Lagers suck ass. Or at least that has been my default reaction for many craft beer years. When it comes to craft beer I’m an Ale guy. From your big bold in-your-face American Imperial IPA to your deep, rich, dark fruit Belgian and Trappist Ales.
In my older, non-craft beer days I drank my fair share of Lagers. Besides your American Macro Lagers there were some good ones found overseas: Grolsch and Harp chief among them. But my favorite beer for a long time was Bass Ale.
Since my migration to craft beers my initial forays into Craft Beer Lagers were met with reactions from mild boredom to outright disgust. From what’s the point? to DRAINPOUR! And then 2014 rolled around and I was determined to expand my craft beer experience and search for the two styles that interested me the least: Brown Ales (my rare Ale dislike) and Lagers. And I have to say, after spending the first part of 2014 exploring the Lager world I’ve discovered some pretty fantastic beers.
Let me start with what I now consider the best Lager on the planet: Weihenstephaner Original, a Munich Helles Lager.
As I wrote when I tasted this for the first time: “This is a Munich Helles Lager and probably the best of it’s style in the world my opinion. Just an absolutely fantastic beer. Crisp with a nice light floral and fruit taste.”
While I had expected to find some nice Lagers I never expected to discover one I would love. And this is one of two that I have come to love.
With a quick check in Untappd here’s my breakdown of Lagers. And the list is way longer than I ever expected it would be. I don’t think of myself as drinking a Lager often but that’s due to just not thinking of certain styles as actually being in the Lager family.
American Amber / Red Lager – 1
Berliner Weisse – 2
Baltic Porter – 2
Black Lager – 2
Czech Pilsner – 2
Dopplebock – 3
Dunkelweizen – 2
Euro Lager – 2
German Pilsner – 3
Golden Lager – 2
Hefeweizen – 14
Helles Lager – 3
India Pale Lager – 1
Kristallweizen – 2
Kölsch – 3
Oktoberfest/Märzen – 2
Pale Lager – 2
Pilsner – 2
Vienna Lager – 1
Weizwenbock – 1
I tend to break Lagers down into these 3 main groups:
And here are my personal highlights of each:
Weiihenstephaner Original (see pic and description above)
Kiwi Rising – Jack’s Abby
To me this is the Great American Lager. Jack’s Abby took everything I love about a big West Coast tropical IPA and made a Lager version. In fact, when it comes to American Lagers no one is doing it better or more innovative than Jack’s Abby. All they brew is Lager beer. In every style and variation you can imagine. From big hoppy beers to smoked dark lagers to Marzens and everything in between. Hunt their beers down and enjoy. You will not be disappointed.
Anchor California Lager
This beer impressed me. I am not a fan of their Steam beer and had low expectations going into this one. To my surprise and delight this was delicious. Light and crisp and refreshing.
While I love their Hefeweissbier, I’m sightly more partial to the Dunkel or dark version. Another world class beer. In fact, I have yet to have a beer from Weihenstephaner in any style that I don’t consider world class.
So, in the end, while taking this journey I discovered a few things. The Lager is a beer that comes in a wide variety of styles. Anyone growing up on the American Macro Lager would have no idea that the Lager was so storied and diverse. And while the Ale is still my go to realm of the craft beer world I no longer frown and sigh with resignation when it comes time to explore the world of Lagers. I’ve found a couple of beers that hold their own with anything else out there. And I still have my few drain pours. That’s the one thing I’ve found most interesting about my Lager Craft Beer Adventure. The few Lager drainpours that made me hesitant to take this journey remain drainpours for me. Which actually makes me feel better about the whole thing. At first I thought I just didn’t have an appreciation for a Lager. Instead I just got unlucky and started out with those couple of Lagers tat do indeed suck ass. Thankfully, it was just a few.
LAGER – Light/Amber/Dark – Friday Night Hangout (Ep. 156)
Craft Beer Nation BJCP Reviiew
This playlist covers many of the various Lager categories from the viewpoint of the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP)