Lager is still a dirty word among some beer drinkers, but not all lagers are as flavourless and heavily carbonated as the infamous macro-brewed global monoliths. Many German and Czech lagers are still artisanally produced, and closer to home, more and more craft beer makers are turning their attention to producing light and refreshing yet interesting lagers.
In our list of recommendations, we hope to dispel any myths that lager is a beer for people who don't like proper beer. We're going to look at ten exceptional bottled and canned beers from established and newer breweries, with a specific focus on lagers that you may not have tried before. Better yet, they're all easily ordered from Amazon, Tesco, Asda and Waitrose.
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We all know a lager when we see or taste one, but there’s a fair bit of science behind what actually distinguishes lager from other types of beer.
The key difference is that the production of lagers involves lower temperatures than ales, using specialist yeasts that absorb much of the compounds that give darker, heavier beers their flavours and aromas, leaving lagers cleaner, clearer and crisper.
With a history going back centuries and a popularity that has never waned, it’s no surprise that there’s a great deal of variety among lagers and sometimes a confusing range of names used to label them. One of the most common is pilsner (sometimes pilsener or pils), which, when correctly used, refers to a hoppy pale lager.
With the range of beers available to buy seemingly ever-growing, the sheer choice of lagers can be intimidating, especially if you're looking to venture away from the ubiquitous mass-produced brands. In our buying guide, we're going to go through some key things to consider when looking for something new to try.
However, while some may champion the virtues of “authentic” Czech pilsners or the sun-soaked exoticism of more Mediterranean offerings, the ever-burgeoning British brewing industry continues producing some of the world’s best lagers, which can range from being decidedly fruity and crisp to having an almost IPA-like hoppiness.
Plus, when you buy British, there’s the obvious attraction of supporting local businesses and helping to boost employment in your local community. Secondly, you’re reducing the miles of travelling your booze has had to undertake to get to your fridge, thus lessening its carbon footprint.
It used to be that cans were for multipacks of gassy lagers from the offy, whereas bottles were for ales or something fancy. Like so many things, this has changed over the past ten years with the craft beer boom. Despite what many of us might think or feel, the type of container our beer comes in doesn't really affect the taste, but there are some important differences worth looking at.
Cans are lighter and easier to transport than bottles – both in terms of their carbon footprint in getting to you and how easy they are to slip into bag or pocket on the way round to a friend's. They're also simpler to stack in a fridge and take up much less space crushed down in your recycling bin.
With their thicker walls, however, bottles will keep your lager cold for longer, meaning there's less chance of sickly warm dregs as you near the bottom. And given the high level of personal preference involved in drinking, it's likely some traditionalists will go on choosing bottles over cans for many years to come.
When cracking open some cold ones with your friends, it’s always good to know what you’re letting yourself in for, so you really should pay attention to the ABV (alcohol by volume) of your lager.
Most of the lagers in our list have an ABV of between 4-5%, and while this seems like a small difference, it can have a big impact on how squiffy you feel and the number of bottles or cans you can enjoy before it’s best to stop.
One recent trend across all types of alcoholic drinks is the appearance of low-alcohol or alcohol-free alternatives, with ABVs of as little as 0.5%. The best of these will have all the flavour you expect from a regular beer and can make both an interesting and a sensible addition to your drinking session.
You don’t normally think of vegetarianism being an issue when it comes to drinks, but the use of animal-based substances is common in the production of wine and beer. Called finings, these substances could be egg whites, milk, isinglass (from the swim bladders of fish), or even blood, and are used in the final stages to clarify or adjust the finished product.
With a growing number of people preferring to cut out or cut down on their intake of meat and animal-derived products, more and more brewers are quick to point out that they avoid using such finings and are therefore vegetarian and vegan-friendly. All the beers on our list fall into this category and contain no animal-based substances.
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Lost Lager Dry-Hopped Pilsner
A Bombastic Lager From the Leaders in UK Craft Beer
Lost And Grounded
Keller Pils Hop Bitter Lager Beer
A Cracking Craft Lager From an Indie Bristol Brewery
The Free From Beer Co.
Pilsner Lager｜Case of 12
The Gluten-Free Beer That's as Good as it Gets
Premium Czech Lager ｜Case of 12
Top Pick for a Classic Czech Pilsner
Flat Tire Low Alcohol Craft Lager ｜Case of 24
A Flavour-Packed (Almost) Alcohol-Free Lager
St Austell Brewery
Korev Cornish Lager
A Simple, Light Lager From Cornwall
Meantime London Lager｜Case of 12
A Smooth Lager Made With Best of British Ingredients
Craft Lager｜Case of 12
A Brew With Great Ethical Credentials
Lagerbier Hell｜Case of 6
A Traditional German Lager From the Home of Oktoberfest
Camden Town Brewery
Week Nite Any Day Lager
A Lower ABV Lager for a Mid-Week Treat
Scottish brewers Brewdog have long been the household name of the craft beer revolution. With their Lost Lager, the self-styled brewing punks aim to claim back the lost ground dominated for too long by the big names in bland beer.
Flavour-wise, this lager is a big and bold as you’d expect from Brewdog, and pulls no punches in quenching your thirst with a vibrant citrusy taste explosion. It’s available in standard 330 ml cans and bottles, but we like the extra-generous 660 ml bottles for great value and for sharing.
Bristol-based Lost and Grounded have only been going since 2016, but it hasn't taken long for their Keller Pils lager to become a craft favourite among those in the know. They use German Pilsner malt and combine it with three traditional hop varieties to produce a light and clean lager with a pleasant touch of hoppy bitterness.
The company’s idiosyncratic hand-drawn labels make a nice change from the standard beer branding we’re used to, and if you buy their entire range, they line up together to make a panoramic scene!
While gluten-free beers are becoming more common, that doesn't mean they're all worth a sip. Thankfully, the group of mates behind the Free From Beer Co. set out on a mission to create a clean, crisp and perfectly balanced gluten-free pilsner without compromise – and believe us, they succeeded.
Using several hop varieties, this is a delicious pilsner marriage of earthy, light floral notes and mellow bitterness with considerable complexity. Apparently plenty of non-gluten-free beer drinkers rate this lager too, because they can enjoy a few without the bloat!
The original pilsner beer after which all others take their name, Pilsner Urquell is to this day still made in the town of Plzeň in the Czech Republic to the same 177-year-old recipe.
The use of the local soft spring water and classic Czech Saaz hops give this beer its distinctive, ever-popular characteristics. It’s decidedly hoppier than many other big names, with an exceptionally clean, dry, slightly grassy taste that balances its subtle sweetness and crispness well.
Sweden-based Pistonhead are at the forefront of the low-ABV beer movement, producing this impressively quaffable booze-free booze. Their Flat Tire craft lager is made to give you everything you want and expect from a lager, only without the alcohol content.
There’s absolutely no compromise on flavour here, as the lager is brewed with flavour-packed mosaic hops for hints of tropical fruit and citrus, perfectly complementing the slight bitterness and rich, malt body. And because it's alcohol-free, as well as keeping a clear head you’ll also be keeping the beer belly away, as it weighs in at only 21 calories per 330 ml.
It might sound Russian, but the name (pronounced ‘cor-eff’) is actually Cornish for – appropriately enough – beer! Made using local Cornish barley, Korev is a light and crisp lager more similar to the big mass-produced lagers than some of the craftier numbers on our list.
It comes in a big 500 ml bottle and boasts of being the perfect accompaniment to spicy food, literally cleansing the palate to bring out its bold flavours. Ideal for that Friday night takeaway or a BYOB curry house.
Some of the best beer ingredients in the world are grown in the south-east of England and have been for generations. Meantime make the most of their capital position by bringing together barley from East Anglia and hops from Kent in their London lager.
The result is a refreshing British lager that’s smooth and very drinkable, with England’s finest malt and hops at the forefront of the very flavoursome palate. Choose from a bottle or can as per your preference/party plans.
Upping the ante in the field of ethical consumerism, Toast’s beers all have one unique selling point in common – they’re made using surplus fresh bread from local bakeries. What’s more, all of their profits are donated to charities working to make the food system more sustainable.
The pilsner-style lager is light and delicately hoppy, with – not surprisingly – some nice aromas of bread. As well as being delicious, this is a beer you can feel good about drinking for all the right reasons. The only downside is that it's a little difficult to get hold of.
As the spiritual home of lager, Germany continues to produce innumerable excellent examples, not least of which is this beer from the home of the Oktoberfest, Munich. This is an exceptionally clear and light lager that’s as mild, refreshing and thirst-quenching as a good lager should be.
It comes in 500 ml bottles that make it great for sharing over a meal; barbecue foods and salads, in particular, will match it well. But be careful – at 5.2%, this is the strongest lager on our list, despite its delicate flavours.
Best known for their successful Hells lager, London brewers Camden are trying something different with their Week Nite beer. With an ABV of 3%, it’s aimed squarely at those who fancy a mid-week tipple but don’t want to go wild.
Like other low- or no-ABV beers, Week Nite has to earn its keep by showing it’s no slacker on flavour. While it may not be as flavourful as the stronger beers on our list, it’s nonetheless a tasty, hoppy alternative that’ll see you reaching for a second can (but without the guilt).
Having chosen a great lager, you want to make sure you get the most out of it. So what are the dos and don'ts of enjoying your lager?
First and foremost is, of course, the temperature. The cool, clean refreshing taste of lager is its main selling point, so it's super important that bottles and cans should be kept in the fridge and served at 4-9°C. To keep things even cooler, you could think about keeping a couple of thick beer glasses in the freezer to pour your beer into.
Another consideration is what food lager goes best with. The obvious first thing that comes to mind is enjoying an ice-cold beer with a summer BBQ or a Friday takeaway, but its crisp hoppiness is also well-suited to many lighter dishes such as seafood, salads and grilled white meat, as well as Thai, Vietnamese and Mexican cuisines.
Finished tasting what lagers have to offer and want to try something different? Not to worry, because we've done the research and prepared buying guides and rankings a-plenty to help you find even more delicious alcoholic beverages.
And that was our list of the top ten lagers to buy online in the UK this year. You might have been surprised to not see many of the old familiar names in there and to see so many UK lagers. But hopefully we've inspired you to try something new, and with the UK beer scene as buzzing as it is now, you've never been so spoilt for choice!
No. 1: Brewdog｜Lost Lager Dry-Hopped Pilsner
No. 2: Lost And Grounded｜Keller Pils Hop Bitter Lager Beer
No. 3: The Free From Beer Co. ｜Pilsner Lager｜Case of 12
No. 4: Pilsner Urquell｜Premium Czech Lager ｜Case of 12
No. 5: Pistonhead ｜Flat Tire Low Alcohol Craft Lager ｜Case of 24
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