THE ADVENT CALENDAR OF ALCOHOL – 6th December (5%-6%): Ayingerbrau Prinz
The Fat Man. The Jolly German. David Blaine. Just some of the names for that most famous native of the Bavarian Alps, Ayingerbrau lager. Ayingerbrau is an unusual brand for several reasons. It’s the cheapest lager in London outside of student bars or Wetherspoons’ style sheds (and may be cheaper than those chain pubs), but it’s also the only session lager to inspire real loyalty from its drinkers. Like several bitters, it has a definite identity, even if that identity boils down to the fat fellow in the plastic bar-top box.
There’s more to it than that, though. Ayingerbrau is curious for other reasons. Firstly its session brand seems to be better-liked than its premiums. Secondly it has an unusual three-tier booze structure: Ayingerbrau itself, weighing in at around 4.5% strength; the notorious 6.2% lager named D; and between them, the forgotten man of the Sam Smiths chain, Ayingerbrau Prinz.
Prinz at 5% is the Sam Smiths premium lager in theory but in fact its position is less clear-cut. With Ayingerbrau so close to Prinz in strength the lines between session and premium blur slightly, and drinkers whose aim is getting drunk may well head straight for the D. (On an evening out with Vic Fluro the effects of this strategy were plain: despite a five-pint head start for Dr Thomson and I, Vic was as hammered as us after three rounds on the D.) In addition, the Prinz tap ‘ a modest blue oval ‘ is dwarfed at the bar by the famous Ayingerbrau man and by the D tap, a squat and boxy thing.
So what is it good for? Not drinking, sadly. Ayingerbrau beers get nastier the higher up the range you go. The session lager is notoriously moreish and a favourite of mine, a crisp and light on the belly drink which quite belies its risky 4.5% abv. Prinz wears its extra half-percent heavily: it’s a sharper, gassier lager with a noticeable aftertaste. It’s not as anonymous as Stella but it’s nowhere near as nice as other continental premiums. (D, if you are mad enough to try it, is like a more treacly Prinz. But if you’re drinking D then the taste is not what you’re here for.)
To be fair, I have seen plenty of men ordering rounds of Prinz in a Sam Smiths: I always feel that they are missing out rather on what gives the chain its character. But one simple move would change my mind: giving Prinz a character of its own! A dashing Ruritanian nobleman, perhaps, with flowing moustache, to sit next to his stout plebeian friend on top of the bar. Then maybe this curious lager anomaly will get its due.