What is a Lager?
During the month of April Happy Hour City will be celebrating all things beer related. Each week we will educate you on the different types of beer, we will also show you how to make beer centered cocktails/drinks, and we will be giving you the inside scoop on some of the best beer bars & breweries around LA.
There is so much terminology and things to learn about the world of beer. We already introduced you to the most basic explanation of What Is Beer. So to start off our beer month we decided to introduce you guys to Lagers. Considered to be one of the most important sub-categories of beer, therefore important to know, this is a great beginning for anyone curious to the exetensive world of beer.
Lager is a common variety of beer with many of it's own sub-categories. It is characterized by its cold fermentation process and its maturation in cold storage.
The word Lager is actually German, like most things beer related, and it comes from the word Lagern. In German, Lagern means “to store”, in English the word Lager quite literally means storeroom or warehouse.
This type of beer is fermented in a closed vessel, the yeast most commonly used for making Lagers is called, "Saccharomyces pastorianus", yeah try saying that five times in a row. This type of yeast is known as a bottom-fermenting yeast. All that fancy talk means is that the yeast sinks to the bottom of the barrels and can remain active at temperatures below 39°F.
When the yeast breaks down the sugar, you get alcohol, this is common knowledge. However, the yeast in Lagers is like yeast in slow motion, it breaks down sugar more slowly compared to others. Yep, this means the brewing process for Lagers is a game of patience.
In the end, the yeast's slow pace and tolerance to the alcohol, leaves more sugar which creates a smoother, sweeter beer. Which is awesome if bitterness is not your jam, BUT sadly this leaves the beer with a lower alcohol content.
You can't tell a Lager apart by the color. Lagers are pale, golden, amber or dark; but the most well known tend to have a lighter, clear appearance. The world of beer is filled with subcategories categorized by other subcategories. We will do our best to help you keep up, as for Lagers, these are some of the different types:
Bock/Doppledock- Strong, heavy, medium to dark lagers
Dortmund- a clean lager, with a malty taste
Dunkel- (dark in German) dark lager from Munich
Helles- (pale beer) a pale golden lager with a malty taste
Oktoberfest/Märzen- a deep amber beer originally brewed in March
Pilsner- A golden light beer with a clean finish and balanced aftertaste
Schwarbier- a dark lager with a chocolate-like flavour
Vienna Lager- a reddish brown beer with a malty taste
Spezial- a strong, full-bodied, bittersweet lager
A Brief History:
Believe it or not, the Lager has a history going as far back as the 15th century. The process of lagering, which once again literally means: the cold storage of beer, was common throughout the medieval period. In the early 15th century we discovered that bottom-fermenting yeast emerged as a hybridization.
Today, Lager as we know it, began with Bavarian brewers in the early 19th century. These brewers were all about experimenting with different brewing techniques using bottom-fermenting yeast. They managed to store the beer in cold cellars for prolonged periods of time. They were able to keep the beer anywhere from a few weeks to several months, which is impressive considering how thirsty they may have gotten. During this time in storage In the beer wold mellow and clear.
Prior to the invention of modern refrigeration, Bavarian brewers used the land around them, storing beer in the frozen caves of the Bavarian Alps. They would "lager" them in there and fill the caves with ice from the nearby lakes and rivers. This was specifically important to keep the beer cool during the summer months.
As early settlers expanded and migrated to other lands, they managed to spread the lagering technique across Europe. With influences from different areas, new types of Lager were emerging. For example, it was actually Austrians who were inspired to create the amber-red Viennese beer in the 1840s.
In 1842 the Bavarian brewer Josef Groll traveled to the town of Plzen in Bohemia which had been making beer since the 1200s. The land was rich with local barley that is low in protein, combined with the soft water surrounding the land, the first golden beer was conceived. This specific type of Lager became known as Pilsner.
Later on in the 1850s, the Germans brought forth their brewing techniques and the Bavarian hops to the United States. The trend of light bodied lagers continued to grow, eventually becoming the most popular beer in the USA.
Nowadays, thanks to modern developments in fermentation control, lagers can be mass-produced and stored for much shorter period. By cutting storage time, carbon dioxide is commonly added to mimic the amount of carbon dioxide usually found in traditionally brewed Lager.
Random Beer Fact
Beer is the 3rd most consumed drink in the world behind water and tea.
If you have the chance to try a traditionally brewed Lager, we recommend doing so. If you don’t, there are many well known Lagers out there. Coors Light, Brahma, Heineken, Budweiser, and Miller Lite are just to name.
No two Lagers are the same, nor should they be treated like they are. There truly is a type of Lager for everyone’s taste buds. Find which one you like, and let us at Happy Hour City know what it is. Thanks for reading, and as always...