cal exchange:

What you hav­ing?”

[Point­ing at the keg taps] “What­ev­er IPA they’ve got.”


Yeah, fine.”

Malt­smith’s (Caledonian/Heineken, 4.6%) is the same as Samuel Smith India Ale (5%, cop­pery, Eng­lish hops) is the same as Brew­Dog Punk (5.6%, pale, pun­gent) is the same as Goose Island IPA (AB InBev, 5.9%, amber, piney).

We’ve noticed more or less the same ten­den­cy with ‘craft lager’ – a phrase we geeks could prob­a­bly lose weeks bick­er­ing over but which to most con­sumers has a fair­ly clear mean­ing: some­thing with CRAFT LAGER writ­ten on its label, and a brand invent­ed in the past decade.

Fuller’s Fron­tier, Hop House 13 (Guin­ness), St Austell Korev, Cam­den Hells (AB InBev), Lost & Ground­ed Keller Pils… They’re all seen as avatars of the same thing, despite the vast diver­gence in flavours, and regard­less of own­er­ship, inde­pen­dence, and so on.

It was weird the oth­er night to be in Sea­mus O’Don­nel­l’s, a cen­tral Bris­tol Irish pub, and see on draught not only Guin­ness stout but also a Guin­ness brand­ed gold­en ale, cit­ra IPA, and two craft­ed-up lagers – Hop House 13 and Guin­ness Pil­sner.

This line-up is what peo­ple expect to find in 2018, and brew­eries are oblig­ed to respond if they don’t want to lose space on the bar to com­peti­tors.

The frus­tra­tion for beer geeks is that this feels and looks like what they want­ed, what they clam­oured for, but the beers them­selves are so often dis­ap­point­ing – hops a lit­tle more in evi­dence than the old main­stream, per­haps, but rarely more than that.

And if you’re wed­ded to ideals of inde­pen­dence, qual­i­ty and choice, it’s all a bit wor­ry­ing: most con­sumers are appar­ent­ly easy to befud­dle, or don’t care, which is bad news for those who do.

8 thoughts on “Craft Lager and Whatever IPA

  1. And there’s a quote in the CAMRA 21st Anniver­sary book:

    What are you hav­ing?”

    Oh, what­ev­er is their keg.”

    These con­cepts have become com­modi­tised in the same way as “bit­ter” and “cook­ing lager”.

  2. Mass Obser­va­tion not­ed the same thing in The Pub and the Peo­ple in the 40s: most drinkers are not con­cerned with beer qual­i­ty, and will more usu­al­ly speak of amounts con­sumed, price, and oth­er non-taste fac­tors. A minor­i­ty was dif­fer­ent, as MO go on to dis­cuss as well. Noth­ing has changed 75 years lat­er. The peo­ple who run the inter­na­tion­al beer busi­ness under­stand this, although it’s doubt­ful most or any know what MO is.


  3. I notice friends who have been life­long pre­mi­um lager drinkers switch­ing to keg PAs or IPAs (Cam­den, Brew­dog) when they are avail­able, but when they’re not, they go back to the Moret­ti or San Miguel; they won’t make the fur­ther step to a cask PA.

    1. There’s basi­cal­ly a cat­e­go­ry of punter who basi­cal­ly wants cold, fizzy and refresh­ing but slight­ly classy and exclu­sive, isn’t there? It’s like the way that a lot of inter­na­tion­al pre­mi­um lager brands (San Miguel, Per­oni, Tiger etc) were seen as being a cut above yer basic Stel­las and Carls­bergs when they launched in the UK, but inevitably lost that exclu­siv­i­ty in the process of cap­i­tal­is­ing on it and grow­ing mar­ket share. So now if you want some­thing that marks you out from the undis­cern­ing mass­es while still being an essen­tial­ly low-main­te­nance drink then you get a craft lager or a keg IPA.

      1. Yes, if you’ve been drink­ing pre­mi­um lager all your life, then “cold, fizzy and refresh­ing” are intrin­sic qual­i­ties of beer. Punk IPA has them, Land­lord not so much.

  4. A few years ago this post would have gar­ners 100+comments.

    Stu­dents tend to drink what­ev­er is cheap and easy drink­ing , which tends to be lager, but as soon as they get just a lit­tle bit of mon­ey, they gain this appetite for try­ing some­thing more sophis­ti­cat­ed.
    This used to be pre­mi­um lager, now its more like­ly to be an ipa.

    The rea­son they dont go into cask is because in the major­i­ty of pubs, the only cask ale on offer is… an acquired taste.
    Most young peo­ple will drink some­thing like cit­ra quite hap­pi­ly, but give them a pedi­gree and they’ll tip it into the plant pot.

    Too many pubs focus their beer offer at old men and then won­der why no young peo­ple come in

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