The same thing happens every year. February arrives, the temperature rises, and the UK population loses its mind. Beer gardens are full. People are sunbathing in the park. And, most bizarrely of all, people want to drink lager.
Fortunately we’re not talking about mass-produced cans of swill (I’ve covered Stella Artois and Fosters in a previous post). This time I have the pleasure of tasting two more beers from the Flavourly mystery box: 71 Lager, a pilsner style beer from Dundee, and Welsh brewer Tiny Rebel’s BoHo.
71 Brewing, 71 Lager 4.4%
The label on this beer makes a big deal of its ingredients: specifically, the water. Allegedly water from Glen Isla (just south of the Cairngorns, not far from Edradour for those who like their whiskies) mirrors the soft, low-mineral characteristics of Pilsen water.
71 Brewing’s lager pours burnished gold, with a thin white head that quickly recedes to the edges of the glass. Looking closer at the clear nectar you can see thin, faint streams of bubbles rushing to the surface. While you’re leaning in, you’ll note buttery, pale malt on the nose, with perhaps a hint of sticky wheat sweetness.
There’s more malt on the palate, along with sweetcorn and an oily, sticky mouthfeel. The finish is difficult to nail down: crisp bitterness, but faint. You’d miss it if you weren’t looking out for it.
Is 71 Lager a good lager? It certainly beats the standard Amstel or Carling you’ll find in every second-rate pub in the country, so I suppose it’s an improvement on the competition. But in the grand scheme of things, it isn’t a great beer. Better options abound, even if you’re in search of a warm-weather thirst quencher. 2/5
Tiny Rebel, BoHo Bohemian Lager 5.0%
Less focus on the provenance this time. BoHo is a Bohemian lager, that’s all you need to know.
Immediately the higher wheat content makes its presence known, as this beer’s sticky white head threatens to spill over my desk. The body is pale gold, and ever so slightly cloudy.
Having avoided soaking my notes in beer, I’m able to get a sniff: BoHo leads with sweetcorn, backed up with hints of buttered bread. It’s similar to some alcohol-free beers I’ve reviewed previously in that it reminds me of dinner at Grandma’s house, only less so.
The bubbles get in the way of the flavour at first, but once they clear BoHo strikes the tongue with crisp bitterness, which disappears as suddenly as it arrives. A softer, warmer bitterness follows: grapefruit rind softened by wheat, with an oily mouthfeel that’s lifted off the tongue by the remaining bubbles. The finish is warming and bready.
Despite weighing in a 5% ABV, this lager has a very similar taste profile to those alcohol-free beers I reviewed for Dry January. I didn’t much like them either. 1/5
Begrudgingly, I have to award the win to 71 Lager. While it’s not what I’d normally choose to drink, it’s a good expression of the pilsner style and does taste refreshing. The BoHo, sadly, mostly ended up down the sink.
So, what beer would I recommend to quench your thirst on a hot March afternoon? You couldn’t go too far wrong with a fresh, hoppy IPA like 13 Guns by Thwaites. Badger’s fruitier, lighter beers, such as Golden Champion, would be a great shout too. And Brewdog’s Hazy Jane is refreshing and fruity enough to suit a warm summer’s evening, while being strong enough to help sleep through a close, sweaty night. Just because it’s getting warmer, doesn’t mean you need to give up on flavour.