Craft beer, meaning trendy and bold flavored ale, is on the rise. Sales are up and microbreweries are thriving. Does this mean the end of lager? For those of us who still like to drink cold and refreshing beer (90% of beer drinkers), you can rest assured, your lager beer isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. The craft beer revolution isn’t only about overhopped IPAs and experimental stouts. Craft brewers are now jumping into lagers, too.
Why craft lager
Have we run out of exotic, esoteric styles to revive? Not yet, but first and foremost any trend is built on a solid demand. As the majority of beer consumed is mass market lager, craft lager is finding the comfortable niche between easy drinking beers and fuller flavor beers. Although session IPAs partially meet this demand, breweries will certainly need to diversify as the market expands.
Jeff Lyons, head brewer at Brooklyn’s Keg & Lantern Brewery, says “brewers are continuing to look for simplicity and subtlety. Between the time it takes to traditionally lager a beer and the need to differentiate ourselves from the macro monsters, craft has traditionally shied away from the style. But brewers have begun learning to create fresh, balanced, delicious lagers and the people have responded.” So a craft lager is still a lager, albeit conforming to the standards of the modern craft beer drinker. Instead of cheap adjuncts like corn and rice, craft breweries will use quality malts. Instead of hop extracts, they’ll use actual hops.
Mastering the art of lager
It may come as a surprise, but lagers are actually harder to brew than ales. They take more time and capacity to produce. That is why smaller breweries prefer brewing craft ales, because they can produce four batches of IPA in the time it takes to brew one batch of lager. Furthermore, lagers are much more unforgiving than ales. Whereas off-flavors or faults in ales can be masked with a massive dose of hops, any fault in a lager cannot be hidden. So as much as craft beer snobs look down on the Heinekens of this world, technically those beers are a brewing masterpiece. It’s no wonder ambitious craft breweries want to show their skill and mastery by brewing a great lager with flavor and character. Of course it wouldn’t be ‘craft’ if there wasn’t something new, fun or experimental about it. Hence the introduction of India Pale Lagers (IPL), an India Pale Ale made with lager yeast. IPLs generally combine a crisp lager finish with amplified hops, though there is no officially accepted standard yet.
Here are a few fine examples of craft lagers for you to try: Brewdog – Kingpin; Thornbridge – Lukas; Uiltje – In Between Agendas; De Prael – Darth Lager; Lagunitas – Pils; Sixpoint – The Crisp.
Not for Sale
The beer in the feature photo deserves a special mention. This craft lager by Brouwerij de Molen contributes all its profits to the Not for Sale cause: a network to grow self-sustaining social projects with purpose-driven business to end exploitation and forced labor. Modern slavery is thriving. Many of us, including the businesses that make the products we buy, have no idea when or where the exploitation occurs. And it’s growing every single day. About 45.8 million people today are living in slave-like conditions. That’s bigger than the population of California, Canada, or Argentina.
Nearly every country on earth is affected, including the United States. And more than $150 billion in profits are generated annually by businesses employing slavery and exploitation. This is bigger than the revenues of Google, Microsoft, Apple, Exxon Mobil, and JP Morgan Chase combined.
It you want to know more about this initiative or are interested in donating, check out their website here. And by drinking their beers you are also doing a good deed!