10 best lagers to buy
Beer expert Marverine Cole has taste-tested and chosen the 10 best lagers you have to try, from well-known classics to indie gems
There are many beer styles, with lager arguably being the most well-known and popular around the world. Global brands such as Peroni and Pilsner Urquell, or popular UK stalwarts such as Adnams may be the most familiar lagers to you, but there's a wide world of lager to discover, from small brands and independent brewers to unique styles and brew methods.
This best lager list list is definitely for you if you truly enjoy drinking lager, and you’re looking for something a little different from the norm. There’s a fair bit of variety in this list. If you're a lager novice, or buying for a friend, we've also explained what lager is, what food to best pair with lager and how many units are in a standard can.
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Best lagers to buy at a glance
- Best alcohol-free lager: Smashed Lager 0.0%, £5.50 (4 x 330ml)
- Best low-alcohol lager: Lucky Saint 0.5%, £6 (4 x 330ml)
- Best session lager: Signature Brew Studio lager, £13.50 (6 x 330ml)
- Best lager can art: Wild Card Brewery lager, £14 (6 x 330ml)
- Best Czech-style pilsner: Pilsner Urquell, £6.50, 6 x 330ml)
- Best unfiltered lager: Purity Brewing Co. Lawless lager, £21.60 (12 x 330ml)
- Best hybrid lager: Adnams India pale lager 4.6%, £23.99 (12 x 330ml)
- Best luxury lager: Curious Brew, £25 (12 x 300ml)
- Best continental lager: Peroni, £6.50 (4 x 330ml)
- Best African-inspired lager: Eko Brewery Eko Pils, £45.60 (12 x 440ml)
What is lager?
First and foremost you are looking for a lager to be true to the beer style. The yeast used is a bottom-fermenting one, which means it is happy fermenting at a cooler temperature (between 7-13C), and then stored cold for it to condition. Lager means ‘to store’ in German, and in the middle ages lager was stored in cold caves particularly in the hot summer months. The result is different from many other beer styles, which are far more pronounced in aroma and flavours.
Classic lagers do not offer a lot on the nose in terms of aroma, except perhaps a slight grass-like earthy one. A lager is usually straw-coloured when poured, showing up ‘bright’ (clear). The taste is often fresh, but not overly hoppy in terms of bitterness or fruity in flavour, so don’t go expecting those from a straight-forward lager. Make sure you have a good read of your chosen can or bottle and take note of what the brewery say they’ve produced. It might say they’ve added their own take or a quirk, which is not uncommon these days, because breweries like to be unique to try and stand out from the crowd.
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How many units of alcohol are there in lager?
Taking Peroni as an example: Peroni is 5% ABV and is approx. 1.6 units in one 330ml bottle. At 43 calories per 100ml, there is 141 in one bottle. You can use the Drinkaware app to work out the units in any any drink as the alcohol content of beer varies. Is beer fattening? Well, the more lager you drink at once, the hungrier you get so regular succumbing to an attack of the munchies will not help. Nor will drinking ten bottles in one sitting, so drink moderately.
Best lagers to buy 2023
Drynks Smashed Lager 0.0%
- Available from Sainsbury's (£5.50, 4 x 330ml), DryDrinker (£27.58, 6 x 660ml), Amazon (£5.50, 4 x 330ml)
Best alcohol-free lager
This really is a super-straightforward, alcohol-free lager from five-year old brand Drynks, that will float the boat of anyone who wants to reduce their booze count, but not feel excluded from drinking.
Smashed Lager did a rather decent job of fooling me into thinking it was a beer with a kick, such was its fresh and uncompromising flavour. It feels just like a regular lager, but has 0% alcohol due to it all being removed during a vacuum distillation process. This beer is bound to raise the metaphorical spirits of anyone who’s been awarded (or volunteered) designated driver for that trip home.
Lucky Saint 0.5%
- Available from Amazon (£24, 12 x 330ml), £6 (£4 x 330ml), Sainsbury's (£1.80, 330ml), Majestic (£21.60, 12 x 330ml)
Best low-alcohol lager
Another low-alcohol beer high on my list is Lucky Saint. This unfiltered 0.5% lager pours cloudy and golden, with a lightly citrus aroma. Describing itself as ‘holy in flavour’, I cannot help but agree because, for me, it completely defied any preconception I had about low-alcoholic beers being dull, lifeless, and unimaginative.
It slightly beats its low-alcohol rivals on the calorific stakes at being just 53kcal per bottle. Founder Luke Boase partnered with a Bavarian brewery to produce Lucky Saint. Traditional lager brewing techniques are used to produce a 5% strength beer, before the alcohol is then vacuum-distilled off. Available at most major supermarkets now, too.
Signature Brew Studio lager 4%
- Available from Signature Brew, £13.50 (6 x 330ml)
Best session lager
This award-winning indie brewery is more than used to making collaboration beers with bands like The Darkness, Hot Chip and Big Joanie. Sam and the team at the Walthamstow brewery produced this Czech pilsner as an homage to people in the independent music scene which fought to survive throughout the pandemic. In 2021 they even rather generously donated £250,000 worth of pilsner-style lager to venues that had struggled due to widespread closures during Covid.
That news is as impressive as this Studio lager looks and tastes. From its can art, where the lines on the can reflect the grooves on vinyl records, to its classic straw-coloured beer inside. You might pick up light floral notes from the Hallertau heritage hops picked in Germany, before the earthiness and a refreshingly pleasing bitter finish.
Signature Brew, £13.50 (6 x 330ml)
Wild Card Brewery lager 4.4% ABV
- Available from Wild Card Brewery lager, £14 (6 x 330ml)
Best lager can art
This is a Czech Pilsner-style lager, usually brewed with Target, Epic and Pioneer hops and English malts. The beer cold ferments for six whole weeks and is unmistakable, not least because of its exquisite can art featuring a bird in the place of a joker on a playing card. The team are lovers of local wildlife that’s often depicted in their art with sale proceeds going to nature causes.
Coming back to the beer, when you pour it, you get hints of gooseberry and its refreshing nature and lip-smacking bitterness would make it a firm favourite in anyone’s books. A fascinating fact about East London-based Wild Card Brewery, especially if you’ve never heard of it before, is that it’s led by co-founder, head brewer, author and TV presenter, Jaega Wise, of Prime Video’s Beer Masters fame.
Wild Card Brewery lager, £14 (6 x 330ml)
Pilsner Urquell 4.4%
Best Czech-style pilsner
I have no shame in saying this Czech pilsner (pilsner means “from Pilsen” in Czech) will never ever leave my top ten. It’s been in it for more than a decade now. This beer is definitely for you if you like a pronounced and lingering bitterness in your lager. The beauty of PU (as I like to call it) is undeniable though. Its outstanding heritage is one place to start: neither the recipe nor the brewing process has changed since it was first brewed back in 1842. It’s spawned imitators the world over.
PU beer is gloriously golden in colour, which alongside the spicy, herbal-like flavour, offers hints of caramel and biscuit – the latter two indicative of pilsner style of lager. If you can get yourself over to Prague to its visitor centre, you’re in a for a real treat learning more about the vast history of this multi- award-winning beer that’s just celebrated its 180th birthday.
Purity Brewing Co. Lawless lager 4.5%
- Available from Purity Brewing, £21.60 (12 x 330ml)
This little vegan beauty comes in a 330ml can, complete with a kooky cartoon goat on the can, inspired by the goats on the Warwickshire farm that’s home to the brewery. Described as ‘unfiltered and hoppy’, Lawless is hazy when poured and brewed following the traditional Bavarian purity laws using four ingredients: water malt, hops and lager yeast. And Purity doesn't just stop there.
The delicious sharp kick of citrus is all down to their cheeky blend of hops (including Eldorado bringing a lush aroma akin to mango). The brewing team also mix up their malts along with the pilsner malt, using wheat malt and Caragold, which all help deliver the golden colour of the beer. Then, it’s coolly lagered for 40 days. Drinking this beer is a truly joyful experience.
Purity Brewing, £21.60 (12 x 330ml)
Adnams India Pale lager 4.6%
- Available from Adnams Brewery, £23.99 (12 x 330ml)
Best hybrid lager
This is a cheeky little hybrid by Southwold-based Adnams, from its ‘Jack Brand’ range. It’s a crafty union of two of the world’s most famous beer styles: a lager and an India pale ale (IPA). It’s still brewed with lager yeast as opposed to an ale yeast. In fact, calling it a ‘hybrid’ might be like a red rag to a bull for Adnams’ head brewer, Dan Gooderham who reckons this emerging style is less like “two styles competing against each other, rather some different orchestral players making a symphony.”
The beer is unfussy and delicious, offering zest on the nose and a clean bitter taste. You might even catch a little gooseberry or elderflower. A fun offering from one of Britain’s oldest and most progressive breweries, lasting 150 years so far.
Adnams Brewery, £23.99 (12 x 330ml)
Curious Brew 4.7%
- Available from Curious Brewery, £25 (12 x 330ml)
Best luxury lager
A lot of lagers call themselves ‘premium’, but this title is truly fitting for Curious Brew (4.7% ABV) produced by leading Kent wine producers, Chapel Down. Curious Brew is not just any old beer to be swilled down thoughtless or in a hurry.
A lychee-like quality coupled with a sweetness, closest to honey are what I get with every mouthful. English lager malt with Saaz, Cascade and rare Nelson Sauvin hops all collide with the pièce de résistance: the beer is re-fermented with champagne yeast. Yes, you read that right: champagne yeast. No wonder this flagship beer bagged a gold in the lager taste category of the 2019 World Beer Awards!
Curious Brewery, £25 (12 x 330ml)
- Available from Morrisons (£6.50, 4 x 330ml), Waitrose (£6.50, 4 x 330ml), Tesco (£16.50, 12 x 330ml)
Best continental lager
Whichever version you choose (original, alcohol-free, gluten-free) this beer never loses its pale golden, crisp and refreshing flavour signatures with the touch of style, which has made Peroni Italy's number one premium lager beer since it was first brewed in 1963. There’s a delicate balance of bitterness, citrus and aromatic notes in this beer.
The alcohol-free version deviates little from its big alcoholic sister because it uses the exact same ingredients, and the gluten content is reduced, all complete with an endorsement by the Italian Coeliac Association.
Eko Brewery Eko Pils 5.5%
- Available from Eko Brewery, £45.60 (12 x 440ml)
Best African-inspired lager
Eko Pils is brewed with coconut palm sugar, as an homage to the ingredients used in the renowned African beverage, palm wine. One of our biggest hitters in the alcohol stakes, weighing in at 5.5%, this beer delivers what you’d expect from a premium lager in terms of crispness.
Eko Brewery is one of only a handful of Black-owned and operated breweries in the UK. Led by Anthony and Helena Adedipe, the husband-and-wife team unapologetically fuse influences from family roots in Nigeria and the Congo into their entire beer philosophy. What’s not to like?
Eko Brewery, £45.60 (12 x 440ml)
Best food to pair with lager
You’re looking for something that contrasts yet does not overpower the flavour of the lager. A dish with some creaminess or fattiness that the lager can cut through is ideal, or even a dish with spices which can complement the bitterness of the lager. My favourite is pork belly, or for a fish option this coconut fish curry recipe combines the creamy and spicy elements perfectly. For vegetarians, try this vegetarian casserole or indulgent gnocchi with blue cheese.
How we tested lager
When it comes to taste and flavour, beer can be subjective. Why? Because it’s all down to your own unique palate, so the decision about whether you like a beer will come down to things like if your nose likes the aroma, and if your mouth and tongue like the taste, the perceived level of bitterness, or even the aftertaste.
Like I said, everyone is unique, therefore a beer your friend might rave about, could turn out to be a beer you hate. And not because it’s a bad beer, but because your taste and that of your friend are distinct.