I loved the idea of the Hanseatic League when I learnt about them in history, all fur coats, big boats and barrels of herrings (I got a similar frisson upon finally conquering Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain in 1989 after several years of aborted attempts, it’s one of the greatest European novels, I recommend it with gusto). I would have loved the League even more if I had known of the keen interest they took in beer.
When I organised the British Guild of Beer Writers’ Lager seminar in 2008 I got Meantime’s Alastair Hook on board who then proceeded to take the whole affair by the scruff of the neck and give it a sense of authority. We met in the brewery’s pub in Greenwich over a couple of glasses of Meantime Union (a svelte and sexy black polo-necked French existentialist babe of a beer) and I felt the old feelings return as he emphasised the role of the Hanseatic League in the origins of lagered beer (or beer in general).
Which leads me to Jever Pilsener, one of my favourite lagered beers, a beer that has — rightly or wrongly — been classified as a North German Pilsner. I love it. I love that gentle nose that reminds me of white bread that has been toasted just enough for a bit of browning to show; I love the fact that the gentle first note of the nose is also joined and conjoined with an iron-like note of minerally freshness, a great contrast, a yin and yang; I love that crisp, cracker-like, appetising palate, the bite of the carbonation that would grab a herring by the hand and lead it a merry dance about the palate; I love the dry and biting finish that makes me want to lift another glass to the mouth. It’s a rollicking ride of a lagered beer — I need more herrings.