11 Things You Might Not Know About Lager
Today is National Lager Day, and there’s no better way to celebrate than by hoisting a glass. But before you raise that first festive toast, it’s worth learning just a bit more about the beer that’s causing all the fun.
1. YEAST MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE.
What’s the difference between lager and the other main type of beer, ale? It’s all in the yeast. Ales ferment at warmer temperatures with yeasts that do their magic at the top of the wort, the liquid solution of water and sugars that ferment into the eventual beer. Lagers, on the other hand, sink to the bottom of the wort and go to work at cooler temperatures.
2. LAGERS ARE THE YOUNGER BROTHER OF THE BEER FAMILY.
While ales have been around for centuries, lagers are a somewhat more recent development, only taking off when the German state of Bavaria became a hotbed of lager brewing in the 16th century.
3. THE WORD “LAGER” TELLS YOU SOMETHING ABOUT HOW IT’S MADE.
Compared to ales, lagers ferment more slowly and at lower temperatures. After a lager ferments, it is generally aged for a few weeks or months at cool temperatures as it matures. This process is known as “lagering,” and takes its name from the German word lagern, or “to store.”
4. RESTRICTIONS ON SUMMERTIME BREWING HELPED LAGERS EMERGE.
Up until the 16th century, Bavarian brewers were cranking out beers year-round. There was a problem, though: The beers produced in summer brewing sessions tended to be of poorer quality than their winter counterparts, possibly due to flavor-destroying bacteria flourishing during the warmer summer months. In 1553, Bavaria formally prohibited summer brewing and restricted the beermaking season to the period between Michaelmas (September 29) and the Feast of Saint George on April 23. In these colder months, beers made with yeasts that fermented at lower temperatures began to flourish.
5. THEY CAN BE DARK AND FLAVORFUL.
The mention of “lager” conjures images of light, yellow beers with clean, crisp flavors for many drinkers, but lager encompasses a hugely diverse group of beers. Just to name a few, Vienna lagers tend to have a color that’s more of a deep red amber and plays up its malt flavor. The rauchbiers native to Bamberg, Germany, employ smoked malt to create a flavor that’s reminiscent of a campfire, while schwarzbiers live up to their German name by literally being black in color. Modern brewers have even found ways to create beers that combine the crisp flavor of a traditional lager with the hop character that’s usually associated with India pale ales. They’re all great in their own way, and they’re all lagers.
6. THE RIGHT GLASS CAN REALLY ELEVATE THE EXPERIENCE.
Once you know that lagers can be diverse, unique, and engaging, it’s worth exploring all of their subtle (and not-so-subtle) differences. Pouring your lager into a glass that helps concentrate its aroma and gives you a clear look at its color will heighten the sensory experience and take your National Lager Day to the next level.
7. REFRIGERATION REALLY GAVE LAGER BREWING A SHOT IN THE ARM.
Even after lager styles had begun to win over drinkers, there was still a hurdle to lagers taking off around the world: Those cold fermentation temperatures made lager brewing infeasible in many climates and at many times of the year. Luckily, by the end of the 19th century, artificial refrigeration had caught on, which meant that it was possible for enterprising brewers to create the perfect lager whenever and wherever they wanted.
8. OTHER BREWING REGIONS FOLLOWED BAVARIA’S LEAD.
Even before widespread refrigeration helped lager proliferate, brewers in other areas were building on Bavaria’s example using ice, underground caves, and ingenuity. Bohemian brewers around Pilsen perfected the light, crisp style we know as pilsner, while Dortmund in western Germany later developed its own style of pale lager that used the area’s sulfurous water to great advantage. When German and Bohemian immigrants began crossing the Atlantic in the 19th century, they brought their know-how with them and began creating iconic American lagers.
9. THEY HAVE HISTORICALLY PROVEN QUITE USEFUL.
For centuries, many Europeans have fasted during the springtime Lent season leading up to Easter. During this period, they swapped in strong beer for some of the solid food in their diet. The most popular types of beer for these fasting purposes are bocks, most of which are hearty, malty styles of lager.
10. LAGER EVEN CONQUERED ENGLAND.
The United Kingdom has centuries of ale-brewing tradition to its credit, but in the 20th century, lager’s undeniable charms won over the ale-loving British population. By this decade, lager accounted for around three-quarters of all beer sales in the traditional hotbed of ale.
11. IN A WAY, EVERY DAY IS LAGER DAY.
It’s not just British drinkers who have fallen in love with lager. Ales may have beaten lagers to the party, but lagers haven’t wasted any time making up for that head start. Today, the vast majority of beer consumed around the world is lager. Of the top 10 best-selling beers worldwide, all 10 are lagers. Billions of lager fans can’t be wrong!
Looking for the perfect lager for your National Lager Day toast? Raise a glass of Samuel Adams Boston Lager. Learn more at www.SamuelAdams.com.