Tag Archives: Pale Lagers

168. Baltika No. 3 Classic

In some ways, this was a nice find: a beer I’d never seen before and was wondering how to track down. Until, that is, I accidentally spotted it through a shop doorway not far from my house whilst out for a run.

As soon as the sun finally came out, it was time to wander back to Lordship Lane and liberate a bottle or two from the fridges at my local Eastern European bodega, which I didn’t actually know existed until this point.

Baltika No. 3 Classic

Brewed in St. Petersburg, Russia, Baltika No. 3 is strangely hard to find in the UK. Strange because the No. 7—which I assume to be pretty much identical—is all over the place. It’s a regular fixture in any branch of Spoons, for a start. There are probably some other numbers in the range. Who would know.

Baltika No. 3 Classic

Initially, it’s hard to find anything to say about this beer to make it sound interesting. It simply isn’t. It’s a bottle of 4.8% lager with quite a smart label. It’s cold. It tastes of lager. The bottle is quite big. If it were more than 5°C on my park bench this afternoon it might even be quite refreshing.

But there is a little bit more than that going on in there. There’s a fairly solid malt base, a faint aroma that I guess is from a Noble hop, such as Saaz, and some vanilla ice cream notes that suggest the brewers have at least tried, even if they are owned by Carlsberg these days.

Fine. Nothing life-changing to see here, but this isn’t a terrible beer.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Baltika Breweries, St. Petersburg, Russia
Style: Pale Lagers
Strength: 4.8% ABV
Found at: Eastern European Food, Lordship Lane, London SE22
Serving: 500ml bottle

85. Budweiser Budvar

Allow me, dear reader, to take you on a brief stroll down Memory Lane, or a least down St. Martin’s Lane, to a magnificent little pub in the heart of London’s West End named The Salisbury.

The Salisbury is a bit of a stunner: a proper old Victorian pub, with a well preserved Gin Palace interior full of etched mirrors, brass statuary and wood panelling, and more history than you can shake a stick at.

This is a pub where Dylan Thomas, Michael Caine and Terence Stamp have drunk, where Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton held their second wedding reception, and where Gered Mankowitz famously photographed a beautiful 27-year-old Marianne Faithfull in the 1960s.

Now, bear with me when I tell you that we’re going to have a pint of lager.


It’s a good, Czech lager all the same and—you may be surprised to learn—it’s what I used to drink of a far-too-regular lunch hour or evening in the Salisbury many years ago, when I used to work just around the corner. See, Memory Lane after all.

There isn’t much to say about Budvar itself, in all honesty, unless one wants to read all about their legal struggles with Anheuser Busch once again, in which case go here. It’s a fizzy, golden confection, quite drinkable as lagers go, with a malty, floral taste and a slightly sweet finish. But it’s served here in peak condition, and in the correct glassware, which is why I brought you back here.

Beer aside, it’s great to see that The Salisbury is still in good hands: manager Jas is still in charge, running a tight ship as always, keeping the pub resolutely sports-free, and effortlessly switching between languages as he guides tourists through a minefield of unfamiliar beers and British pub customs.

Easily one of the better pubs in the area, a bit of nostalgia for your correspondent, and that’s 85 beers ticked off. If that was a bit boring, I have number 100 sat in The Official 300 Beers Cellar (my kitchen) and I can almost taste it now.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Budějovický Budvar, České Budějovice, Czech Republic
Style: Pale Lagers
Strength: 5.0% ABV
Found at: The Salisbury, St. Martin’s Lane, London WC2N
Serving: Keg, pint

73. Augustiner Hell

Perhaps I missed a trick by not covering this Munich-brewed lager during October. Or at least during Oktoberfest, much of which—in a rare departure from the traditional Teutonic common-sense approach to matters—is in September.

In fact, this one had been sat around the kitchen for a while before I noticed the Mindestens haltbar bis Ende date on the bottle. I don’t know exactly what that means, but it sounds fairly sure about it, so we’d better get a move on.


Behind that quite handsome, ornate label sits a predictably pale, golden lager with a thinnish head of white froth which doesn’t hang around.

On cracking open the bottle and pouring, there’s a strong waft of a beery, slightly stale aroma that’s neither alluring nor especially offputting.

There isn’t a great deal of flavour of course: German lagers tend to be made for drinking by the Steinful and getting heartily yet pragmatically sloshed in the Bierkeller rather than savouring slowly by the fire.

There’s a sort of maltiness in there somewhere, along with some strangely sharp-tasting fruit notes, but not even the faintest hint of hops, at least to my palate, which admittedly is more accustomed to gigantic American-style IPAs and whatnot.

All in all, Augustiner Hell isn’t an unpleasant beer by any means, and might be quite refreshing if drunk chilled in the Biergarten in the Munich sun, but it’s hard to get excited about this one.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Augustiner-Bräu, Munich, Germany
Style: Pale Lagers
Strength: 5.2% ABV
Found at: City Beverage Company, Old Street, London EC1
Serving: 500ml Bottle

27. Kirin Ichiban

Now then. Finally an actual bottle of pale lager that has no pretensions of being anything else. There are—perhaps unsurprisingly—very few of these in The Book, and whilst I’m by no means a lager drinker, I’m willing to consider that the handful that are in there are chosen for a reason.

Apparently Ichiban (meaning “the first”) is made with the single, first pressing of the wort in the mash tun. The finer points of the mechanics of brewing are lost on me, but I suppose that must be the beery equivalent of making extra virgin olive oil.

Kirin Ichiban

Kirin Ichiban certainly looks the part, with its very smart silver and gold embossed label featuring Japanese text and an ornate depiction of what seems to be a horse/dragon hybrid creature.

It’s pretty fizzy and pale, as befits a lager, with a generous frothy white head. There’s a nice malty whiff to it that I’m starting to learn is typical of the better quality examples of the style.

Ichiban is actually rather tasty. It’s fuller-bodied than expected, and very refreshing, but with enough of bitter finish to make this really quite a satisfying bottle of beer. Not bad at all.

Incidentally, I note that my bottle is actually brewed under licence in the UK, by Wells & Young’s of all people. It would be interesting to see how the original Japanese version compares.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Wells and Young’s, Bedford, England
Style: Pale Lagers
ABV: 5.0%
Found at: Bossman Wines, Lordship Lane, London SE22
Dispense: 330ml Bottle