It is an intractable part of human nature to compartmentalise and categorize. Placing useless information in an arbitrary order helps us make sense of the sheer volumes of “stuff” that assaults our ageing and booze addled synapses.
In the world of beer, this amounts to deciding whether to assign bottles to shelves marked “IPA” or “Saison”. But, as in any system of classification there are some very grey areas; after all, one persons “Cascadian Dark Ale, is another’s “Black IPA” or “Dry-Hopped Stout”
But, if there is one category of beer that is almost universally recognised and understood, it’s lager.
Lager: The great leveller, the drink of the global proletariat, the king of beers. Surely, there can be little confusing or uncertain about the world’s most widely drunk booze?
As you probably know, there’s a little bit more to it than that and the drink known as LAAAGERR encompasses a broad selection of bottom fermented beers: From delicate, pale Bavarian Helles, to evil, dark, grainy Doppelbocks.
One bloke who knows his way around a glass or two of lager is James Dempsey, head honcho (and only employee) of Eyeball Brewing in East Lothian. Last year he took the big step up from homebrewer to commercial production. And his beer is now reasonably available throughout Auld Reekie.
He has limited himself (for now) to a range of lagers which he claims are German inspired. But despite finding his beers well made, cheap and rather tasty, I find them quite different to the classical German styles.
Take, for example his flagship brew, the Yellowball Lager, which he claims is a pale lager. It pours a deep, burnished, buttery gold – far more colour than you would expect from a true Helles. It offers a soft, creamy head, but is only moderately gassy. Frankly, it’s an attractive, yummy-looking beer, but it doesn’t look very “lagery”
It’s fragrant, with very pleasant aromas of warm croissants, honey and melted butter. The palate is quite sweet and crunchy like ginger nuts or baked apple. James is clearly laser focussed on the malt component of the brewer’s art and it has resulted in a medium-to-full bodied beer with great length and complexity-not a clean Friday night chugger.
And fair play to him: These are great wee beers, that are keenly priced (£2.20-£2.60ish) from a small, local producer. I’ve been chucking them down my neck for a few months now and enjoyed every single one. They may not fit snugly into your preconceived notions of what lager should be, but you owe it to yourself to give them a shot.