March 18, 2012
A statement that I hear from time to time that I really dislike is “I hate lagers”. The natural outgrowth of that is the plethora of polls on beer blogs asking “which do you prefer: ales or lagers?”, which is ridiculous due to the complete lack of good representations of the traditional lager styles in this country.
Now, I spent a month last year in Germany at brewing school, where I was drunk pretty regularly on great lager styles. I’m sure that the majority of average beer drinkers in this country, and many craft beer enthusiasts, don’t have much understanding of the wide range of lager styles that are out there. Unfortunately, there really isn’t much supply of good lagers in this country. Most of the lagers sold in the U.S. are of the American Lite Lager style that Bud/Miller/Coors developed over the last century. The rest are mostly imported bottles of German lagers that have spent weeks in non climate controlled containers on a ship, then a dock warehouse, then a truck, then a distribution warehouse, etc. No bottle you get in this country from Germany will do the beer justice.
Compounding this is the fact that craft breweries are routinely very small operations with little available capital and tenuous debt levels. Many of them would find it incredibly difficult to justify letting product sit in their tanks for the extra weeks necessary to make a good lager style. There are some breweries that do this, like Metro Brewing in Chicago, but they are few and far between at this point. If you have a chance, try Victory’s line of German lager styles. Their Helles is a wonderful beer.
So that statement about hating lagers does bother me, but I understand where the mentality comes from. It’s just misconceptions and lack of knowledge, which is fine. Hopefully I can get my own brewery off the ground some day and can find a way to make some of these beers profitably and represent the styles well.