I don’t know how many times I’ve heard fellow beer geeks say “I don’t drink lagers” as though this statement was meant to be some sort of badge of honour. While I myself drink ales more often I still really appreciate a good lager. That’s why I wanted to write this post & show the bottom feeders a little respect!
Why The Negative Attitude?
A major part of the reason for this attitude is due to the abundance of light American lagers. Everyone knows the ones that I am referring to so no need to name names and get into how their beer tastes.
For many years after prohibition and WWII this type of beer was basically all that you could find in N. America. The domination of a handful of major breweries that rely on aggressive marketing/sponsorship campaigns is still very present today. So many people will automatically think that a lager will be that beer in a can that turns blue when it is ice cold.
Add to this the fact that lagers are not brewed as often by craft breweries (this is because lagers take longer to make which can put a lot of strain on a small brewery with limited tank space) and you have the misconception that lagers are bland macro beers & ales are craft beer.
But really there is so much more to lagers. Here’s just a few examples:
The Germans are known for their lagers. Actually, the term lager is German for “to store”. So let’s take a look at some of the styles that they have to offer.
Dopplebock: this style of beer was originally brewed by the monks to sustain them during their fast at Lent. They tend to be richer & darker beers with an ABV that typically hovers somewhere between 7-10%. Can you imagine putting back a few of these on an empty stomach? !
Schwarzbier: is a black lager that is starting to gain some popularity in our neck of the woods. It’s a very light-bodied/easy to drink beer that has a small percentage of dark roasted malts added to the grain bill. This addition lends the beer it’s dark complexion and a hint of roast that really compliments the dry finish in my opinion.
Rauchbier: This is one of the most interesting styles that I’ve tried. It is made by adding malt that has been smoked over a fire made out of beech wood. It gives the beer a smoky flavour that often makes me think of bacon. Try it out with some BBQ and see how awesome they are!
A True Pilsner
The beer world owes a big thank you to the Czech city of Pilsen where the 1st pilsner was brewed using their naturally soft water.
When drinking a well-crafted Bohemian pilsner you should be enjoying a smooth, dry, crisp & clean beer that has a noticeable bitter snap that comes from the generous use of hops. Saaz, with their spicy & floral notes, would be the most commonly used hop varietal in Bohemian pilsners. In my opinion, a good pilsner is one of the best beers out there. It is refreshing, has a pleasant bready flavour & the crisp, dry bite at the end makes you want to go in for another sip. What else could you ask for when you’re sitting on a patio on a hot summer day? Side note: check out the Beer Hunter episode where Michael Jackson visits Bohemia.
If you are not sure what an example of a proper pilsner is here are a few of my faves: Pilsner Urquell (the original); Steamworks Pilsner (recently available to the AB market); and Hoyne’s Pilsner (sorry guys, you’ll have to take a beercation to BC for this one).
In conclusion, I hope that this article/quasi-rant made some sense & that I was able to make the point that a well-made lager should be appreciated for what it is… a good beer. So cheers to the bottom feeders & of course, cheers to local craft beer!