Having overcome a misspent youth to become a reformed drinker, hearing someone demand what the trade calls a standard lager makes me nauseous in the way reformed smokers hate people lighting-up near-by. It’s so bad that hearing of Eminem’s apparent preference for Heineken brings it on.
It’s never been snobby to poke fun at these drinkers because British brewed standard lagers really are crap and the brewers were always taking the Mik.
Sickness over Heineken is now unfair, of course. They reformed in 2003 and are ever so apologetic. ‘When Heineken entered the UK market, the Dutch brewery had to go against its philosophy,’ they plead. They came up with a bogus brewing system, creating Heineken Cold Filtered, and ‘license[d] the brewing… to Whitbread’. Even today ‘cold filtered’ is brewing code for ‘crap’.
The story of lager in the UK is a very sorry one indeed. It was introduced in the 1960s and very, very, cheaply produced – typically in half the time of continental counterparts – on the basis that the British drinkers would know no better. Recognising the poor quality of the product, brewers suggested it be served with lime to make it palatable and marketed it at women (who rarely drank beer back then).
I was converted to ale by Ian Botham and Max Boyce when speaking for Robinson’s, Stockport’s independent family brewery. They used to produce a thing called Einhorn (they brew at the Unicorn Brewery, geddit?) which wasn’t a lager, but a keg pale ale brewed to look one. Manchester brewer Holts did the same, calling theirs Holtzenbrau.
If anything the brewers had overestimated their public. With marketing support for traditional British ales cut right back and keg ales (forerunners to ‘smooth’ beers) forced on many, people starting drinking the cheap rubbish straight and in quantity. Which shows that a quality slogan – like ‘refreshes the parts other beers cannot reach’ – is more important than a quality product.