Crew Premium Lager

A Beer That Earns the Description “Premium”

I’ve run through a spate of craft lagers recently, approaching a dozen. I mean here the standard craft lager of the house, not aspiring to pilsner-style rigour of the type discussed in this post.

Some identify as Helles, the Bavarian style of blonde lager that is nominally maltier and less hopped than pilsener, but again end as craft lager staples.

Craft lager is a mainstay of the craft brewing business, but increasingly in recent years has resembled mass market lager. The earliest craft lagers such as Sam Adams Boston Lager, or Brooklyn Lager, are almost a different animal compared to these.*

In a blind tasting, it would be hard to differentiate many from Molson Canadian Lager, say, or Stella Artois.

No doubt that is the intention of the brewers, who would argue they are responding to market demand. The fact that these beers are made in most cases of all-barley malt, save an addition sometimes of wheat to assist head formation, doesn’t affect the basic profile.

The reason is the thorough fermentation, bringing the typical example I’d think to circa 1008 final gravity. It results typically in a thin, dry palate.

These are not the beers for me, but I found one recently that gets the balance just right between craft flavour and general market appeal:



Crew Premium Lager is made by Railway City Brewing in St. Thomas, Ontario. The beer has good residual malt sweetness, “bready” in the words of the website –  nothing approaching, say Pilsner Urquell, but detectably malty nonetheless.

A flowery hop note informs the taste, possibly French Strisselspalt, with German-type bittering underneath. Not “in your face” as the most assertive craft examples of pilsner beer, but pleasingly tasty.

One glass invites another, whereas for the rest of the group mentioned, it was hard to finish the glass.

There is an analogy here to established European brewing in that many names, reputed as they may be, are today rather light on the palate. German and Austrian beers generally fare better but even there, seem to get lighter with every generation.**

One I liked a lot recently is Konig Pilsener, brewed in Duisburg in western Germany, part of the family-owned Bitburger Group. Like the Crew Premium Lager it has a good malty quality; the Crew is its craft counterpart, imo.

There is no point mentioning the craft lagers I didn’t favour: as I’ve said before, they please their market, which is validation enough.

I’d rather speak up for what I do like. And Crew makes the grade, in a metaphor apt for the circumstance, I’d say.

*This is not entirely so, as some early craft lagers were mass market-styled. But most in Ontario, say, had assertive taste such as Upper Canada Lager, Brick Lager, Steam Whistle, and Creemore Lager. Today the craft norm is rather lighter, imo.

** Dr. Al Haunold, the famous American hop scientist, observed some years ago that on a visit to Austria, his birth-land, the beers seemed similar to the American norm of 30 years ago. See my discussion in 2018.



2 thoughts on “Crew Premium Lager”

  1. Thanks for your note Gary about the beer and the fact that you had a desire to keep it positive by only mentioning the one that stood out. I will search for it.
    However, you have given me an opportunity to stir the pot here because I am still of the mind that premium means paying more for something that one should.
    I guess it’s having grown up in the UK and even though the meaning has been changed after all these years in North America, it still stands out to me as a glaring misuse of the true meaning of the word.
    Of course I will acknowledge that if one goes further back, many hundreds of years or more into the origin of the term, it did at one time mean a more of a prize or a gift than “a higher price than expected”.

    • Thanks Michael. I think that original meaning, or you said deriving from the 1800s, did connote something unearned. Of course, by reference to a standard which itself might be arguable by some, but point taken.

      So for example, one could argue as many did that much UK keg beer in the ’60s and ’70s fetched a premium in that often it was weaker than, and didn’t taste as good, as draught bitter. Also sometimes it was actually more costly.

      But today the term means really just, well, premium quality! I think Creemore used it from the beginning but it had a long history before that in the beer business of course.

      The price thing really in Ontario has gotten so strange, in that beer often comes at the same price for very different qualities. Pilsner Urquell and an indifferent craft lager can fetch the same price, even lower for the former, often.

      This is why I defer to the market, as some view the “indifferent craft lager” as much better than Urquell. I don’t get it, but …

      This is a reminder I need to drink a full pint of Mountain Lager, hopefully soon! I always remember it as earning all the price and more.



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