Crises drive innovation. Crises drive quick decisions.
Brewers are having to manage tragedy and opportunity as equal bedfellows. Brewers, shorn of their sales to the on trade, are having to step rapidly into the opportunity presented not just by off sales, but specifically by selling their beer and brands direct to the door of their customer…. particularly as we hear of more stories of the big supermarkets using the opportunity to negotiate hard (well, who would’ve thought it?) and squeeze those who cannot afford the squeak. Perhaps the ‘direct to customer’ model is a taste of the future. Perhaps this pandemic will be the tipping point.
Localish to me is Thornbridge – well, not quite local. There are tiny micros on my doorstep selling in poly pins and ugly flagons, but they were slow to react. Right at the start of the lockdown, I was fishing around for a brewer to support nearby and the e mail arrived from Thornbridge as I was doing it. I had the task. I needed a brand to hire. The marriage was made.
Of course they’ve been on my radar, Thornbridge. Of course I’ve had Jaipur and one or two others. Of course I rated their beers’ quality. But they remained a brewery in my soft focus. In the periphery of my mental vision, not dead centre. The lockdown, the e mail, the desire to go local, shifted them into my cross-hairs.
A mixed case chock-a-block with their core range and seasonals arrived soon after. Four of Jaipur. Four of the eminently sinkable Green Mountain, a new go-to beer. Four of their seasonal Jamestown, with ‘Hamilton‘ ringing in my ears and a suspicion it was a close relative of Jaipur (on another continent). Tall cans of the ripe grapefruit-bomb, a fruit-laden smack in the face, Halycon – too strong for supping, just right for sipping. Four of Florida Weisse which I’m still trying to work out whether it is a raspberry sour as described, or a funky twist on a Berliner Weisse.
And then Lukas. A pale, Helles-style lager beer. The most straight. Frankly, of the lot, the most… boring.
I know I’m off beam in the beer writing world in my love of lager. Yes I get excited about new ale and sour releases. God, how I enjoy a pint of a well-kept cask. Yes, I can cock-an-eyebrow at milkshake sours served with coffee ice-cream. And yes, who can’t enjoy the sheer boldness of the wavy-Hazy generation, or quintuple IPAs from Cloudwater and their progeny. But there comes a point – perhaps 3pm on Friday (or Thursday); or just after some exercise, when the only beer that will do is a lager.
A proper lager. Not this waspishly light, rice-and-enzyme brewed nonsense, where all you taste is a tingle. No, proper lager. Malty and rich; layered with subtle, perceptibly-imperceptible complexity. Lukas is one such beer. It’s worryingly light in its colour, but any Fosters-Alarm-Bell-Sounding-Here stop right there. It pours with a billowing, effusive head which needs careful control. It sports a sensible, ‘Oh, just another one‘ level of alcohol (4.2%). It leads on its grain bill, but the hops are there, providing the gilded cage within which the malts (and touch of wheat) can roam free. It laces down a clean glass in gulp-measures; it’s gone in seconds.
There’s all sorts of nonsense claims about how everything will be different post Lockdown – the non-sensical queues for McDonald’s or Ikea prove those lies, sadly. But one change we should all make permanent is to buy independent; buy direct and buy beer done properly.