Fundamentals #115 — Utopian Doppelbock Strong Lager

For the last few years, beer folks like myself – assorted writers, bloggers, podcasters and influencers, not to mention retailers like HB&B – have been trying to make lager happen.

When craft beer came along (and by “craft beer”, I mean the most recent, post-2000s wave), some breweries were adamant that drinking lager meant you were a bad person. I won’t repeat some of the blurb churned out by these breweries during these times, but over the years I’ve come to realise that actually, this was inappropriate, and downright classist.

Lager is great, all lagers are valid and, as a genre, it is as broad a church as many other beer styles, from stout to porter to IPA. Take doppelbock, for example – as a style, it has more in common with a porter or strong mild than it does a typical pale lager, save for the exquisite dry finish, which is the hallmark of the lager beer.

When I say that beer folks have been “trying to make lager happen” however, I mean that in the UK specifically, we wanted some of the carefully made, exquisite lagers like those we’ve sampled on trips to Germany, the Czech Republic and more recently the US, where I’ve been awed by lagers from the likes of Pfriem, Bierstadt Lagerhaus and many others.

Over the past couple of years, this is exactly what has happened; breweries are making lagers true to style, using the best ingredients they can, and giving them the maturation time they need so that they can deliver that crisp, refreshing quality that makes them so special. In the UK, we’re lucky to have breweries like Lost and Grounded, Braybrooke and Donzoko, which I now consider to be among the best lager-makers in the world.

Another of these is Utopian, based near Exeter, which not only specialises in lagers, but also uses British ingredients exclusively. While it’s widely understood the UK produces some of the best barley in the world, its hops often come under scrutiny, and split opinion. However, over the past few years, hop cultivation in the UK has moved on some distance, with quality and variety both increasing, as Utopian’s beers ably demonstrate.

British ingredients are used to their full effect in this delightful beer, which is lagered for no less than 10 weeks, giving it the satisfying, drinkable quality it delivers in judicious quantities. The best way to describe it is that it’s like biting into a fresh Soreen malt loaf, delivering huge notes of dried stone fruit and sponge cake, before panning out, leaving a lick of warming alcohol to remind you that, yes, this beer is in fact 7.5% alcohol, which is why it’s in a diddy little can.

Matthew Curtis is a writer, photographer and editor of Pellicle Magazine. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @totalcurtis and @pelliclemag. Sign up to our All Killer No Filler subscription box and you'll find incredible beers like this one every month, plus more great writing from Matthew and our food writer Claire Bullen.