Craft Lager: Beer's Latest Trend

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  • By Nick Larson
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Craft Lager:  Beer's Latest Trend

Long dismissed by craft beer aficionados as "wussy" and "industrial", lager beers continue to be the world's most popular style of beer. But a new band of craft brewers are taking a fresh look at the traditional style and putting their individual stamps on them.

The craft beer industry is all about trends. The Hazy IPA, the Brut IPA, the Milkshake IPA, the pastry stout. All have these are recent trends of new-ish styles that have blown up in popularity. However, my newest favorite trend isn’t any of these progressive beers. No, my new favorite trend is the return and rise of the craft lager.


What is a lager?

Lager is a type of beer conditioned at low temperatures. It may be pale, golden, amber, or dark. Pale lager is the most widely consumed and commercially available style of beer.


As well as maturation in cold storage, lager is also distinguished by the use of the Saccharomyces pastorianus yeast. While it is possible to use lager yeast in a warm fermentation process, such as with American steam beer, the lack of a cold storage maturation phase precludes such beer from being classified as lager. On the other hand, German Altbier and Kölsch, brewed with a Saccharomyces cerevisiae top-fermenting yeast at a warm temperature, but with a cold storage finishing stage, are classified as obergäriges lagerbier (top-fermented lager beer).


Until the 19th century, the German word lagerbier referred to all types of bottom-fermented, cool-conditioned beer, in normal strengths. In Germany today, however, the term is mainly reserved for the prevalent lager beer styles of southern Germany, "Helles" (pale), or a "Dunkel" (dark). Pilsner, a more heavily hopped pale lager, is most often known as "Pilsner", "Pilsener", or "Pils". Other lagers are Bock, Märzen, and Schwarzbier. In the United Kingdom, the term lager commonly refers specifically to pale lagers, many of which are derived from the Pilsner style.


Lager beer uses a process of cool fermentation, followed by maturation in cold storage. The German word "Lager" means storeroom or warehouse. The yeast generally used with lager brewing is Saccharomyces pastorianus. It is a close relative of the Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast used for warm fermented ales


While prohibited by the German Reinheitsgebot tradition, lagers in some countries often feature large proportions of adjuncts, usually rice or maize. Adjuncts entered United States brewing as a means of thinning out the body of U.S. beers, balancing the large quantities of protein introduced by six-row barley. Adjuncts are often used now in beermaking to introduce a large quantity of sugar, and thereby increase ABV, at a lower price than a formulation using an all-malt grain bill. There are however cases in which adjunct usage actually increases the cost of manufacture.


So, now that you’re an expert on lagers, join me for our August BeerVenture where we will explore the incredible ways craft breweries have taken this old style and made it popular once again.

The tasting is on Wednesday, August 22 at 7:30 p.m. $25 gets you at least 14 beers, and includes pretzels, cheese, bread and more. Also, any beer we pour that night is 10% off to-go! Call The Wine Country to sign up ASAP.  (597)-8303.


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