September Newsletter - Love Thy Lager
Lager has got a bad rep – even though it’s still the most commonly consumed beer wordwide. Or maybe precisely because it’s the most commonly consumed beer. Us crafties reckon that if the masses love it, it can’t be good – or something like that. It’s true that if you say the word lager a lot of us probably think of mainstream, easy to slam down, super-chilled, pale beers that you can pick up cheap from pretty much anywhere. Oh yeah, and that Underworld song from Trainspotting – “lager, lager, lager”… You know the one. The point is, it’s not a style that’s associated so much with craft beer or just generally high quality beer. From “watery” Buds to the supercharged Special Brew and its association with the worst kind of anti-social behavior, lager has got a lousy name for itself.
The thing is, there are plenty of great examples of lager on the market and some especially good ones being produced by craft breweries. Like any product, there’s the good, the bad, the average, and the downright ugly. We want to shine the light back on the good stuff – so here goes. Here are my Top 3 reasons why you should drink a (good) lager tonight:
1. Brewing lager is a science and an art. So, you know, respect.
Lager yeast is a fragile thing – it needs time and deep, quiet cold to work its delicate magic. Think a chilly 4 degrees C as opposed to ale’s balmy 14 degree ferment. It is a bottom-fermenting yeast which attenuates much more slowly and less thoroughly than the top-fermenting yeast used in brewing ale. It can also ferment the sugar melibose (I got my lab coat on for this bit) which ale yeast can’t do. The upshot is a greater remnant of sugar left in the beer, better clarification, and a full-bodied, mellow beer with fewer esters (the fruity, flowery smelling stuff).
The Bavarian brewers of the Middle Ages got the ball rolling on lager when they discovered that the beer they stored in freezing cold caves during the winter would continue to ferment and resulted in a smooth, mellow brew which was, to put it mildly, a hit. Think of it this way – if you’d spent centuries drinking heavy, super hoppy ales, you’d be pretty stoked to throw back some of this good stuff on a hot summer’s day.
2. Variety. Or, if you think you know lager, think again.
Pale, high carbonation, medium hop flavour, average ABV right? Well, right a lot of the time but definitely not all of the time. There is a huge diversity of colour, flavour, and alcohol content in lagers these days – it is, after all, quite some time since those Bavarians brought their lagers out of the ice caves. Take the Coedo Beniake for example. It pours a beautiful reddish brown and delivers a hint of chocolate and caramel before a nice dry, slightly bitter finish. Plus, 8%. Or check out the Moon Dog Love Tap V2 which is a great sessionable lager that’s bumped into an IPA and picked up some nice citrus notes along the way. Blackman’s Unfiltered Lager is one of our favs here at Beer Days – pouring cloudy, it’s beautifully subtle but not at all boring. Plus it has the added appeal of currently being on sale! Point is – get off the beaten path and you’ll find plenty of really unique lagers out there to get excited about.3. Controversy. Or, it’s a conversation starter.
As Ben McFarland, triple-crowned Beer Writer of the Year, puts it: “lager is always perceived as the opposite of craft beer [and] often seen as the last bastion of the scoundrel: for people who don’t appreciate beer… but I think when it’s brewed properly it can be just as complex as ale.” So there you go. When you’re craft-ale drinking mates turn their mustachioed noses up at your bottle of lager and put you down as a craft beer beginner (ouch), name drop Hoponius Union (score of 94 on Beer Advocate) and Mass Rising IPL (scored 93 on Beer Advocate) from Jack’s Abby, or, even better give them a taste of your Edge Project Cryonic Hops or your Blackmans Unfiltered then sit back and watch the scales fall from their eyes.
Cam. A lager drinking scoundrel and proud.