I read about the coming “Lager Revolution” from no less than a dozen various outlets over the course of the prior 12 to 18 months. Lagers were the next wave, brewers were into them, craft beer drinkers who are constantly in need of something “new” were apparently hot on them… but then… nothing. I did not see a “wave” of lagers.
I have yet to see a shift of product lines. Top fermenters still dominate all the major craft brewers. The exceptions being one or maybe two lagers in the year round lineup (if that), or a seasonal lager (i.e. A summer pilsner or the Marzen/Oktoberfest style beers).
So why are lagers not bursting on to the scene? Some speculation on my part is easy:
- They take longer to ferment. The long fermentation process, means a longer turn around. From source material to your glass takes more time. With many craft brewers running up against their capacity, what are you going to brew? Ales. They are faster. In short: Time = Money
- Lager are tough. By their very nature, lagers tend to be more unforgiving. Due to the longer fermentation, contaminates in the brew are given a longer time to bloom, and temperature control is fragile and lengthy.
- There is nowhere to hide. A good quality lager will be crisp, clean, and delicate in flavor. Off notes have nowhere to hide. Ales can give brewers the benefits of fruity notes, bombed out bittering hops or high ABV by which to smooth over off flavors. Those big flavors can make the beer more opaque and less subtle.
So unless someone would like to correct me, and please feel free to do so. I have yet to see evidence of the “Lager Revolution” and I don’t see it coming.
Brewers talk about it. Beer writers/critics write about it. Both doing so in equal measure this past week for the Thrillist (including Harrisburg’s Sara Bozich). But unless something changes, I don’t see it coming.
Ales rule the roost in the American Craft industry and will for a long time. Even in England, where lagers have dominated for seemingly time immemorial the dominance of ales have taken hold. (Really should click on the that link.)
This is not meant to put down lagers or to say they are unworthy of our hard earned beer money. Lagers are an important part of a diverse and interesting range of beers and styles for brewers and the industry. The question: Is there support for a wave of new lagers from both brewers and customers? I don’t think so.
Post-Script: I like the occasional lager but I have trouble telling why I like them. When it comes to truly enjoying fine beer, it seems insufficient to simply say “it tastes good” or “I don’t like it.” I don’t drink enough lager beers on a regular enough basis to have properly developed my taste to these beers. I plan to seek the out more in the future but, this might be part of the problem for me personally as a beer drinker when it comes to lagers.