What’s a Lager?

In the past, I went over the basics of an ale. Because there really are only two main types of beer (and because I have a fun article planned for Friday), I figured it was time to talk about lagers.

If you’ve had beer, then you’ve had a lager…but you might not know it. Here’s a little spoiler: if your beer is famous for being the coldest beer with the coldest mountain water, your beer is a lager.

Get to the Point, What’s a Lager

The best way to describe a lager is to show how it’s different from ales.

First, lagers use a different type of yeast than ales – specifically, they use saccharomyces pastorianus. From here on out, we’ll replace this long, science name with our own name: lager yeast.

Second, lager ferments when it’s cold while ales ferment in warmer conditions. The cool temperature is great for the lager yeast, and it allows the beer to take in all the malty and hoppy flavors.

Third, lagers take quite a bit more time than typical ales. While an IPA can be banged out in a handful of weeks, most lagers will take at least a few months to reach peak-drinkability.

Fun fact: lager comes from the German lager, which means storeroom, or more specially a cold storeroom.

So, lagers use a different yeast and fermentation process than IPAs.

Why Are Lagers Boring?

Every so often I get asked (and after drinking shitty, cheap beer, find myself asking) “why are lagers so boring?”

The answer? They aren’t boring, you’re boring!

Lagering is a difficult, time-consuming process. There are tons of spots where a brewer can make an error and the lager can come out tasting like liquid garbage. When done correctly, the result is a flawless, crisp beer.

However, there’s beauty in simplicity. A well-done lager should be appreciated for what it is – a well-done lager. No, you aren’t going to have some hazy, juicy, hoppy lager. If that’s what you want, buy an IPA.

Also, have you ever had so many IPAs that you can’t imagine drinking another? Yup, any beer seems boring when you drink it enough. Lagers will always have a place, and there will always be a time when you want a lager.

Oh, by the way, you probably drink lagers, anyway.

Lagers You Know And (Hopefully Don’t) Love

Here are some famous lagers: Budweiser, Miller, Hamms, PBR, Ranier, Olymipa, etc., etc., etc.

Why do these guys make lagers instead of ales? Because it’s cheap and easy for them.

Yes, it does take them roughly 6-7 weeks to get a batch of beer out, but the process is so simple for them by this point. “But Thomas, you said lagering is harder than making ales!” It is…if you want a good beer.

Beers produced by these big companies, by all standards, are not good beers.

Look, I can point out myriad reasons on why these big companies insist on making lagers instead of ales. Instead, I’ll point out one truth consistent among any large corporation:

They cut costs. They are brewing as cheaply as they can. They know what they’re doing.

These types of beers mostly get a bad rep in America because of these big guys, but if you’ve ever had a European style Helles, Pilsner, Dunkel or other variety of lager, then you understand why people ever liked them to begin with.

Thomas Short
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