Thursday, 13 May 2010

Lager of the week — Jever Pilsener

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. 


  1. This was originally sold to me as "the bitterest lager in the world" which, in terms of mainstream products, it may still be, although that description presents it in rather one-dimensional terms. A great, and very distinctive, beer.

  2. I agree, I don't normally go for lager but on a trip to Jever I was by the local brew.

  3. I threw Jever into a blind tasting I ran in work last year, and it didn't fare too well, even against the more regular big brands. Once chap who said Jever was his favourite beer before the tasting ranked it 4th preference when tasting blind :D

    I've mixed feelings about it, but I think quite often it's stored badly here. I've seen crates of it stacked out in the sun, and with that amount of hoppiness and green glass, well, you can imagine. Have you tried Jever Dark?

  4. Barry — I have tried Dark, wasn’t that impressed with it I’m afraid, thought it fell into the corporate thinking mould of ‘we must have a dunkel’, but it just did not work for me. What the beer has made me think about is — is there such a thing as a North German Pilsner?

  5. I quite liked it, in it's own special way, but I take your point about the corporate thinking.

    Good question. There might have been, once, but things are probably all mixed up and homogeneous at this stage, at least with the bigger breweries. Though I will say that, even in my limited tasting experiences, there's a difference between the pilners of places like Franken and Northern German examples, but you probably have to look to the smaller breweries to get any real variation.

  6. Buying bottled Jever is like Russian roulette -- more than half the bottles I've had in the last year have been horrible. On form, though, it's a corker. Boak's comment on encountering Jever's sulphurous aroma for the first time: "That stuff f***ing stinks."

  7. here´s some opinion from a northern Germany beer drinker.
    It´s my favourite pilsner and yes, it is very bitter. This beer is polarising: you love it or you hate it. So the number of people who like it is smaller than the number of people who like a very tastes-of-nothing beer like Becks. But for the brewery its very ok.
    It´s a good advice not to put it in the sun or store after the date of expire. It gets pretty disgusting!

    If you are a certain driver, try Jever Fun. It´s a very good non-alkoholic beer and my under the week and after-training favourite.