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Global brewers bamboozle lager drinkers

Added: Saturday, April 15th 2023


Heineken, Britain’s biggest brewer and pub retailer, has announced a “multi-million pound launch” of a Spanish lager, Cruzcampo. It already produces its own lager along with Moretti and Amstel here and also brews Kronenbourg 1664 in a deal with the brand’s owner, Carlsberg.

Most of these beers are produced at a giant brewery in Manchester or another plant in Tadcaster in Yorkshire. Drinkers may think they’re getting genuine Continental lagers but the truth is somewhat different. Kronenbourg 1664 in France is 5.5% alcohol and 5% here. Morreti is promoted as l’Autenica, but it’s hardly authentic when it’s produced in the UK rather than Italy.

The most shocking difference is Stella Artois, which is 5.2% in Belgium, its country of origin, and 4.6% here. The owner, AB InBev, says it lowered the strength of the British version to encourage “responsible drinking”. It could have added that it saves millions of pounds in excise duty by reducing the level of alcohol.

It says the beer is “born of 600 years of brewing tradition in the Belgian town of Leuven”. That’s comforting, as Belgium is acclaimed for the quality of its beers. The only problem is that the Stella consumed here is brewed in Magor, south Wales.

The version of Cruzcampo that Heineken is about to launch here is 4.4% while the beer brewed in Sevilla is 4.8%. Four degrees of alcohol makes a substantial difference to the taste of a beer and, again, makes big savings in excise duty.

Other lager brands that fly under false colours include Carlsberg, brewed not in Denmark but in Northampton, Carling, originally Canadian but made in Burton-on-Trent, and Foster’s, which is brewed in Manchester, where Mr Dundee can safely sup free from attack by crocodiles.

Just about the only major lager brand that is a genuine import is Peroni, owned by the Japanese brewer Asahi but still brewed in Italy.

The biggest lulu of the lot is Madri, launched with great fanfares in 2020. Madri is an affectionate term for people who live in Madrid so clearly the beer is made in the Spanish capital.

But even though Madri carries the label Excepcional it’s not only unexceptional at 4.6% but isn’t brewed in Madrid or anywhere else is Spain. It was developed by Molson Coors, a Canadian and American conglomerate based in the former Bass breweries in Burton-on-Trent.

Hasta la Vista, as they say in Staffordshire.