A delicious lager, that was, until recently, not really available in Britain or the US. Until about a year ago, Löwenbräu was, in the UK at least, available only in a rather unpalatable version, that was brewed under licence in the UK. However, this changed recently, and now Löwenbräu is exported from Munich to the US and UK. The export version is probably my favourite lager. It is less bitter than most lagers available in the UK, and as such has become rather popular amongst Imperial College students. In the UK, Löwenbräu is available as half-litre cans, 330 & 660ml bottles, and on draught in some pubs, especialy in central London. For the least expensive pint of Löwenbräu in London, I suggest Southside Bar, in Imperial College's South Kensington campus, at £1.96.

Literally translated from German, "Löwenbräu" means "Lion's Brew", so called because this particular Bavarian lager was first brewed at a tavern called "The Lion's Inn" in the year 1383

There's some interesting history behind Lowenbrau in the United States. Sometime in the seventies, Miller bought the contracting rights to brew Lowenbrau in the US and be the sole distributor of it. At this time, American beer drinkers didn't have the choice of beers they do today (no microbrews, almost no imports at all), so to have an honest to goodness German beer in the US created an alternative to Budweiser, Miller and (at the time) Schlitz, even if one of the Big Three was brewing it.

Now, in the grand tradition of macro-brewing, Miller managed to pull two massive screw-ups. The first one, was that the beer wasn't very good. This is clearly a big deal, particularly to the folks over in Germany (more on this later). The second problem was more of a public relations gaff. In all its ads, and on all the packaging, Lowenbrau was claiming it was an import (thus giving it some hipness). Budweiser, who was in a battle to get more market share over their rivals, filed suit against Miller, claiming that they had no right to call Lowenbrau "imported", since it was being brewed in the US. The courts ruled in favor of Budweiser and Lowenbrau had to have something on its can saying "brewed in the US" or something similar to that.

This has created what I think is an interesting phenomenon in import brewing. Since brewing beer in the country it's distributed is far cheaper than shipping it across the Atlantic or Pacific, brewing companies would much prefer to contract their beers to be made in the US for the US market (or in the UK for the UK market and so on). However, to do that would force the companies to remove the "imported" label off the beer, which makes a big difference to the yuppie market that drinks the imports. So, they've found a way around it: Canada. If you look closely at a number of the imported beers in the US, you might notice that they are not brewed in England or Australia or Japan, but in Canada. Familiar beers like Harp and Fosters (which I don't believe you can find in Australia) are brewed just across the border and then brought down to the US. And, while I have been unable to find proof of it, it wouldn't surprise me if Corona was made in a malquiadora just across the border and shipped the three feet over the Rio Grande which makes it "imported" (sorry for that brief editorial).

As for the quality of Lowenbrau, apparently the brewers in Germany have taken away the contracting agreement with Miller and given it to Labatt's. Which means that Lowenbrau is once again an imported beer.

Lowenbrau lager was on sale as a premium lager in Britain at least as early as 1977. I was working as a barmaid the summer that Elvis Presley and Marc Bolan died, and can recall being shocked at the price - it cost 33pence/pint (the same price as Guinness), other lagers costing 28-31pence/pint! (Yes, I really am that old!)

Lowenbrau is currently distributed in the Britain by Refresh UK who are about to try to relaunch it as a 'youth' brand, with a whole new marketing campaign. It has been brewed in the UK by Ushers and Carlsberg-Tetley, but now a stronger German brew will be imported from Munich.

Lowenbrau lager is endorsed by the Vegetarian Society UK.

The Löwenbräu brewery is based in Munich, in the Löwengrube ("Lion's Den"), and has been brewing since at least the 16th century. It has been the largest brewery in the city since the 19th century and makes, alongside its flagship lager "Löwenbräu Original", nine other beers for the German market:

Three wheat beers - "Hefe Weissbier", "Schwarze Weisse" and "Kristallweizen"
A pilsner - "Premium Pils"
A non-alcoholic beer - "Alkoholfrei"
A shandy - "Radler"
Two dark lagers - "Triumphator" and "Dunkel"
Plus the self-explanatory "Oktoberfestbier".

The Löwenbräu brewery is a part of Munich's tradition and today is involved with the local community in ways such as sport sponsorship and its great contribution to the Oktoberfest.

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