Experiments In Drinking: Thornbridge Czech Mates

The craft beer pioneers launch a new lager – whatever next?

The problem with craft beer brewing is that eventually, you will have gone through so many new and exciting variations on IPA or stout that you run out of places to go and so either have to concoct increasingly outlandish flavours – which seems to be the Northern Monk way – or else you have to return to the beginning. Hence we have Thornbridge – one of the earliest craft brewers in the UK – now launching a Czech-style lager in partnership with Budvar*.

Now, despite what people might think, I have no particular beef with lager. It’s simply that the stuff that used to be the standard offerings in every British pub – and presumably still is in the sort of pubs I no longer go to – were increasingly pissy, gassy and awful. They were, basically, the entire reason why the craft beer revolution began in the first place. I’m all in favour of a decent quality lager, especially in the summer months – and my memories of visits to Prague are of decent beer that only had a passing resemblance to what was sold as lager – sometimes even bearing the same name as those Czech brewers – that are on tap in the UK.

It’s been a long time – too long – since I made my way to Prague so a direct comparison is not something that I can make. But Czech Mate isn’t bad. It has a certain depth – I’m not sure that’s the correct word but there is more substance and flavour to this than to your standard lager or even more newfangled brews like Camden Hels (the lager of choice in most bars these days it seems). At 4.8%, it is a tad stronger than your standard lager and, more to the point, feels a lot less gimmicky than many of the beers that are being put out by established crafters.

I can’t say that I would be necessarily seeking this out – yes, lager is all fine and dandy but it’s not been my beer of choice for a long, long time – but I certainly wouldn’t dismiss it if it was on tap. My can came at a bargain price from Lidl (a smart move from Thornbridge to have the new launch there, helping to build an audience that might not be up for experimenting with it at full mail order plus postage price) and suggests that this particular beer is being produced with an eye on the long-term. I think it has the possibility of replacing the overrated Hels as the modern lager of choice, though the name might be too gimmicky to catch on.

* I’m sure I don’t need to tell you this, but just in case – let’s be clear that Budvar has no connection to the American Budweiser beyond the latter stealing the former’s name and the several lawsuits and legal compromises that have resulted.


Like what we do? Support us and help us do more!