Lagers are for beer snobs, too


Courtesy of Ted Eytan via Flickr

Lagers can range from the classic golden clear look to blackish-opaque dunkel style lager. Either or makes for a refreshing drink.

Danny Montesdeoca, Production Staff

The craft beer scene in the U.S. has brought us many wonderfully delicious interpretations of different styles of beer. Brewers are aging their stouts in whiskey barrels and dousing them with coffee. Pale ales can be anywhere between from being layered with tropical fruits to being hop forward with a piney bitterness. This explosion of creativity has also given rise to the beer snob, and with it a pretentious attitude towards the style of beer everyone tends to associate with beer: the lager.

Lagers are the type of beer preferred by macro-breweries such as Anheuser-Busch and Miller. Because of this, the style has garnered a reputation of being flavorless and boring in the craft beer scene, but we honestly can’t blame the American macro-breweries for producing that type of beer. It is, afterall, the American interpretation of a lager.

Lager has its origins in Germany with different regions coming out with their styles, like the Dortmunder Lager and the Munich Dunkel. Soon it spread to neighboring countries and the Vienna Lager and Czech Pilsner were introduced.

Germans started migrating heavily to the US during the latter half of the 19th century, and with them they brought along their beer recipes. They found that the type of barley that grew in the U.S. was a different type than in Europe. Barley is one of the base ingredients in beer and gives it its malty flavor.

American barley, which is high in protein and low in sugar, produced a lager that was hazy and didn’t quite capture the crispness of a lager because there wasn’t enough sugar for the yeast to ferment. So these brewers used adjuncts such as rice and corn. The sugars in the adjuncts allowed the brewers to achieve the clear look of the beer they enjoyed back in Europe.

The barley in Europe was high in sugar and low in protein which allowed for a fermentation process that didn’t require corn or rice. The only thing the Europeans would add were hops. And that’s a lager, barley and hops.

It’s beer in its most simplistic form. It uses these two basic ingredients found in all beer. A true lager is an appreciation for these two ingredients, without the use of any adjuncts. And since it relies on these two ingredients, masking any mistakes along the brewing process is difficult.

Lagers are deceptively diverse, too. A light Czech pilsner is every bit a lager as a dark Munich dunkel. Oktoberfest beers are a fall season staple that also fall within the lager family. Different regions produce distinct styles like the Dortmunder lager and the Vienna lager.

Regardless of the beer snob, American breweries have remained faithful to producing lagers, only without the help of adjuncts. These new age interpretations of old school tradition are a refreshing change of pace from the bitterness of IPA’s and the full-bodiedness of stouts.

Chicago has a thriving craft beer scene of its own with many delicious lagers to choose from. Revolution Brewing Co., Chicago’s largest craft brewery, has it’s lager that it produces year-round in Rev Pils.

Dry Hop makes its own hoppy Czech pilsner and 5 Rabbit Cerveceria makes a big boy pilsner called Gringolandia that sits at an unusually high 7.2 percent ABV.

Metropolitan Brewing makes its malty copper lager, Dynamo.

The Pilsner-Lager made by Two Brother’s Artisan Brewing can easily become the new go-to for any Bud-Miller-Coors sipper.

Macro-breweries may have pounced on lager’s cheap cost to produce, but that doesn’t mean that craft beer drinkers have to reject lagers entirely. When done right, a lager produces a taste that orchestrates simplicity perfectly. It produces a wide range of complex flavors from two main ingredients found in every style of beer. Is a beer snob who doesn’t like lagers even a beer snob?

Cheers to lagers!