Friday, 13 April 2012

Cask Conditioned Lager?

At the Great British Beer Festival last year I was lucky enough to work on the bar which contained the Champion Speciality Beer, Oakleaf's I Can't Believe It's Not Bitter, a 4.9% cask conditioned lager. At the time I wasn't overly convinced by it. I felt that it wasn't quite lagery enough for lager drinkers but yet too lagery for hardened cask ale drinkers. I just found it to be more of a novelty and lacked any real discernible flavour. I didn't find it unpleasant and wouldn't complain if someone bought me a pint of it in a pub but it just lacked something. Despite my reservations it sold well and the reaction to it was a mix of people echoing my sentiments and people loving it. The beer did little to convince me that cask conditioned lager would sweep across the nation revolutionising the beer world. It wasn't a bad beer it just wasn't great. 

I hadn't given cask lagers much thought until recently. When on a trip to the Anglesea Arms in South Kensington, an excellent pub which stocks a great range of cask ales mainly from Sharps and Adnams but often has a few local beers available, I was intrigued when a cask was changed and a pump clip for Sharps Spring Cask Pilsner appeared. The beer is described by Sharps as "a pale straw beer with a herbal lemon aroma" with thyme added during maturation for extra flavour. When I went to order a few pints the barman commented on how good a choice I was making and that he absolutely loved the stuff. It poured a lovely light straw colour with a thick white head and had a great citrus aroma. The aroma was continued into the flavour with a slightly sweet citrus flavour followed by a clean crisp bitterness that was all backed up by just a smidgeon of malt. It was clear it had been cask conditioned as the heavy carbonation and sharp coolness associated with keg lager was lacking. A friend described it as "lager without the fizz", in his eyes a criticism, but I found it to be just the tonic needed on a warm spring evening. It quenched my thirst well and was very drinkable and moreish; the kind of beer you could drink all night. I'm not usually a lager drinker but I have to say that the Sharp's Spring Cask Pilsner is one of the best beers I've had in 2012 so far. If you see it I'd highly recommend trying it for yourself.

After trying these 2 beers I'm starting to become convinced that cask lager is an avenue which brewers should definitely consider. It's a niche market because I struggle to see hardcore lager drinkers change from keg to cask lager but as with most things to do with beer choice is always good. I can really see a place for beers like this in the hot summer months when a crisp refreshing beer is perfect.


  1. Good read as per usual. The comment about the Sharp's Spring Cask Pilsner is very true.

  2. Lighthouse, from The Gower brewery, is a nice lager style drink. Although I live quite close to the brewery it is all to rare from the pump.

  3. A good cask lager can be available though rare. Have not tried the Sharp's, Scheihalagen (spelling!) is reliable. Best ever Kinver Terminator (I'll be Bock) 7.9%, utterly brilliant.
    Keep pushing at festivals to stock REAL Lager to educate the drinkers.