Beer is by far the most consumed alcoholic beverage in the world, and of that category, lager is the most popular type.
What is Lager you ask? Well, it’s the most common type of beer you can find anywhere in the world. Lager beers are brewed by slow fermentation at cool temperatures with slow-acting yeast. They tend to have a clearer and lighter appearance with a lower alcohol volume.
Interested in everything to do with lager beers? Keep reading…
What is the History of Lager?
The process of making lager is referred to as lagering and was discovered around 200 years ago in Bavaria. They used to store casks of beers experiencing secondary fermentation in cool caves. This lagering process became popular in areas where cool fermenting temperatures could be sustained.
In the 19th century before refrigerators were invented German brewers used to dig cellars for lagering and fill them with ice found in lakes and rivers to keep their alcohol cool during the summer. When refrigerators were invented, lager making then started to spread throughout the world. Unlike other beers, lagers had longer processed periods and as a result, producers with larger capital resources had the privilege of making them.
What are the Different Types of Lager Beers?
Lagers come in a variety of colours, flavours, taste, alcohol content and composition.
- Description: Pilsner lagers originate in the Czech Republic, and they are included with floral aromas.
- Taste: Expect to taste a bitter finish that’s crisp, with varieties of hops and floral aromas incorporated. They typically have an alcohol volume of 5%, leaving them with a round mouthfeel.
- Appearance: It has relatively high carbonation since it’s a medium to medium-full bodied beer. It has an amber and gold colour combination; however, German pilsners are a lighter body and colour.
- Description: Also known as the Oktoberfest beer, Märzen was traditionally stored in caves during the summer, brewed in March, and then served around the autumn when it was harvest celebrations.
- Taste: This lager has quite a malt-forward taste but is also light and easy to drink.
- Appearance: The Märzen has a beautiful amber colour.
- Description: The bock lager is a strong dark beer with a history that dates back to the Medieval era.
- Taste: The lager has a strong and robust malt flavour with some light hops. It has a low carbonation with a smooth mouthfeel.
- Appearance: The beer has a dark amber colour.
- Description: This beer hails from Munich, is darker and has more malt than other lagers brewed in its region.
- Taste: It’s a medium to medium-full bodied taste with malty aromas that are combined with toasted bread. Hints of herbs, chocolate and toffee can also be expected.
- Appearance: Dunkel can range from a deep copper to a roughly brownish-red colour.
- Description: As the name states, this lager originates from the country of Austria. It was more popular in Mexico than in its country of origin due to the ruling Maximilian Emperor in the 1800s.
- Taste: The lager has a mild alcohol content with a slightly roasted malt aroma. It is slightly sweet yet has a bitterness to it. Appearance: It ranges from a reddish-brown to copper.
- Description: This lager originates from Bavaria and is drier and darker than the Dunkel and less sweet.
- Taste: It has a moderate malt taste which can be described as almost bready. It also has a smooth to medium light body and is smooth on the palate with herbal, spicy and floral variations.
- Appearance: It has a dark brown colour with moderate to moderate-high carbonation.
How Much Lager is Consumed Worldwide?
Beer holds a prominent share in the global market when compared to other alcoholic beverages and Europe is seen as the largest consumer of beer in the world. Lagers are predominantly consumed in restaurants, bars, hotels, nightclubs, and supermarkets.
Due to its success, manufacturers are seen introducing new flavours to accommodate new target audiences such as millennials and the Gen Z. Lagers are the most famous type of beer all over the world because their brewing processes offer refreshing and crisp appeal to their consumers.
How are Lagers Made?
Lager beers use a cool fermentation process, which is then followed by maturation in cold storage. The word Lager is actually German and means a warehouse or storeroom.
What is the Difference Between Lager and Other Beers?
The difference between lagers and other types of beers is the fermentation processes they all go through.
- Lager fermentation: Lagers are fermented at cooler temperatures between 5°C (41°F) and 10°C (50°F) using a bottom fermenting yeast. The bottom fermenting yeast sinks to the bottom of the fermentation tank after it has consumed all the sugar to form alcohol. Lagers take longer to ferment due to the cooler temperatures and the action of the yeast, around four to eight weeks.
- Ale fermentation: Ales are fermented at room temperatures between 15.56°C (60°F) and 21.11°C (70°F) by using a top fermenting yeast. This ferments the sugar at the top of the fermentation tanks and allows the brewer to skim the yeast to reuse it in other batches. Top fermenting yeasts work thoroughly in warm temperatures, meaning fermentation time for ales tends to be relatively short, around two to five weeks.
What is a Lager vs an Ale?
People tend to generalize the two by comparing them to their tastes, colours, aromas, and alcohol volumes, however, what mainly distinguishes the two is the way they are both fermented. Remember that lager is a bottom fermented beer and ale is a top fermented beer. The distinguishing factors such as colour are found in their subcategories.
Lagers are typically smoother with crisp notes from slow and cold fermentation. Examples of lagers are Pilsners, Vienna lager, Dunkel and Bock etc.
Ales are typically sweeter and fuller-bodied compared to lagers and have hints of bitterness that stem from the hops. Examples of ales are Pale ales, Brown ales, and Indian pale ales.
How Does Lager Beer Taste?
Lagers usually have a very crisp and clean taste and are more mild tasting. Their colours also vary from other beer types because they’re predominantly lighter and clearer in appearance with lower alcohol volume. Lagers are known to have a smoother and more refreshing flavour.
Is Lager a Strong Beer?
There is a significant difference in the alcohol content between lagers and ales because of the type and the amount of yeast used during the brewing process. Lagers have a lower alcohol content because the yeast found in ales thrives at higher temperatures, thus the alcohol content lasts throughout those particular temperatures.
How to Serve Lager Beer?
It’s always advisable to enjoy a lager cold, except for Bock which is served at room temperature. When you serve lager from a tap, use a tall and narrow glass. Make certain that the glass is clean. Place the glass under the tap at a 45-degree angle and pour the lager. When you reach three-quarters of pouring, turn the glass upright and pour a 2-3 cm head on the glass by pushing the tap backwards. Make sure to serve immediately before the head goes down. Don’t forget to place a coaster under the glass.
What are the Best Lagers to Try Right Now?
With so many different lagers out there, it can get quite confusing to narrow down your search to pick a lager that you would like to try. Here are the picks of the best lagers to drink right now.
- Best American: Coors Banquet – An American native beer from Colorado, this lager has an ABV of 5%. Tasting notes consists of bread, biscuit, and bananas.
- Best German: Schlenkerla Helles Lagerbier – This German golden lager is crisp and brisk, with hints of smokiness that are not too overpowering. Tasting notes consist of crispiness, hops and smoke and contains an ABV of 4.5%.
- Best Light: Miller Lite – Another American native from Wisconsin, Miller lite was introduced worldwide in 1975. It has an ABV of 4.2% and its tasting notes are clean, and smooth with a light malt.
- Best Pilsner: Pilsner Urquell – This Lager’s origin is the Czech Republic and it’s one of the world’s most influential beers. Tasting notes consist of spice, bitterness, and herbs with an ABV of 4.4%.
- Best Belgian: Idyll Days Pilsner – This lager’s region is New York, and Belgian style beers are a specialty at the brewery Ommegang. Tasting notes are smooth, floral, and earthy with an ABV of 5%.
What is the Most Popular Lager Beer Brand in the World?
Budweiser is a popular brand around the world and according to Statista, it was valued at $14.65 billion in 2022. It’s a medium-bodied, crisp and flavourful American-style lager. Budweiser is brewed with barley malt and a blend of hop varieties and contains 5% alcohol. It is produced by the Belgian-Brazilian company, AB InBev which was founded in the 1850s.
What Foods Can You Pair with Lager?
Below are some varieties of lager you can pair with your favourite dishes:
This light to dark brown German lager has a deep rich malt flavour with notes of caramel, nuts, and chocolate. It’s not too sweet, but smooth with a low hop flavour. It’s best recommended to pair with German sausage, spicy meats, or spice cakes.
Also known as Oktoberfest, this lager is bronze to copper in colour and has a rich malty flavour. It’s best paired with sausages and soft pretzels.
Bock is a dark lager that is identified by its high malt character with a light toasty aroma. It pairs well with cheese, red meat, and chocolate.
These lagers are strong with a more dominant malty flavour. The high malt content also gives it a high alcohol content. This beer should be paired with gouda, blue cheese, spicy dishes, and curry.
Vienna Style Lager
The lager is amber to copper coloured and has a malty aroma and hints of bread or toast notes. Try pairing the lager with grilled meat and vegetables, and white cheddar.
Remember that beers fall under two categories: lagers and ales. What makes a beer a lager is the fact that it’s fermented at cooler temperatures with a bottom fermenting yeast. Lagers are the most popular types of beer because people enjoy their crisp, smooth, and clean flavours. Next time you grab a lager, don’t forget to pour it into a tall and narrow glass.