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The A to Z of Lagers – Part 1

Beer_June4_AaWhen it comes to beer in Asia, one category reigns supreme: Lager. As we stated in a previous article, “Lager is a beer where the fermentation happens at the bottom of the fermentation tank. Lager is fermented at cooler temperatures which results in a clearer, crisper and smoother beer.” But it’s not that simple as Lager is really a category of beer that covers many different types or styles.

This week’s article will focus on four of the eight major styles of Lager that can be found here in Thailand. But before we dive into these different style of Lagers, let’s take a brief look at the history of Lager beer itself.

Lager: A chilling tale of mouth watering suspense
If you speak German, you’ll know that Lager means “to store”. This is because Lager originated in Bavaria where brewers figured out by that storing beer in cold caves during the fermentation process, they ended up with a beer that was not cloudy.

During the mid to late 1800’s, there was a Lager boom in Europe, especially in countries with winters cold enough for Lager to be produced and cellared. Then, in the late 1870’s and into the early 1900’s refrigeration was introduced and improved upon enough to a level where it became commercially viable. This enabled brewers to brew Lager year-round and subsequently led to a massive increase in the the amount and types of Lager available, as now almost any country could produce them.

By the late 1880s German style Lager had spread throughout Europe and even made it to North America, where it really caught on. Today, Lager is by far the most popular type of beer brewed by US macro-brewers and around the world. So, enough history, let’s look at some styles of Lager.

American Lager
In general, American Lagers are pale Lagers largely brewed in the US and Canada, and are generally light in body, pale in color (think straw) and have a high amount of carbonation. In the US, brewers such as Budweiser, Miller and Molson-Coors dominate the market but these pale beers are also brewed in Asia – the best-selling in Thailand being Beer Chang.

When it comes to American Lagers, there are two popular types: Adjunct and American Pale. Adjunct is Lager beer that has cereal grains like corn or rice added to the barley usually used in brewing. These grains commonly include corn or rice. American Pale Lagers are usually made without adjuncts and contain 100% malted barley. As such, American Pale Lagers tend to have more taste than their adjunct counterparts. For the most part, these beers are not really aimed at connoisseurs, more the party crowd who are looking for something familiar.

European Lager
European Lagers are of similar style to their American counterparts but tend to be a little more hoppy with increased bitterness and a slightly sweeter taste. In truth, many American Lagers are actually based on European Lager recipes brought over to the US and Canada by immigrants. Popular beers include the ever-popular Heineken and believe it or not, Singha, which while ubiquitously Thai, is based on an old german brew – check out the wicked homage to Singha by the Pogues.

The vast majority of European Lager is pale and is usually made with 100% malt with no adjuncts. There are actually numerous different types of European Lager including dark and the numerous German Lagers. We will take a look at those those next week.

Amber/Red Lager
Amber Lager is widely used as a catch-all category of Lager and includes beers with more malt, hops and more character than their lighter counterparts. Some brewers call this type of beer a Red Lager because of the slightly amber-to-reddish hue of the beer. One of the most common types of Amber Lager is Samuel Adams Boston Lager which should be available here in Thailand soon. While this style is relatively popular in the US and Canada, it hasn’t really made inroads into Thailand yet.

Pilsner
Pilsner is a light almost straw or golden colored beer that can be slightly bitter or have a citrus like edge. Pilsner as we know it originated in the city of Pilsen, Czech Republic. By far the most popular Pilsner is the original: Pilsner Urquell. The Germans are also big brewers of Pilsner, and their beers like Paulaner’s Premium Pils are well worth seeking out.

There are many different types of Lager out there, so stay tuned as next week we will cover the other four major styles of Lager that you can find here in Thailand.

Wish of the week
Mikkeller Orange Summer Pilsner
Everytime I see ‘Pilsner’ I can’t help but think of growing up in Western Canada drinking Old Style Pilsner. Little did I know that Pilsner was so much more. If you are looking for a beer that has a nice light yet bitter flavor with hints of orange. Try it cold on a hot night, you’ll be surprised at how refreshing it is!

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2 Responses

  1. Brian mcbroom says:

    Good article

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