Scotland – natural home of tasty lager?

We picked up three great Scottish lagers last week from Utobeer. We were with friends, so we were pretending not to be sad and didn’t take any notes, which means we can’t give you much in the way of detailed descriptions. Nonetheless, they’re all recommended.

First we tried Latitude Pilsner, from the Atlas Brewery. We thought this was fruity and sherbety, and packed a good amount of flavour in for 3.9%. We wonder what the cask verson is like?

Next up was Hop Rocker from BrewDog. This is the first time we’ve had anything from BrewDog, but it certainly won’t be the last. This reminded us quite a lot of Brooklyn lager, although maybe not as intense — a good mixture of sweetness and bitter, nice balanced carbonation. The Beer Nut has recently reviewed it, here.

Finally, an old favourite – Harviestoun’s Schiehallion. We’ve always liked this one for its full flavour and wonderfully dry, perfumy finish.

Perhaps Scotland is the natural place for producing quality UK lagers? It’s a bit cooler than England (not that we’re roasting here at the moment!) and therefore well suited to lagering, and the water’s probably a bit better for it too.

Boak

PS — we note that Brew Dog are “in trouble” again — after being picked on by the Portman group for aggressive labelling, they’re now being attacked in the press for launching Tokyo, possibly Britain’s strongest beer at 12%. You can read their side of the story on their blog, here. Are they unlucky, or just shrewd at marketing?

We drank them at a bring-your-own Ethiopian restaurant in Shepherd’s Bush. Blimey, that’s some filling food. We’re still stuffed now.

The bitterest Pils is (not) hard to swallow

Wernesgruener Pils Legende is, for the moment, my new favourite beer.

It’s made near Berlin and, for a long time, was an East German speciality shipped mostly to the West. It’s now owned by the same people who own Bitburger.

I’ve been ignoring it because I read a review that said it had lost most of its character (like Hoegaarden, Urquell, etc. etc.) and I had other things to try. I don’t know what convinced me to give it a go after all, but I’m glad I did.

It’s remarkable for its bitterness, its hoppiness and its balance. I’ve bought people Jever before and watched them turn their noses up — literally — as its pungent odour assaults them about the brain. Wernesgruener is less extreme, but no less tasty.

Of course, it looks gorgeous in the glass — the thick white head rose inches above the glass and refused to move even a millimetre in the breeze.

I’m not ashamed to say that, when it’s hot, I often want to drink cold lager. This one was just what I needed.

You can get Wernesgruener in bottle at Zeitgeist. It’s sometimes also available in Aldi.

Bailey

Drinking in Heidelberg

Anyone who tells you that Britain has some kind of monopoly on binge drinking and rowdiness obviously hasn’t been to this borderline twee university city. Perhaps it was the football, or maybe the warm weather, but the local youths were certainly full of beans as they barreled around the old town knocking back tequila and chanting:

“Jawohl, jawohl – ich liebe alcohol!”

Which is not to say that it was remotely threatening. Rather charming, in fact. They were probably singing the same song at the university of Heidelberg in the 19th century. At least these days they don’t cap a session in the pub by dueling and scarring each others faces.

We spent a couple of lunchtimes in local brewpubs which, again, we found through this website.

Vetters is the best pub in terms of atmosphere and we were impressed by their relatively adventurous approach. Their seasonal special, “Heidelberg Frisch” is a Koelsch-style “obergaeriges” beer served in 200ml stick glasses – something we’ve never seen outside Cologne before. They also offer a ludicrously strong barley-wine type beer, Vetters 33. This has an original gravity of 33%, pours black with a brown/yellow head (saffron!?) and tastes mostly of treacle cut with vodka. Not that nice, in itself, but a refreshing change from the endless premium pilsners…

Scheffel’s Kulturbrauerei is a bit snooty inside, though it has a nice garden, where we took this picture. Their range includes a remarkably good kellerbier which, once again, reminded us of an Alt, or perhaps of a Belgian special. It was amber coloured, bitter and with a lot of orange flavours. The krauzenbier was good, too – very light, almost Hoegaarden like, with grapefruit and lemon flavours. We thought it might be missing a bit of malt flavour, though.

There are plenty of other pubs in Heidelberg – Unterer Strasse (parallel to Hauptstrasse and the Neckar river, up near the Marktplatz) is a good place to start, with a range of places from young and trendy to old and trad. There’s a place where you can get a range of Hoepfner brews, although unfortunately not their porter.

Notes

Vetter im Schoeneck is on Steingasse, just off the Marktplatz leading down to the Neckar. Kulturbrauerei is on Leyergasse, parallel to Steingasse about four streets east. Both are handily listed in the Lonely Planet guide to Germany.