Summer Lager Taste Test

As Britain is drowned in mediocre craft beer and crusty real ale, it’s easy to overlook the lager. Understated, humble lager. Given a bad name by the macrobreweries that ruin them, some examples deserve some serious respect. No, they aren’t swamped with hops, barrel-aged or 15% abv, but give them a little sunshine and they cannot be matched.

Ask most here in Glasgow which lager they prefer and you’ll likely get one unified chant: Tennent’s. The local pint. If ever the West was to become independent from the rest of Scotland, the saltire would be replaced with a Red T. Tennent’s begins life as a strong, foul-smelling fermented syrup, polluting the eastern parts of our city with the stench of Edinburgh. It’s then watered down (“cut”) before canning or kegging at a nearly-tolerable 4%. Because it’s mostly water, it’s actually not bad; a bit less horrible than Carling or Stella. It is truly artisanal compared with Miller.

I’ve enjoyed many-a-can of tepid Tennant’s in plenty of our public parks, but now I feel there’s just no excuse for that. There are far tastier and thirst quenching options available in the smallest supermarkets and local off-licences alike.


Name: Früh Kölsch

Style: Kölsch

Origin: Germany

Abv: 4.8%


Name: Augustiner Lagerbier Hell

Style: Munich Helles

Origin: Germany

Abv: 5.2%


Name: Alechemy Talisman

Style: Pale Lager

Origin: UK

Abv: 4.1%


Name: Camden Hells Lager

Style: Munich Helles

Origin: UK

Abv: 4.6%


Name: Coors Light

Style: American Light Lager

Origin: USA

Abv: 4.2%



This was a blind study conducted by two beer snobs. Myself and a friend each poured the five beers, in a random order, into numbered glasses. These were tasted one by one and each marked according to the Beer Judge Certification Program style guidelines. Beers gained points for appearance, aroma, flavour, mouthfeel and overall impression, up to a maximum of 50 points. We have then combined our scores and simplified this to an overall score of 1 to 10, with a separate score for how refreshing we felt each was.


Früh Kölsch

A Kolsch is a beer from Cologne, and this was one of a few examples of the style available in the local and excellent beer shop, Hippo Beers. It’s a ‘hybrid’ style – meaning it’s fermented with a yeast that gives lager-like qualities, but at the higher temperatures of an ale yeast. Kolsches, for that reason, are very popular amongst home brewers who struggle to control temperature accurately.

This one was a moderate hit. It was by the far the fruitiest of the beers, and definitely betrayed its ale origins. We agreed it was not nearly as dry as we’d hoped for and that it had a moderate, quite harsh bitterness. Much of the more delicate malt- and yeast-derived flavours you might hope for in a Kolsch were not present, but this could be down to the time it took for the bottle to get here.

Overall score: 7/10

Refreshment rating: 6/10

Augustiner Lagerbier Hell

This is a personal favourite of both of ours, and so it was to my fellow judge’s great disappointment that he slammed it. It is for this reason alone that he did not wish to be identified. From Munich, this beer is an oft-cited example of a Helles, a style that should be extra pale, malt-forward, not very hoppy and supremely drinkable.

I found it to be brilliant in all of those regards – straw-gold, completely clean, plenty of maltiness but with a bone-dry finish – and gave it a world-class score of 43/50. My friend didn’t, and said he was picking up on astringent after-taste. He didn’t think it was a bad beer by any means, but was put off enough to mark it down. We had to agree to compromise on the final score.

Overall score: 7/10

Refreshment Rating: 8/10

Alechemy Talisman

This bottle was included as the wild card – I wanted something from the latest wave of Scottish craft breweries, and it even had “refreshing” on the bottle. How could I resist? Unfortunately, we had to discount this beer from the final ranking. On pouring the 5 beers, this was significantly darker than the rest, so we could immediately identify it.

But still, we tried it. I really wanted to like it, because I know that Alechemy and James, the head brewer, are both excellent at what they do. But neither of us could stomach more than a mouthful. It reeked of diacetyl, a butter-like aroma that’s one of the most basic and horrible off-flavours that can be present in a lager. It was far too sweet, almost cloying. Definitely not refreshing, definitely not one to have again. Try their other beers and avoid this one.

Overall score: N/A

Refreshment rating: N/A

Camden Hells

Another Helles, but this time fresh from London. This was a surprise and overwhelming hit. I’d had it before, and never had I quite appreciated what an excellent beer it was. Maybe that’s down to beer snobbery. Maybe I’d assumed a good Helles must be made by rotund moustachioed men from Munich and not from some hipster English upstart. How wrong I was.

We both ranked this beer as world class. Even more malty than the Augustiner, and completely clean. It finished very dry and not-too-bitter and just begged you to go back for another sip. I finished my entire 100ml glass and once the rest of beers were ranked and the results revealed, this was the first I went back for.

Overall score: 9/10

Refreshment Rating: 10/10


Coors Light

Don’t mock. If someone complains that they do not like a Coors Light, they’re an untrustworthy individual. It is impossible to find fault in this beer, because it tastes and smells of nothing. And sometimes that’s what you want. I’d rather have an American Light Lager any day, over pretty much any other mass-produced pish. This tastes like nothing; they taste of nastiness.

When I went to sniff this beer I had to look down to check that there was indeed beer in the glass. Another sniff filled my nostrils with foam and still I perceived nothing. Myself and my fellow judge were in agreement – supremely refreshing, expertly brewed and utterly tasteless.

Overall Rating: 5/10

Refreshment Rating: 10/10

One Comment

  1. I tried my first Kolsch this year. It was a Goffel Kolsch and was a pleasant surprise, but not really what I’d class as a lager – if anything I’d say it was closer to an English IPA. The Munich red lager at West is the closest I’ve been to a lager conversion, but I’m inclined to give the Camden one a try if their Gentleman’s Wit is anything to go by!

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