To many, the word “lager” conjures an image of mass-market fizz. However, under the lager umbrella is a veritable menagerie of styles from light to dark, full-bodied malt bombs to crisp lawn-mower beers. In short, lagers are fermented at a colder temperature and the yeast converts from the bottom of the tank up, whereas ales ferment in a warmer temperature and the yeast converts from the top of the tank down. Though varieties of lagers differ in many ways, a certain crispness and slightly sulfuric (though not so prevalent as to be unpleasant) bite are typical in many iterations.While the IPA may have certainly had its day, especially in the humulus lupulus-obssessed Pacific Northwest, lagers are proving to be beers for all seasons and reasons.
Brewers and imbibers who prefer German styles are likely familiar with many types of darker lagers, including: bocks, doppelbocks, some maibocks, and schwarzbier. These darker lagers are often sweeter (except in the case of the schwarz) and can occasionally have a smoky component. Though dark in color, these beers maintain that traditional lager crispness that makes them perfect year-round.
Uinta Brewing “Baba Black Lager” This swirling, foreboding black lager is surprisingly low ABV, at just 4.0%. Baba is the best of both worlds–a dark and roasty sessionable lager.
One better known lager is the pilsner. Either Czech or German in tradition, the pilsner is perhaps the best example of the crisp nature of lighter lagers. These straw-colored, golden beauties require deft brewing skill. In a beer with this clarity and reserve, any error will likely shine through. This makes crafting a perfect pilsner even more impressive.
Rogue “Morimoto Imperial Pilsner” Though the notion of an “imperial” pilsner may seem incongruous, this ceramic 22oz. wonder is dry, golden and packs a punch. As the warmer weather heads our way, this is one beer destined for your next BBQ.
Burnside Brewing “Couch Select Lager” This Helles-style lager uses pilsner malt as its base and, boy, does it shine through. Described by the brewery as having a “crispy snap,” Couch Select is a filtered, brilliant brew with floral notes imparted by Tettnang hops.
In the middle of the lager spectrum between light and dark lie a world of beers waiting to be enjoyed. This includes meandering experimentals focusing on unique ingredients or style-bending. While perhaps not in line with the reigning Reinheitsgebot, these offshoot oddities tend to thrill.
Ecliptic Brewing “Spica HefePils” In the heartier Kellerbier tradition, HefePils is a pale, Sterling-hopped spicy minx.
Base Camp “In Tents India Pale Lager” a play to hop heads. This IPL takes everything you love about an IPA and gives it a smooth floral aroma and a piney bite. Aged on French and American charred oak, this camping-themed brew is a great companion for your next exploration.
When it comes to beer, don’t let the behemoths tell you what a lager is meant to be. These local options show the depth and breadth of a side of beer poised to blossom in popularity.