The good, the bad and the fruity: Alternative beers on a budget

Seán McElroy gives his verdict on a selection of beers under €2

Intoxication can come at a big cost in this country. This doesn’t just mean a cost to your dignity, but also to your bank account. With Irish drinkers paying the second highest alcohol tax per person in the EU, most of us don’t get the chance to be too discerning when it comes to choosing what we’re drinking for the night. Tesco Lager, Perlenbacher and beloved cans of Dutchie are all staples of student life and I wouldn’t have it in my heart to criticise them. However, I also want to show that we don’t need to be tied down to just these old classics. Even while drinking on a budget, there is still plenty of room to experiment – whether you want to tease your taste buds with some new flavours, or show that you’re that bit more sophisticated than the next student when it comes to drinking.

For the purposes of this survey, I’ve stuck to a specific price range of under €2 per serving and we’ll only be looking at single-serving prices (i.e. we won’t be considering multi-pack offers, etc.). Although this price limit might be a little high for what many of us would consider budget, it gives us some flexibility to look at a few different options, with many falling below the limit anyway. Our chosen examples were all bought from Tesco or Lidl, so they are also easily accessible to the average Trinity student. Formalities aside, let’s begin our list.

Praga Premium Pils – 4.7%, 500ml Bottle €1.55 in Tesco

Czech lagers have established quite the reputation among budget drinkers in Ireland, with Pražský widely considered to be one of the major players in the game. Although I can’t knock the pricing of Pražský, I can’t say too many positives about the taste either. This is where a beer like Praga starts to shine. As you open the bottle, a fairly potent metallic-alcohol smell hits you, and you wouldn’t be blamed for starting to feel uncertain about your experimental drinking decisions. Once you take a sip, however, those concerns soon melt away as the pleasant and distinct pilsner taste graces your mouth. A gentle sparkle keeps the beer lively without being overwhelming. Once swallowed, a minor aftertaste reminiscent of that initial smell returns but this time a great deal less offensive, more like a gentle memory than a zombie-style resurrection. Overall: 7/10.

Manislav Pilsner – 5%, 500 ml Bottle €1.49 in Tesco

Continuing this list with a similar sort of beer- though if we are being strictly technical Manislav isn’t a true pilsner as it was not brewed in Czechia- we have Manislav, which is produced by Pearse Lyons Brewery, operating in Dundalk. This is a fact which certainly adds notiony points as it means you can tell people you’re supporting local produce, without paying the high prices associated with many of the more popular Irish beers. From a taste perspective it’s fairly smooth and inoffensive, but equally not the most mind-blowingly flavoursome compared to other beers. Overall: 6/10.

“The wheat ale, on the other hand, has a palatable, fruity taste that I struggled to find fault with.”

The Crafty Brewing Co. Belgan Style Saison – 4.8% 500ml Bottle €1.99 in Lidl and American Style Pale Wheat Ale – 5% 500ml bottle €1.89 in Lidl

As Lidl exclusives, some points are (perhaps unfairly) lost on these two very decent beers brewed out of Rye River Brewing Company based in Kilcock, Co. Kildare. Both are unfiltered, so don’t be put off by the odd bit of sediment that can be found knocking about the bottom of the glass. Although the Saison is certainly flavoursome and has much more of a craft beer feel to it than the other options, it suffers from a persistent dry aftertaste that was unfortunately too bitter for me. The wheat ale, on the other hand has a palatable, fruity taste that I struggled to find fault with. Overall: 5/10 for the Saison, 8/10 for the ale.

Twisted Knots American IPA – 5.5% 330ml Can €1.29 in Lidl

When I made this purchase, I must admit I was led by a naive curiosity and a sense of intrigue more so than any real rationality. A grapefruit flavoured IPA, well, what could go wrong? Grapefruit is great, why not mix it in with a nice solid beer? Plenty of reasons, I soon found out. From start to finish the dominant taste of this drink is that of a bitter confusion, with the alcoholic punch of the IPA failing to settle with a flavour of grapefruit that long seems to have abandoned any pleasant fruitiness. If exoticism is what you’re after this isn’t a bad shout, but if taste is your priority, it’s a no from me. Overall: 3/10.

“…you can tell people you’re drinking a weißbier which makes you sound über cultured.”

Patronus Wheat Beer – 5.5% 500ml Bottle €1.49 in Lidl

As this beer is really just a type of Perlenbacher in disguise, it could be argued that it doesn’t belong on this list. Such an argument would be doubly flawed, however, both because it’s a really nice beer, and because you can tell people you’re drinking a Weißbier which makes you sound über cultured. Pouring with a nice satisfying head and plenty of aroma, this is a clean beer with a crisp taste. Although it might not match up to some of the more authentic Bavarian wheat beers, at €1.49 you can’t complain, and at 5.5% you should be getting your money’s worth. Overall: 8/10

Seán McElroy

Seán McElroy is a Staff Writer for Trinity News.