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'I have only drank lager once but even I know Carlsberg is not the best in the world'

The Bar Man, by Jeff Hoyle, Friday, May 24, 2019

So it is official. Despite telling us it probably was, Carlsberg have now admitted their lager is not the best in the world.

They have even shared some of the comments the brand has inspired – ‘Tastes like stale breadsticks’ and ‘like drinking bathwater your Nan died in’.

I can’t really speak from experience, as I have never to my knowledge drunk a pint in a pub in England. Well, maybe once.

I was in York on Cup Final day in 1975 when West Ham beat Fulham and there was a brewery strike on, so I had a pint of lager for the one and only time – but that hardly makes me an expert.

However, I do have some admiration for the group. I went on a tour of their historic brewery in Copenhagen, with its famous Elephant gate.

I learned the group is largely owned by the Carlsberg Foundation, which funds the Carlsberg Laboratory researching into biochemistry, especially as it affects brewing.

It also funds the natural history museum at Frederiksborg Palace, so at least if you are drinking poor beer, you are doing some good.

The motivation behind Carlsberg’s honesty seems to be falling sales and a desire to reposition the lager in the market.

It has been at the cheaper end of the mass produced lager scene for some time and, as Liam Newton their UK marketing man, says: “At Carlsberg UK, we lost our way. We focused on brewing quantity, not quality; we became one of the cheapest, not the best.”


They have reformulated their product and renamed it as a “Danish pilsner”, rather than a lager.

It has the same alcohol content of 3.8 per cent, but a “crisper, fuller flavour”, according to the company.

I guess this is to increase its appeal to drinkers who are used to ‘craft beer’ with some kind of back story.

My guess is that despite the name, it will still emanate from the lager factory in Northampton, rather than Denmark.

So, are their competitors quaking in their boots?

As far as I know, Stella has no plans to revive their ‘Reassuringly Expensive’ campaign which ran from 1991 to 2007, and featured a series of adverts based on classic French cinema – including a surrealist offering which changed the slogan to ‘Reassuringly Elephants’, perhaps a reference to the aforementioned Elephant gate.

It takes some kind of genius to persuade drinkers that it is a good thing to pay higher prices.

Carling have created a new type of glass with grooves down the sides so that four pints can be linked together, making them easier to carry – ideal for sporting events and pop festivals, I guess.

Mind you, unlike Belgium, outlets here seem to pour beer into any branded glass rather than reserving them for the named product, so you may well be able to carry your Ghostship in them.

Fosters have played the snob card. Their latest TV advert pokes fun at the hippy millennial, with his curated beard, wanting a decent pint and implies that he cannot tell the difference between craft beer and chilled Foster’s Lager – an unlikely scenario in real life, even if it is served in a jam-jar.

Heineken’s ‘refreshes the parts that that other beers cannot reach’ inspired many predictable and not very funny comments in pub toilets all over the land, but was more successful than their 2018 campaign ‘sometimes lighter is better’ which disappeared without trace after criticism, especially in Chicago and South Africa.

Perhaps it is better just to let the beer do the talking.

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