Lager is one of the two main types of beer. Read on to learn how it’s made and the different styles of one of the most popular beers of all time.
For all of the shelf space given to new fashionable ales, easy drinking lager still dominates the Australian beer market – some 90 per cent of beers made in Australia fall into the classic lager category, with craft lagers now catching up with the big-ticket brands. This amber coloured beauty is reclaiming its spot as the most loved beer in the world. Here’s the lowdown on lager.
Despite its popularity, lager can also be one of the most misunderstood beers. Lager isn’t a style, it’s one of two types of beer, the other being ale. The difference in the two comes down to the yeast used in traditional brewing methods. Lager yeasts leave beer with a much more of a clean and refreshing flavour than typical ale yeast.
Ale yeasts tend to ferment best at warmer temperatures, and ferment more quickly. Lager yeasts work at much colder temperatures and much more slowly. The word “lager” comes from the German word meaning “to store”, a reference to the brewing process of keeping beer in cold stone cellars before industrial refrigeration became available.
Here are the main styles of lager you should know about.
Pilsner is arguably the original pale lager and the great-grandparent of every modern pale lager style. Originating in the 19th century in the Bohemian town of Pilsen (part of what is modernly known as Czech Republic), its brewers made use of newly developed paler barley malts that allowed for lighter-coloured beer.
While pilsner is the ancestor of modern pale lagers, the true pilsner is a little more challenging and full flavoured, with a more robust — but drying and quenching bitterness — bready malt body.
Try one with beer-battered fish and chips — the cleansing bitterness cuts through the grease, allowing you to savour the sweetness of malt with the complementary flavour of the fish.
Pale lager is a description rather than a style, with all pale lagers tracing their origins back to Czech Pilsners. They tend to fit the “light-flavoured and crisp” billing, designed for refreshment and easy sociability more than flavour. One thing’s for sure: they pair beautifully with pizza and great company.
Because of the sheer popularity of pale lager, many beer drinkers assume lager is only ever pale and anything darker than golden is an ale. In actual fact, lagers can be as dark as stout, and if you ever see a schwarzbier — or black lager — on the shelves, give it a try. It is dark and a touch roasty, like a stout, but with a lighter body, and is great with oysters.
Amber lagers get their colour from the slightly toasted sweet malts, which can lend some mouthfeel and flavour, not just colour. The caramel notes they impart make these darker lagers ideal for pairing with barbecued red meats.
Internationally recognised and popular, this is a wonderfully crisp, refreshing and perfectly balanced Japanese lager.
With a tropical fruit and floral hop aroma, a mild malt sweetness and a crisp, clean finish, this is one very enjoyable craft lager.
Capturing the essence of a beer garden in Barcelona, this lager is bright, light and brewed to the same recipe since 1876.
Boasting the classic, clean finish of Australian lager with all natural ingredients and a melon peach aroma.
Made using artisan techniques and brewed to deliver a clean, crisp beer that’s refreshingly uncomplicated and easy-drinking.